Aug 26, 2011

Review: The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

The Map of Time: A Novel by Felix J. Palma
Hardcover: 611 pages
Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (June 28, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-1439167397
Review copy provided by Atria, with many, many thanks!
Burton Book Review Rating:Fabulous.



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?  Felix 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. 


I've always been a non-conformist. So, there are times when books from Oprah's Must-Have list immediately get ignored by me, just because. (Not that this one is on it.. because does Oprah even do that anymore?) I have seen The Map of Time getting some attention here and there, and I must admit that The Map of Time is worthy of whatever accolades come its way. There are quite a few (deserving) gushy blurbs on this book, such as:

"Strange and wonderful. Magical and smart."~M.J. Rose
"Singularly inventive, luscious story with a core of pure, unsettling weirdness."~Cherie Priest

I can't really add more to that except that I heartily agree. Let's just say, I got it. I really got it. And then there are some who won't get it, but I am glad I was one of the lucky ones. The book is a gorgeous piece of work in itself which got it on its first path to my heart: a hardcover with embossed gold lettering, intriguing imagery on the cover and the endpapers and then the book is a hefty 611 pages. So, I read a few other books before tackling this one because I figured I'd be bogged down with those 611 pages and I would probably have to carve out a chunk of my life to devote to this book. BZZZZZ I was wrong. I found myself reading over one hundred pages a night, and that is a feat considering that I typically read half that in twice the amount of time as I tend to fall asleep rather easily. The Map of Time was different.

It is so different that I cannot even strictly classify this book. Historical fiction because it is set in 1896, but it jumps ahead to the year 2000 which makes it a time travel book. And that means science fiction and that means I have lost you, haven't I? WAIT.. come back!!!!! I admit that there was a paragraph or two in the scientific explanations that started to wear me down, but the rest of it was, quite frankly, genius.

So along with history and science there is a bit more that makes up this whole circle of life: Romance. Heroes. Suicidal tendencies. Murder. Jack the Ripper. Evil inventors. Automatons. H.G. Wells. Insights into mankind as a human race. An omniscient narrator you want to smack every now and then. Just a little bit of everything for everyone all wrapped up in this magnificent book that I honest to God truly snuck out of my desk drawer and read at my desk at work. There was just something about this story, however convoluted it strived to be- how it connected and reconnected in circles of time from the past and the future, that really grabbed me. The whole concept of these ripples of time and the effect of the time continuum through the past to the present to the future was very well plotted out in all of its intricacies. And the addition of intriguing characters like Bram Stoker, H.G. Wells, and the Elephant Man were fantastic little escapades into the author's clever world of alternate history. It was really a pretty complicated storyline, but the way it all started filling in as I went along ended up enhancing the story more and more for me, although I wish the ending was a bit more dramatic than it wound up being.

So what was it all about anyway, you ask.. well, it opens to a young man contemplating suicide because his girlfriend is gone. But his cousin saves him by giving him hope that he can go back in time when she was alive and perhaps alter the future.. and that was part one. Along comes part two, and we meet another set of characters, yet they cross paths with the first group.. and the very important fabric of time is thus created.. but what happens if we pull on that one stray thread? What exactly does unravel? A bit of treachery and dishonesty starts to fray the fabric and yet we remain still stuck in the circle of time and reality becomes a bit dimmer as the hope for a better future brightens the present...

I don't want to spoil it anymore... the synopsis alone gives off a lot of information that should be enough to whet your appetite. Since this is a book of an eclectic origin, I think there are a select few who just won't be able to understand or appreciate the storyline, but then there will be others like me who are fortunate enough to have enjoyed climbing out of the box with this one. And be careful with that box, folks, because there are dragons and ferocious beasts that will kill you if you open it...

The intro to part 3, via camera phone.