The Island of the Day After Tomorrow : A review

A friend of mine remarked that Italy hasn’t produced many great authors. I asked “What about Umberto Eco” he answered “I said great”


Eco is an author of formidable repute. His fascination with Semiotics and Medieval Scholastism often find their way into his novels. Sadly he’s not much of a novelist, a fact that not enough people seem to take notice of.


In the “Island of the day after tomorrow” Eco takes us through his fascination with Renaissance era theories that stood in for the yet undiscovered germ theory and how people figured out Meridians -which is about as tedious as you would expect.

The excuse he uses to subject readers to this tedium is unfortunately filled with great potential. A member of the Italy gentry who finds himself called to war, learns over the course of a siege that chivalry no longer entails the prestige it once did and that battle lines are not as clear cut as they were during the high Medieval era.

A young gentleman finding his way through France during the emergence of a new mercantile class, in the age of discovery and prosperity in Europe has everything it needs for a fascinating story and this is a surprisingly under examined setting in litrature.

Even more neglected is the early days of colonialism and the spice trade. There’s a wealth of material to build stories about Europeans first setting foot on distant and alien lands, struggling to understand or conquer them.


In this book however our young gentleman goes to a siege to do nothing interesting for most of it. This should have been an early warning sign but I foolishly decided to finish reading this book. He goes all the way to Australia and save for the few pages where the flora and fauna are described he finds himself in contest with his literal evil twin. I’m not even faulting the Euro-centrism it’s the lack of imagination we should object to.


Why make your story global if you’re never going to actually explore your setting? Young Roberto could have stayed in a library or could just have argued with a Jesuit while standing in front of a globe without us losing too much from the story. A few kangaroos and stuff birds really don’t make much of a difference.


In our post modernist epoch the author is dead and the novel no longer needs to tie itself to strict guidelines but why do readers have to put themselves through something so boring? With a little effort this 513 page sloth could have actually included battles, drama, romance, interesting charcters and not to mention interesting European and non European cultures. Unfortunately this novel is just wasted potential and a monumental lack of effort on the part of its author who does little to ever exert any control over the many ideas he introduces. The voice of the narrator only turns up occasionally to introduce worthless clarifications that bring to light the ignorance of the very characters the narrator has invented. While the story flounders the narrator only wants to share clever but uninteresting details.

A majority of the book is taken up by the main character lost at sea and the only thing the book does well is to convey how boring that experience must be. I would not recommend this book. I think the rather lovely cover art had more structure and artistic coherence than the story.

2 thoughts on “The Island of the Day After Tomorrow : A review

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