The Dream Archipelago is a collection of five longish stories plus a short introductory piece which sets the context and describes this strange world and the time vortex which hangs over it. All the stories are set among the islands, a neutral zone amid an ongoing war. It is indeed a strange place where misfortune of one sort or another befalls each of the stories' main characters. There are several war-related themes (the politics of war, artistic expression in wartime, the victimisation of women) but it would be wrong to say that the stories are about war per se. Sexuality is a strong theme running through all the stories, and the tension between the native islanders and the various visitors and expatriates from the warring nations reflect social and interpersonal issues which are as relevant today as when the stories were first published (1978-80). The most interesting story is the final one, 'The Watched', which concerns an unusual tribe of refugees and their uncanny resistance to all attempts to observe their customs and everyday lives.
The islands of The Dream Archipelago show up again in Priest's later novel The Affirmation, where they become a surreal alternate reality for the troubled protagonist. Whilst perhaps not quite as surreal here, the islands are certainly strange. In typical Priest style, there are no neat endings to these stories, no firm resolutions, no explanations. The effect is rather like a series of strange dreams which you can't quite recall in detail, but which lurk darkly in your mind for some time afterwards. If you like your literature a little other-worldly, you'll enjoy The Dream Archipelago. It's also a good introduction to Priest for the uninitiated.