Friday, October 14, 2011
Review: The Map of Time
In Victorian England, for a fee, it is possible to move out of time and space and see the future or the past at Murray’s Time Travel.
Andrew Harrington, a wealthy young man in love with a common Whitechapel prostitute named Mary Kelly, wants to go back in time and stop Jack the Ripper from murdering her. It is either that or suicide.
Claire Haggerty is a victim of the times, an independent woman with a strong mind who feels stifled in Victorian England. She wants to travel to May 20, 2000 to see the last battle between humans and automatons.
Scotland Yard has its own problem. Someone from the future is traveling through time to commit murder in Victorian England.
Connecting all these tales is H. G. Wells and his marvelous time machine for he holds the keys to the future and the past.
Félix J. Palma mixes science, fiction, and fantasy in The Map of Time to mixed effect. Since the book was originally written in Spanish and translated to English, I wonder if the problems are connected to the translations or to Spanish literary conventions. Spanish writers tend to focus on description and Palma spends a great deal of time intruding to explain and pontificate.
In spite of the uneven pacing and authorial intrusion, The Map of Time is very different, at times funny, shocking, inventive, and somewhat mischievous. Palma gives us his versions of H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack the Ripper, the Elephant Man, and many other mainstays of the Victorian age and integrates them rather well. The three connected stories have their own eccentricities, told in three sections of the book, but do offer a fascinating look at what might have been.
The Map of Time reminded me of Time after Time when H.G. Wells travels to the future to track down Jack the Ripper only by using Wells to power the story. Palma does give Wells and the other characters their due, imbuing them with a new reality and a bit of fantasy. The tale slows in several places but The Map of Time is an admirable rendering of the times and the literary and historical characters he uses to wonderful effect. Prepare to be entertained and amazed.