Anyone who has read Umberto Eco's previous novels will find no surprises in the first half of his third book. Just as The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum paid attention to the fragility and constructed nature of the ordering systems within each novel's fictional world, The Island of the Day Before begins by establishing a meticulously detailed setting, substituting the Baroque world for the medieval monasticism and conspiracy theories of his earlier efforts. The story of a young, sophisticated but naive man who, through his unintentional involvement in 17th century espionage, finds himself marooned on a deserted ship in the South Pacific, Island allows Eco to do what he has always done best: scrupulously recreate the methods of understanding of both inspired lunatics and the archaic vanguard. There's really no reason a writer should be able to get away with dedicating hundreds of pages in the middle of a novel to a description of the pursuit of a means of determining longitude, yet Eco not only gets away with it but fascinates while doing so. It's the novel's second half, in which its isolated protagonist begins to walk the line between madness and creativity, that sets The Island of the Day Before apart from its predecessors. For the first time, Eco pays serious attention to the way the private world of an individual interacts with the surrounding world. The results are strangely poignant for a writer who has previously been strongest when at his most cerebral. Predictably rich and rewarding, this is also, surprisingly, Eco at his most humane.