Apocalypse – Reviewed by Robert Dunbar in The Times Educational Supplement
Friday, 8th October, 2004
Readers drawn to Tim Bowler‘s new novel by the numerous and complex connotations of its title are unlikely to be disappointed by the book itself. This is a superb work of fiction which draws on such traditional adventure story motifs as stormy seas and distant islands to create a narrative of remarkable power and resonance. When 15-year-old Kit, his mother and father, and their boat Windflower are grounded by a dramatic storm on the eerie and unwelcoming island of Skaer they find themselves involved in a sequence of events which test to the limit their endurance and their sanity.
Separated from his parents, Kit has an encounter with a teenage girl called Ula; the narrative interest of the novel then focuses on two questions: how will the relationship develop and will the boy eventually be reunited – and in what circumstances – with his family?
Bowler’s handling of the tension and the timescale implicit in these questions is masterly. But, impressive as this aspect of the novel is, its real strength derives from its often unsettling insights into the workings of the fundamentalist mind. Originally the home of a religious community, Skaer has now a dwindling population obsessed with the need to retain, at any price, the purity of their island, and to prepare for the imminent arrival of the end of the world. It is against their ruthlessness and their total faith in their own certainties that Kit and Ula are seen to contend.
The teenagers’ demons, however, are not all external. Their journeys into the darkest of evil domains necessitate a great deal of self-inquiry, leading (as it will for readers) to new acceptances and understandings.