The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
Review by Pam Blittersdorf
I picked up this book because it had great cover art and an interesting title. These seemed to promise a grand adventure of some kind, perhaps fantasy or science fiction, with a strong dash of steampunk and some interesting characters. Does selecting a book this way make the reader shallow and unthinking? When the book becomes something completely unexpected, does the reader have reason to be angry or disgusted? In truth, friends, when was the last time that you read something that induced so much introspection and self-doubt? If you knew that the subject was time-travel and the book’s characters included H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker and Joseph Merrick, wouldn’t you expect a bit of a romp? A quick glance at the readers’ comments on Amazon show that some folks hated this book for the very reasons I have mentioned here: it wasn’t exactly what they expected. At first, the pace of this novel is so slow that one is tempted to abandon the book. A young man contemplating suicide on the opening page is still alive and still suicidal on page 75. The book is 600 pages; you may begin to question your stamina. Suddenly, the perspective changes, the pace quickens, the story focuses on new characters, and the narrator steps out of third person voice to make sly jokes. What is the author doing? Well, dear reader, he is toying with you.
All authors manipulate their audiences. This is why we come to fiction. We allow someone else to temporarily direct the narrative, to bend our perceptions in a particular direction and perhaps even to subtly affect our values. Mr. Palma insists on underlining that fact, yanking back the curtain that ordinarily conceals the writer to show you the man behind it, pulling levers and turning gears. Why does he risk alienating the reader? He is showing us the very heart of his novel: the complex relationship between what we experience, what is real and where our imaginations take us.
If you are patient and willing to take the journey the author proposes, you will be rewarded. There is adventure, true love and yes, time travel. Mild-mannered and unassuming, H.G. Wells emerges a hero. Palma has said of his book:
Apart from entertainment, I would like to leave the reader with the idea that the imagination can make our lives more beautiful.
The more I read, the more riveted I became. Will The Map of Time have the same effect on you? As it says on page one: “Your emotion and astonishment are guaranteed.”
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About the reviewer: Many patrons remember Pam as one of the best Reference Librarians TPL has ever had!