The Map of Time was first published in Spain in 2008. It was translated into English and has gone on to become an international best seller. The description of Mr. Palma’s Map of Time on Amazon is as follows:
“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.”
I was drawn to The Map of Time in the bookstore before I knew exactly what it was about. The cover just looked so magical and promising. Sadly, I’m not a huge time travel fan, which certainly has colored my opinion on this particular novel. I’m warning you, you will want to limber up your brain before you start this one. Do a few mental push ups and bicep curls, because this isn't light reading.
What I Liked About it:
Palma is, without a doubt, a talented writer. His skillful prose and commitment to research shines through, and any steampunk will find themselves delighted with all the little Victorian details in the story, everything from tidbits about way of life, to details about the Jack the Ripper murders. He writes the character of HG Wells very well, and you get to like Wells in spite of his character flaws (because of his flaws and hesitations he becomes real). Palma weaves a complex trifecta of plots and manages to tie them in together, despite how impossible it seems.
What I Didn't Like About it:
As I mentioned before, this is no light read. At times I found myself scratching my head, or putting the book down in frustration, because I kept asking myself “Where is this going?” There are essentially three different stories that go on in this book, three that seem completely unattached to one another. I felt sort of like the plot was yanking me around, like I needed a road map to keep up with the Map of Time (har, har). Eventually things do come together, but some people might find some of the turning points that this complex plot hinges on, to be a bit ridiculous, or unbelievable.
The narrative is in the Victorian style of fiction, which may bother some people. Personally, I find it irritating when the author breaks the fourth wall, and Palmer smashes it with a sledge hammer. I found myself jerked out of the story each time he did it, and I found some of the time it was to explain something he shouldn't have had to. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that a lot of it is tongue in cheek, and meant to be fun and quirky, but I found it took away from the story itself. The veil between the author’s personal thoughts and the character’s is very thin at times.
Would I recommend Map of Time for steampunk reading? Absolutely. The detailed descriptions of Victorian life and sensibilities are a delight to read, and it’s a very entertaining adventure. If you love intricate plots, time travel, ripper lore, tragic love and complex mysteries then you should certainly give this one a read.
Five out of ten octopus legs (picture of cute octopus missing several limbs coming soon).