Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Map of Time

The time travel continues in a much more literary form with The Map of Time. After Ruby Red, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (which is not exactly time travel but does involve traveling through time... what?), and Hourglass, I wasn't sure if I wanted any more of this genre. (And yes, I have read other things with no time travel in between that I haven't written about yet.) But this sounded so different, I couldn't wait to jump in.

"Set in Victorian London with characters 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." I have to be honest, I didn't read this bit from the back of the book before I started reading the book. I had been given an even briefer description - Victorian London is in a time-travel fervor after H.G. Wells writes The Time Machine - and was already sold. I'm a big fan of the steampunk sub-genre, and this hinted to having a bit of that aesthetic.

In reality, this book is not one narrative but three, although they do all intertwine and feature H.G. Wells as a main character. And the way author Felix J. Palma handles the idea of time travel in a society with far fewer technologies than our own is masterful. Whether it's the man who wants to save the woman he loved from being killed or the boy who loves a girl and wants to stop her from doing something destructive, these characters approach time travel from very real and, often, very personal perspectives. I especially liked how Palma touched upon the idea of paradoxes repeatedly, because the ideas of changing the past or meeting yourself in the past are something that have to guide the storytelling when dealing with shifting timelines.

As much as I loved this book, which is a bestseller in Palma's native Spain, I had some trouble getting into it. Specifically, the paragraphs are loooong and overly-verbose, although I have a feeling that this was done on purpose to give the book a more Victorian feel. The very beginning, especially, when there is a whole page devoted to which kind of gun a character is going to use to kill himself, can get a bit tedious. Push on,though, like I did, and you'll be well-rewarded.

As a side note, H.G. Wells is a main character throughout this book, and it is mentioned frequently that all of London is so excited by time travel specifically because of his book The Time Machine. While it's quite possible to read this book without having read The Time Machine, I'll take a moment to plug the classic. It's really very short and easy to read, plus you'll sound smart when you say you've read it.

I never read many classics when I was younger (except what was forced upon me in school), so this one had escaped me until a few years ago. Then I discovered DailyLit, which feeds you classics in tiny bite-size pieces that are easy to digest. I had The Time Machine sent to my RSS reader (but you could get them emailed to you too), and in about a month, I had read the whole thing without trying. Best part: it's free. Really, do it. Even if you don't want to read The Time Machine (but you should), give DailyLit a try.

Also, The Map of Time has one of the coolest covers I've seen in a long time.

Check out the first chapter - in text or audio - on the book's website.

5/5 stars

Disclaimer: The advance copy of this book was provided to me for free from the publisher.

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