Book: The Map of Time
Author: Felix J. Palma
RATING: 4 Stars
RELEASE DATE: June 28, 2011
H.G. Wells is the touchstone of Palma’s piece, the spinning centre of The Map of Time from which Palma’s novellas orbit…intricately connected by strings of happenstance to Wells: from Andrew Harrington, the tortured second son hopelessly in love with a harlot whose devastating end comes at the hands of the most brutal serial killer ever known-to the charlatan Gilliam Murray who dupes all of London with his fantastical vision of the future. Even the unassuming Claire Haggerty, whose lust for another time and a passion out of her reach will lead her into the arms of a grifter.
Regardless of class, station or economics, Time is depicted as the great regulator and is the essential ingredient in all things for everyone: those who would exploit it to the masses as cheap entertainment, and others who would write about it inspiring a public for generations to come. And some who desperately yearn for it to rectify an error of fate.
Hauntingly beautiful, adventurous and imaginative with each and every story that Palma weaves, the labyrinth always seems to lead to H.G. Wells. In that, Palma has captured one of the most creative minds of his time and staged him around other luminaries that will excite and spark readers through every enviable scene. There are hidden universes in Felix Palma’s The Map of Time…one need only dive beneath the pages to find them.
Palma’s omnipotence as narrator can be a bit unsettling at times, as is the flexing of his literary hubris. In this, others have referred to “bloated”. Let’s withhold judgment for a moment. The Map of Time’s characters have a story to tell that is necessary and connected to its centre of Wells.
The most touching by far is that of Well’s introduction to Joseph Merrick and the story of the basket. It’s a haunting melancholy piece full of meaning and that one story is permanently cemented as my favorite. It still loops through my mind because Palma’s scene setting was remarkable-Merrick’s honest acceptance of life and indomitable will influences not only its characters but its readers.
Andrew Harrington’s story is equally heart-wrenching as he desperately tries to find a way to reverse the events of November 7, 1888, and the grip that Jack the Ripper had on the country that fateful year. His devotion to a woman so entirely out of his sphere sparks hope and equanimity in a society so segregated by class that it ends up being a breath of fresh air.
I was moved, contemplative, thrilled, and pushed beyond my comfort level by this astonishing collection of stories.
A Fiendishly Bookish Review (and one grumpy cat)