The Map of Time
By Félix J. Palma
If truth be told, the idea of time travel has fascinated me for a long time, since I read The Time Machine as a teenager in a high school English class. The complicated systems, consequences, and the mechanisms by which time travel is possible are the making of stories I love dearly. Then there are the questions: can the past be changed and should it be? So much potential for a fantasy lover like me! In The Map of Time, three stories intertwine to make Victorian England the birth place of time travel with the author, H.G. Wells, crisscrossing stories to investigate instances of time travel.
Andrew Harrington is a man in mourning for a woman brutally murdered by Jack the Ripper. Years pass and yet he still can’t forget the harlot he met in the dark, dank, back alleys of London. He had hopes of bringing her home to his comfortable mansion and making a true lady of her; a dream now lost. His cousin, however, has plans to change his grieving by means of time travel. If Andrew could travel back in time, he would be able to rescue his girl and move on with his life. Game for anything that will stop his pain and possibly save the love of his life, Andrew agrees and the plot to kill Jack the Ripper is set in motion with the aid of H.G. Wells.
On the other side of London, Gilliam Murray, the proprietor of Murray’s Time Travel, an expedition taking patrons to witness a great future battle between man and automaton, is happily filling his coffers thanks to a time traveling device and fabulous marketing tactics. It is on this expedition that Claire Haggerty, a woman attempting to escape to the future and a new exciting life free of Victorian ideals, falls for the brave Captain Derek Shakleton, the man who saves humankind. But has she really fallen for a man from the future?
Pondering the affect his work, The Time Machine, has had on readers and literature in general, H.G. Wells is approached by a man claiming to be a true time traveler and a man in need of his help in order to save great works of literature from destruction. Skeptical, Mr. Wells becomes a detective of sorts to understand what and who he is dealing with — is the man a true time traveler? Can he be believed? Should he be? Can time travel really exist? Unsure what to believe, he decides to meet with the man anyway and see what his future, and fate, have in store for him.
What Palma does so well is make everything believable even for the most skeptical of his characters, H.G. Wells. He is also a master of tying up loose ends; creating an amazing web of intricate tales that all have similar elements yet are so very different. He’s a fascinating writer able to bring alive the time period of Victorian England with its fascination with new inventions as well as imagining a future world that would entrance. Each of the three stories have common themes, love being the main one, and he treats each story gently to make everything plausible — even if some of the characters are not sure of what they’ve gotten themselves into.
The Map of Time is an intricate story set in a brightly imaged Victorian England but with a fantasy subplot that causes each and every character to re-think their actions and lives. This story is a cautionary tale about the use of science and the foibles of love for his characters but above all, it’s an utterly fascinating and readable book. You won’t want to put this one down.