Monday, June 20, 2011

What We're Reading: The Map of Time

What if someone published a novel that changed the way an entire culture thought about a concept? How would that new way of thinking affect people and the way they live their lives? And how might the long-term ramifications of those changes manifest themselves? This intriguing idea is explored in Felix J. Palma’s novel The Map of Time.

The Map of Time is set in the late 1800s during the scientific revolution that swept Victorian London—and the rest of the world—with the promise that science could, and would, open new doorways for humanity and solve all of our problems. During this time, a young writer named H.G. Wells published his first novel, The Time Machine, which resulted in many people pondering for the first time the possibilities that could result from traveling through time.

Writing with an engaging style and a wry sense of humor, Palma explores the effects of these new ideas on the denizens of Victorian London in a genre-blending novel that includes elements of gothic romance, science fiction (more specifically steampunk), pulp adventure stories, and historical fiction. The cast of characters includes stalwart heroes, prim Victorian ladies and ruthless cads (although, to be honest, it’s not always clear who is whom until the end!) and historical figures like author H.G. Wells, Jack the Ripper, Joseph Merrick, and Bram Stoker. The novel also features a humorous all-seeing, all-knowing Narrator, who makes observations and revelations to the reader as the story progresses. While Palma describes how glorious it must have been to live in London during this age of discovery, he also illustrates how difficult this London was, with its strict codes of behavior, class politics and tightly defined limitations for women.

Credit must be given to Nick Caistor, who translated Palma’s writing from Spanish to English. The book reads fluidly and lacks the literary clunkiness often associated with novels translated into English from another language. The Map of Time is a rollicking adventure, romance and thoughtful exploration of how we navigate the dark sea of time.

Editor’s note: Daryl M. wrote this review. He read an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book; if you want to read it too, its publication date is June 28, and it will take awhile for the library to receive and process it and put it on the shelves! Publisher's Weekly says this is the first of a trilogy, so there will be more Felix Palma coming later, as well.

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