Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: The Map of Time

The Map of Time
The Map of Time by FĂ©lix J. Palma

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really liked the concept of this book, but the execution, not so much. This book had a lot of potential, and I felt like it was wasted on cliche and plots that have already been done.

Despite what the blurb says, this book is not some race against time to save great works of literature. That's one of three main plots in this book, which reads like three novellas stitched together. It's the third one, and it lacks the adventure of the blurb.

In the first section, a young man on the verge of taking his own life because his lady love was killed by Jack the Ripper gets a second chance to fix it. In the second, an independent woman falls for a hero from the future who isn't all he seems. In the third, H.G. Wells solves the mystery of murders by no weapon that's yet been invented, and both becomes the father of time travel, and doesn't. The three narratives are loosely related, and characters appear in all three narratives. H.G. Wells plays the strongest role in all three, which is too bad, because he's a jerk.

My favorite of the three narratives was the middle one, because it did something clever with the idea frequently found in romantic comedies and sitcoms about relationships based on a lie. I rooted for the liar, and even found myself liking him despite his underhandedness at the start of his section. He was one of my favorite characters, by the end.

Unfortunately, it wasn't all that clever or well-written. Jack the Ripper and time travel isn't a new idea, and I didn't see any reason to trot him out in this story, except to traumatize Our Hero, Andrew. I didn't like the explanation of the Ripper's identity, nor did I appreciate the author's failure to acknowledge that not all prostitutes in Victorian England had chosen it as a lifelong profession. Marie Kelly could've easily been painted as a whole person if that one little factoid had been integrated into the narrative. Instead, she was there as a canvas for the Ripper to paint his horror onto.

I also objected to the writer's attempts to get into the heads of various writers of the time. He talks about various writers' inspirations for their tales, and they're so pedestrian and banal that, rather than feeling like I was privy to a secret world, I felt like the author was deliberately tearing down the classics to reduce the mystique.

The time travel within the book is the same concept as in The Time Traveler's Wife, and I didn't think it was done as well.

I can see why this book has gotten the positive buzz it has, but I just felt like I was reading an anthology rather than a whole narrative, and like a lot of the book was filler in an attempt to make it sound authentically Victorian. It was too modern to be Victorian, though, and too derivative to be a modern classic. There were some flashes of brilliance within the narrative, but, overall, it fell far short of my expectations.

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