The Map of Time, by Felix J. Palma.
Was there an end to time, or did it carry on forever? If it did end, then it had to happen at the exact moment when man became extinct and no other species was left on the planet, for what was time if there was no one to measure it, if there was nothing to experience its passing? Time could only be seen in the falling leaves, a wound that healed, a woodworm's tunneling, rust that spread, and hearts that grew weary. Without anyone to discern it, time was nothing, nothing at all. - from The Map of Time, page 548 -
Victorian England marked a transition away from the rational Georgian period and movement toward the ideas of romanticism and mysticism with regard to religion, social values, and the arts. An interest in science also marked this era in history with The Great Exhibition of 1851 (the first World's Fair). A popular writer of the time period was H.G. Wells; known for his work in the science fiction genre, he published The Time Machine in 1895 which explored time travel and social class. It is this fascinating period of time, amid industrialization, interest in science, focus on religion and during a time of great inventiveness ... which is the setting for Felix J. Palma's The Map of Time.
There are three distinct narratives in Palma's doorstopper: the story of Andrew Harrington; the romantic tale of Claire Haggerty; and finally the solving of a series of murders with Inspector Colin Garrett of Scotland Yard at the forefront. An omniscient narrator unveils the story of love lost and found, scandal, trickery, murder, and the wonder of time travel.
It is hard to pigeon hole this novel into any specific genre. Palma introduces several historical characters such as H.G. Wells, authors Henry James and Bram Stoker, and even Jack the Ripper. The streets of Victorian England come alive on the page. There is also a good deal of science fiction introduced into the plot of the novel, and some mind-bending twists. Palma delivers his story with wit and brilliance and manages to keep the storyline fresh in a chunkster that exceeds 600 pages.
Thematically, the novel takes a look at what it would mean to be able to slip from one century to the other, to perhaps change events of the past or glimpse the future. For example, how would time travel impact morality?
Have you ever wondered what makes men act responsibly? I'll tell you; they only have one go at things. If we had machines that allowed us to correct all our mistakes, even the most foolish ones, we would live in a world of irresponsible people. - from The Map of Time, page 198 -
Palma explores not only morality, but the power of passionate love, social strata, and the elusive edge between reality and magic.
For most people, the known world was a tiresome, hostile place, but that was because they could only see part of it. Now, people were consoled by the notion that, just as a bland roast of meat is made tastier by seasoning, the universe improved if they imagined it was no longer reduced to what they were able to see, but contained a secret hidden component that could somehow make it bigger. - from The Map of Time, page 179 -
Felix Palma has been heralded as a brilliant and original storyteller -- and my first foray into his work supports that praise. I do not normally read science fiction, and was not sure how this book would resonate with me. I was delighted to discover that although there is "magic" between the pages, there is also a hefty dose of historical fiction and several plot twists that enchanted me and made me laugh. Palma pokes a little fun at the stuffy sensibilities of the Victorian era and plays with the nonsense of purple prose as well. The journey through time with H.G. Wells and Murray's Time Travel was a satisfying and entertaining endeavor.
Recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction and love surprises.
★ ★ ★ ★ : Four stars out of five.
FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.
Catch all of Wendy Robard's reviews in her fabulous blog, "Caribousmom".
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