Tancredi by James Palumbo

(8.5/10)

“Tancredi is born on the same day that the scientists discover a new planet. They call it Surprise.

It is indeed a Surprise!

This small planet, so insignificant that it went unnoticed for millennia, soon reveals that one day it will develop into a supernova and is destined to be the instrument of Armageddon.

As the universe waits patiently for the end, riddled with the incurable disease of Short-termism, Tancredi decides he must make a voyage of space exploration with a difference. His mission will be to save our planet and thereby, perhaps, even himself.”

James Palumbo’s debut novel Tomas established him as a formidable literary satirist, whose vision of a crazed world destroyed by greed and stupidity mirrored the financial chaos that still continues to dominate our public discourse.

When I first requested this book for review I had only read the back and thought that Tancredi would be comparable to Stephen Baxter’s Flood or Arc books. But when I read the first few pages of Tancredi I was surprised to find that it was a whole different ballgame.

Tancredi is a very interesting story, I’m not overly familiar with satirical fiction but I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline. In his journey to save Earth Tancredi visits several planets, each of which centres on human vices - there is, for example, a planet of obesitas and journalism (the trashy kind). In Tancredi you are faced with scenarios and quotations that make the book thought-provoking, “which of the following is true? A. The State shouldn’t care for the obese: they’re responsible for their condition. B. The State should care for the obese, irrespective of the cost. C. The State should care for the obese and compensate them: it is at fault for creating the conditions under which people are unable to control their eating.”

Short-termism is also wonderfully portrayed throughout the book and something that Tancredi continually confronts when visiting planets. Tancredi is a short book (189 pages) but Palumbo's storytelling makes it more than worth it. It has an gripping storyline and the illustrations used really complement the storyline. I recommend this book to everyone, it's a thought-provoking novel that always leaves you wanting to know what happens next.

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