The Roamers is the latest novel by Italian author, publisher and all-round promotor of bookish stuff, Francesco Verso. Without giving too much away, it tells of a group of counter-culture people in Rome who end up evolving into a new type of human much better suited to living in harmony with nature. To that extent, it is a very hopeful novel. More of that later, but first the book.
Verso’s native language is, of course, Italian. He speaks very good English (and probably a whole bunch of other languages too), and I’m assuming he translated this book himself. Leastways, I can’t see any acknowledgement of a translator. The book is perfectly readable to an English-speaker. But it reads in places like a book that was written by someone whose first language is not English. Were I the publisher of this book, I would have wanted a native English speaker to give it a once over, as I did with the Aleksandar Žiljak book.
Verso is also a native Roman, and you can tell that too. The book is set in Rome, and lives and breathes with the city. I’m assuming that the book’s title is a pun. The people of Rome understand their home’s remarkable heritage. Having spent an evening in Rome in the company of Verso and his wife, including visiting a little restaurant run by one of his childhood friends, I can see his love of the city come through in the book, even if he sometimes despairs of where it is heading.
There is stuff about Italian family relationships in the book as well. I know less about that, but I suspect it may be equally heartfelt.
Style-wise, this is very much a science-fiction novel. Verso clearly wants to do good, character-driven prose too, but he’s less good at that. The sociological and biological aspects of the book take centre stage and are fascinating. There’s even a reading list at the back for people who want to follow up on some of the ideas discussed in the text. Whether this appeals to you or not is very much a question of taste. Persoanlly I’m happy to see some SF in this style. It is a rare thing these days.
And now, back to solarpunk. It isn’t a sub-genre that I’ve paid a lot of attention to. I totally understand the need that people have to have some faith in the future. Frankly, it is all too easy to come to the conclusion that human civilization won’t survive the next hundred years. The solution presented in The Roamers is a very attractive one. It is also, I suspect, one that requires a level of science that is way beyond what we are likely to develop in time, and one which bears significant risk of accident and mis-use. So while I admire Verso’s politics and ambition for humankind, I’m not sure that this is what I want from solarpunk. We need practical solutions, and we need them in a hurry.
Title: The Roamers
By: Franceso Verso
Publisher: Flame Tree Press
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