JimMe, January 29, 2012 (view all comments by JimMe)
As a writer I find first person narrative to be a bit intimidating. But I love the way it allows the writer to connect with the characters when it's done well and, in Felix Palma's The Map of Time, it is done very well indeed. He is at once both self deprecating and humorous. That's tough to pull off.
The characters are fully fleshed and they talk as they act. The Elephant Man could easily be honored in his own novel. The dialogue captures the period just right. The trilogy concept in a single setting is surprisingly effective, entwining all the characters in unusual plot twists. Time travel has been treated in banal way so often in fiction that I truthfully winced a little as I read the synopsis. That concern all but disappeared in the first half dozen pages of this wonderful novel.
Finally, without revealing much of the plot, it is a remarkable love story set against a Victorian setting. I suspect this will become one of those books that becomes an equally enjoyable read for both genders. It clearly ends up a my favorite fiction novel of 2011.
Tracy Golladay, September 1, 2011 (view all comments by Tracy Golladay)
After a long day on the tractor this was a good read to relax to. Started out as a set of short stories with a recuring bit player then in the end the bit palyer takes stage front and closes the show with a triumphant bang. Personally loved the twist at the end and the rethinking of Edwardin sexuality in the middle. I had to stop the tractor to tell several people(and now you)that HG Wells little book on time travel has done more than we can imagine to our spacetime continum. All in all, it was a good read.
Tammy Dotts, July 11, 2011 (view all comments by Tammy Dotts)
The Map of Time presents three separate stories set in Victorian England. In the first, Andrew Harrington seeks to travel through time to save Jack the Ripper’s last victim, with whom Andrew was in love despite the differences in their social class. The second centers on Claire Haggerty’s desires to find a world where she belongs; she settles on the year 2000 when England has been overrun by robots. The final section has H.G. Wells determining which universe is real and which is merely a parallel universe destined to end abruptly.
If that seems confusing, you’re not far off. The three stories are tied together loosely by the illusion and reality of time travel and by the presence of Wells.
The ideas behind the novel are promising. The first two sections look at the ethics and paradoxes of time travel, while simultaneously rejecting it.
Whether Wells helps Harrington really save Mary Kelly, thus creating a parallel universe in which she and Harrington can live out their lives together, isn’t as important as the effect of believing in possibility. Likewise, Haggerty’s search for somewhere her 21st-century outlook is at home and her beau’s search for meaning in life doesn’t depend on his true identity or whether Haggerty visits the future. Much like Dorothy, the answers they seek were at home all along. To explain more about the ins and outs of the Harrington and Haggerty plots leads into spoiler territory.
Not that there’s much to be spoiled. The Map of Time doesn’t live up to its promise nor its book-jacket description. The characters are superficial and show no objection to being pushed into various set pieces by their overly vocal creator. Imitating the “dear reader” voice of some Victorian authors, Palma inserts himself as a commentator on action and character. At one point, he tells the reader he’s going to skip over a scene because it would be boring otherwise.
Wells is an integral part of Harrington’s story and pops in and out of Haggerty’s. He receives his own focus in the final section of the book where he, Henry James and Bram Stoker are told a time traveler is about to kill them and claim some of their works as his own. Wells is perhaps the most well-developed character of the novel. Not surprising as Palma has historical details to draw on. But the section feels underdeveloped and tacked on, as if Palma wanted a better hook to draw in readers.
He may not have needed one. The Victorian era is a favorite setting for authors, particularly those who dabble in time travel without jumping into steampunk. Like its cousins, The Map of Time makes sure readers revisit the high points of the time as if moving through a checklist: Jack the Ripper, Joseph Merrick, electricity, social mores. Some of these are relevant to the plot; others, mere waystations before the last page. Wells’ meeting with Merrick is the best nod to the genre tropes, with the conversation having an emotional resonance absent from the rest of the novel.
The main problem with The Map of Time isn’t that it’s a bad novel. Palma’s writing can be engaging, and the pages turn quickly. Readers looking for a great time travel story or Victorian novel or simply a good read, however, will be disappointed. Too often, Palma neglects what could be a good novel in favor of moving quickly to the next section or wrapping up the novel. Glimpses of a novel that could have been devoted to Tom Blunt’s life in the lower classes or one about Wells’ personal life may cause readers to wish they could find a parallel universe to read these (possibly) more rewarding stories.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Spanish author Palma makes his U.S. debut with the brilliant first in a trilogy, an intriguing thriller that explores the ramifications of time travel in three intersecting narratives. In the opening chapter, set in 1896 England, aristocratic Andrew Harrington plans to take his own life, despondent over the death years earlier of his lover, the last victim of Jack the Ripper. Meanwhile, 21-year-old Claire Haggerty plots to escape her restrictive role as a woman in Victorian society by journeying to the year 2000. A new commercial concern, Murray's Time Travel, offers such a trip for a hefty fee. Finally, Scotland Yarder Colin Garrett believes that the fatal wound on a murder victim could only have been caused by a weapon from the future. Linking all three stories is H.G. Wells, the author of The Time Machine. Palma brings Wells and other historical figures like Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, plausibly to life. Susannah Clarke fans will be delighted. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
THE PHENOMENAL INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
Set in Victorian London with characters real and imagined, The Map of Time 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 thereby save the lives of an aristocrat in love with a murdered prostitute from the past; of a woman bent on fleeing the strictures of Victorian society; and of his very own wife, who may have become a pawn in a 4th-dimensional plot to murder the authors of Dracula, The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, in order to alter their identities and steal their fictional creations.
But, what happens if we change history? FÉlix J. Palma raises such questions in The Map of Time. Mingling fictional characters with real ones, Palma weaves a historical fantasy as imaginative as it is exciting, a story full of love and adventure that also pays homage to the roots of science fiction while transporting its readers to a fascinating Victorian London for their own taste of time travel.
THE PHENOMENAL INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLERSet in Victorian London with char-acters 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, including Dracula 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.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.