Thomas Jones writes:
Frayn’s very funny, very clever new novel, Skios, is concerned both with the mechanics of farce – and, by extension, the mechanics of other apparently predictable, rule-bound, artificial systems – and with the effects that our expectations, especially if we’re part of a crowd (such as the audience at a famously funny play), can have on our responses to people and situations, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that our expectations couldn’t have been more wrong. Skios – a fictional Greek island in the Aegean, not to be confused with the real islands of Skiathos, Chios or Skyros – is the site of the Fred Toppler Foundation, a cultural institute supposedly built on the site of a vanished temple of Athena, which every year hosts a Great European House Party. Security on Skios is tight: so tight, in fact, that observant visitors may begin to wonder just what the foundation actually does. What are the boats that come and go in the middle of the night? What’s really in the crates marked ‘marine diesel spares’ that occasionally appear on the jetty? And what’s going on behind those high fences up on the hill where they claim to be digging a fifty-metre swimming pool?