Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review: The Map of Time, by Felix J. Palma

Title:  The Map of Time
Author:  Felix J. Palma
Genre:  Science Fiction
Rating:  2 out of 5 attempts to change the past

The Map of Time, by Felix J. Palma, is one of the more recent novels to be welcomed into the genre of time travel. I love anything that has to do with time travel, so I quickly picked this one up to read during the summer. The front cover says that it is “a brilliant and breathtaking trip”, unfortunately, this reviewer doesn’t believe that the Map lives up to the hype.

The Map of Time is broken up into three parts, each one telling a different time-travel-themed tale. These stories are interconnected, however. Characters and events from each affect the others in unforeseen ways. The first part recounts the journey of Andrew Harrington, who begins the tale in the throes of depression, and resorts to traveling through time to right the wrongs of his past. The second part deals with a love story between the well-to-do Clair Haggerty and the brave Captain Shackleton which breaks through the time-space-continuum and defies all laws of physics. The third relates the exploits of H.G. Wells (real-life author of The Time Machine) as he tackles the ramifications of traveling through time.

This format, though successful for other books, did not work for me. The events outlined in the exciting plot synopsis that is printed in the jacket (something we all consider when searching for great books, am I right?) are mysteriously nowhere to be seen for the first 500 pages of the book. I felt as though I was forced to wade through characters and plots that I didn’t really care about – just to reach something that I believe resembled the novel that I paid for. Unfortunately, by that point, the remainder of this “novel” was only fifty pages or so.

Along the way, the characters that we meet do little to hold our interest. They seem flat, bland, and all together devoid of life. They all seem to be whining or complaining about one thing or another, and they didn’t inspire anything resembling empathy in this reader’s skeptical heart.

Palma’s choice to set his novel in Victorian London also had me underwhelmed. 19th century England is such a lush and colorful setting, but the author neglects to use it to his advantage. For the most part, any of the plot points could have happened in any time period. For a novel that is supposed to be about time and time travel, one would have hoped that the actual time period would have played more of a role. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

All of this could have been forgiven, however, if the plot was solid and intriguing. When reading a novel about time travel, I want the story to be lush and multilayered, in which all possible repercussions of traveling through time are considered. Palma, however, gives only a passing glance at the intricacies of time travel, and seems to only focus on random aspects that suit his needs at the time. Truly, most of the plot points felt contrived and ultimately unnecessary. Characters often make extreme (and illogical) jumps of logic, only to move the story forward.  Palma's supposed plot twists, as opposed to being exciting, are merely disappointing, and change the novel from bad to worse.

With so many excellent science fiction and time travel novels out there, I find it hard to dig up much I liked about The Map of Time. Perhaps the only bright spot is the character of H.G. Wells. He has a part in each of the three stories, and is ultimately the protagonist of the whole mess. However, when added to the rest of the novel, his inclusion seems only to serve as a desperate grab at a bit of “science fiction notoriety”, which Palma seriously lacks.

2 out of 5 attempts to change the past.


  1. I unexpectedly received this book a week or so ago. It is a lovely book with a lot of thought and work put into the cover and end papers. I will still read it at some point. I wonder if the fact the book was translated into english has anything to do with the lack you find in it. I'll be curious to see what I think of it.
    Thank you for the review.

  2. You make a good point about the translation, a point that I probably should have addressed in the review. Although the translation may have contributed to differences in writing style or word choices that Palma originally intended, I would find it hard to believe that any mistranslation can affect plot points much, which is one of the things I enjoyed least about the book.