A review of The Island of Dreams by Gregory James Clark

Reviewed by Jan Peregrine

The Island of Dreams
by Gregory James Clark
Clink Street Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1911525660, Paperback, 326 pages, Sept 2017

This novel sounds like a wondrous fable, doesn’t? Amazon offers several books with this title, but I promise you they won’t be anything similar to this waiting-to-be-published novel. I’ve never read anything like it and I fortunately enjoy a good challenge…because that’s exactly what it was!

The premise hooked me into agreeing to review it. In the distant year 2107 a young, faceless British man can’t find a job or girlfriend and still lives with his parents, although he seems to be a decent, if desperate kind of chap. His futuristic society doesn’t strike me as any different than our own and he grabs at a sudden chance to move to a progressive, idyllic island where money is obsolete and a “Non-Capitalist Economy” has been successfully practiced for seventy years.

Hmm. What’s this economic system all about and why haven’t I heard of it before? Perhaps Clark has made it up for his adult-sized fable?

Well, neither have I heard of it, but that’s because its twentieth-century founder, W. Edwards Deming, called it “The System of Profound Knowledge.” While Deming’s philosophy and detailed strategy ( 14 Points for Management) are quite real and impressively revitalized Japanese industry in the 1950s, Clark oddly labels it as though it needs to be more politically accessible.

You’ll learn all about Deming’s system and business acumen in unwieldy lectures spanning the novel, along with the Brit chosen to become part of the Island with its territories around the world, but I’ll let this wikipedia summary whet your nascent interest:

“Dr. W. Edwards Deming taught that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations can increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs (by reducing waste, rework, staff attrition and litigation while increasing customer loyalty). The key is to practice continual improvement and think of manufacturing as a system, not as bits and pieces.”

It’s curious that the girlfriend-seeking Brit upon meeting the Island woman who its leaders have determined to be his perfect match and his fiancee, he fails to have any romantic feelings toward her. There are no dates or flirtation, not even repulsion. Their first obligatory kiss comes on the final page after they’ve graduated their year-long training and gotten married in a spaceship. They merely consummate their marriage. How unromantic and disappointing!

So the target for Clark’s book (although Deming doesn’t believe in targets or quotas) is a reader very interested in the theory that focusing on quality creates more quality while focusing on costs increases costs as quality decreases. They will heartily agree with Deming’s unique philosophy in shaping business, social interests and lifestyle. Oh, and loving chess, golf, civic role-playing, and ice skating lessons will greatly help too!

I am not his target reader. Yes, I enjoy learning new ideas that promise to lead our competitive world into harmonious balance and temperament, but the book itself didn’t model harmonious balance. I found it to be largely a dry, cerebral exercise I needed to skim fairly often. Even skip chapters.

Clark’s writing confused me and not just because of my lack of connection with the characters, but I’ve rarely read a worse editing job. That distracted me. I also believe a society that expects you to be both very spiritual (as a cover-up for it’s religious underpinnings) and very scientific is doomed. It’s not plausible and is only a devout Christian’s dream.

As a 22nd-century “fable”, I don’t buy it. As the dream of a frustrated Christian of the early 21st-century staggered by a capitalist economy and its terrible symptoms, I certainly do!

About the reviewer: Jan Peregrine has tried her hand at self-publishing and has about seven she recommends on Amazon or Audible. She recently finished writing a romantic/comedic trilogy called Dr. Freudine Is In: The Story Begins, which can be read for free at www.inkitt.com