Tomas by James Palumbo

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Tomas by James Palumbo

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath
Summary: A satire that strikes at the heart of modern greed and excess. Lovers of all things cult will lap it up, but James Palumbo's writing doesn't yet have the depth of those authors who have influenced him. It's still worth a look.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 180 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Quartet Books
ISBN: 978-0704371583

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Tomas has had enough of the unthinking excess and greed of modern society. He despises the men declaring themselves film producers to impress women wheeling around their breasts on trolleys. So he kills them. The chief of police doesn't pay much attention until he makes his favourite hotel disappear, obviously.

Tomas has cult written all over it. It's slick, cool, funny and very readable. If you're sat on a beach, wanting to flick through something that will make you laugh a bit, think a bit, and that has a smattering of violence and sex, it's ideal. There are hints of American Psycho and the collected works of Hunter S Thompson, with the surreality and metaphor cranked up.

James Palumbo's debut novel takes potshots at all the unpleasant and shallow aspects of life. When his satire has a broad target, it's usually excellent. The jokes and ideas are very strong - I particularly laughed at the newspaper's front cover about a celebrity's knickers, and the editor's attempts to tie other stories to them. When the satire is narrower, it lacks the necessary viciousness. If you say that I'm A Celebrity is a bit rubbish, the audience says "Yes. And?" It needs to be a knife under the ribs. It needs to make people's jaws drop.

That's not to say that Tomas is mild. There's a healthy dose of things your mother wouldn't like and anyone with the right level of childishness will snigger at the truffle-hunting pigs leaping for a man's genitals. As a tableau of the grotesque, Tomas is great fun. Where it loses its way somewhat is when it veers towards philosophical exposition. I suppose we can patronisingly call it the inexperience of a debut novelist. Next time round, I'm sure James Palumbo will have a greater idea of what to leave implied, so as to show off his obvious talents to the best of their ability. In the meantime, Tomas is still well worth a look.

My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.

If cult's what you crave, then you won't go far wrong with American Skin by Ken Bruen and The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. If you fancy something a little bit different to read this summer, check out our Top Ten Beach Reads For Men.

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