The Map of Time
by Felix J. Palma
Atria Books, June 28, 2011
My copy: Advanced Review Copy from the publisher
[box type=”info”] Setting:
Overall Rating: [/box]
In the wake of my discussion of The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, I read a new release here in the States by Felix Palma: The Map of Time (originally published in Spain and translated into English for publication by Atria). This is a book that draws heavily on The Time Machine. In fact, H.G. Wells is one of the characters and The Time Machine‘s popularity figures heavily into the plot. The Map of Time will be released in U.S. bookstores tomorrow.
The Synopsis (from IndieBound): Set in Victorian London with characters real and imagined, The Map of Time is a page-turner that boasts a triple play of intertwined plots in which a skeptical H. G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and to save lives and literary classics, includingDracula and The Time Machine, from being wiped from existence. What happens if we change history? Félix J. Palma explores this question in The Map of Time, weaving a historical fantasy as imaginative as it is exciting—a story full of love and adventure that transports readers to a haunting setting in Victorian London for their own taste of time travel.
The Review: The Map of Time is actually a series of 3 separate but intertwined stories all set in Victorian London and involving an array of complex characters… each with their own reason for being enthralled with the new time-travel mania that’s been touched off by H.G. Wells’ popular new book, The Time Machine. The novel begins with an anonymous narrator introducing us to a young man who is contemplating suicide. It doesn’t take long to figure out that this man’s story is somehow connected with Jack the Ripper. The Ripper is the first of many real-life characters and events to appear sporadically throughout The Map of Time. Others include HG Wells, Bram Stoker, Henry James, Joseph Merrick (“The Elephant Man”), and more. Anyway, in the first part, our despondent young man struggles to deal with the murder (by Jack the Ripper) of the woman he loved. In Part Two, a woman who is unhappy with the restrictive life and limited options for women in the Victorian age looks to another time for the possibility of love. And in Part Three, a Scotland Yard detective comes to believe that someone from the future is responsible for a series of murders in his time. The transitions and overlaps between the three stories are truly ingenious.
Early on, readers will appreciate that Palma tells his story with just enough sleight of hand that it is often difficult to tell whether he expects us as readers to believe some of the story lines or whether he is simply relating the tall tales of charlatans with a plan to unmask them in the end. That element of the unknown left me anxiously turning pages to try to get to the “big reveal.” In each case, the idea of time travel – whether it be real or imaginary, scientific or magical, possible or impossible – ultimately brings each character to a better place. And on top of that, each character plays an unwitting role in the others’ stories. The upshot is that The Map of Time is a very complex but ingenious novel. There are also clever little moments scattered throughout its pages that, if you know your history, are clearly inaccurate. And Palma slyly leaves his readers wondering about them – sometimes for hundreds of pages.
The novel’s only shortcoming lies in the third part, when the plot becomes overly complex and, at times, difficult to follow. Part Three spends a lot of time not only addressing its own story line but revealing the truth behind some of those aforementioned inconsistencies with known history. The saving grace is that HG Wells is the predominant character in Part Three and he’s by far the most interesting in the book. Part Three’s shortfalls notwithstanding, The Map of Time is an intriguing read. But I must admit that the idea of disruptions in the time continuum and subsequent discussion of alternate realities based on those disruptions periodically left my mind reeling.
The Bottom Line: Complex, quirky and sometimes downright weird. All the same, I thought this was a very clever and well-written book.
- 1001 Books Discussion: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (thelitwitch.com)
- Felix J. Palma, author of The Map of Time, answers Ten Terrifying Questions (booktopia.com.au)
- Revisiting H.G. Wells’ literary masterpiece (salon.com)