The Secret Adventures of H.G. Wells

June 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Title: The Map of Time

Author: Felix J. Palma

Publisher: Atria Books

Length: 611 pages

It may have taken me longer than I first supposed to finish Felix J. Palma’s The Map of Time.  Yes, there may have been days between reading that I had not expected, because the marketing was so astonishingly gripping.  But any distaste I had for this book while I was reading it was purely psychological.  It had to have been, because Palma’s writing is brilliant.

My psychological beefs? Let’s see if I can express them.

#1 The premise described in the jacket isnt even remotely a familiar story line until the last 60 pages of the book.  Good thing I don’t usually read dust jackets, I just dive in, but I have friends who do who were reading this book roughly around the same time as myself, so on this occasion I went against instinct and read the synopsis.  While reading the novel, I felt a bit duped by the summary, anxiously waiting for a time traveling book thief that didn’t arrive until over 500 pages in.  The front cover is applicable to all three story lines, but the inner art work is directly related to the end, so the anticipation literally killed my reading mojo.  I wish the advertising had been a little more straight forward, except I love the advertising and it clearly worked, therefore on that count, I have not a single suggestion.

#2 The book is really 3 books.  At least in my  mind it is.  Its 3 separate but interconnected stories, overlapping characters and puzzle pieces and the theme of time travel, though not actual time travel.  In my perfect world, this book would have been a series of novellas (which I inevitably would have begged to have in one complete volume as an omnibus – see… psychological issues!).  Instead of being broken up in generic Part One, Part Twos, etc, I would have mentally prepared the reader for the disconnected yet interconnected adventure with titles.  Example: Instead of being called The Map of Time, call the book The Secret Adventures of H.G. Wells.  Part One, would be “Book One: The Murder of Jack the Ripper”, or something of the sort.  “Book Two: Captain Shackleton’s Love Story” and “Book Three: The Time Lord and the Book Thief.”  Perhaps Book Three could keep the original title “The Map of Time” it wouldn’t really matter.  I just want to go in with the understanding that these are separate but connected adventures, rather than flailing about wondering if the next paragraph has any relevancy – which it does!

#3 There’s a word mis-used at one point where I believe ‘ancestor’ should have been utilized instead of ‘descendant.’  But that’s really trivial, and no one cares. (It also could have been me getting my time loops all mixed up.)

The story itself, I wouldn’t change a lick, because its marvelous.  Its the present structure that I clearly have issue with.  Feeling as though the story was disconcertingly disconnected (when in reality as a series I would find it beautifully interconnected) made me set it aside in irritation one too many times.  With the internal structure slightly altered with silly titles, I suddenly feel better about the whole thing.  I would have found both jacket and description equally fitting and not misleading at all.

Moral of the story (my story, not Palma’s story)… this book is bloody brilliant and I’m keeping it, despite having kicked and internally screamed several times while reading it.  Don’t be put off by your own expectations.

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