Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review: The Map of Time by Felix Palma (briefly)

To read an excerpt and get more info.
visit TMoT's homepage.
I thought my first foray into the world of Steampunk would be FABULOUS, based on The Map of Time's gorgeously mysterious (and shiny) cover, its cred as a bestselling novel in Spain, and - to be honest - its hyperbolic hype: even in the hepped-up language of new-novel press kits, this baby took home the prize in gushy superlatives.

Shows how much I know!

To sum up:  This humongous potboiler, which arrives on bookshelves June 28, features three intertwined sections through which we adventure back and forth in time (maybe), leaving from Victorian London and its environs and sharing three journeys with an army of minor characters.  Stringing the three separate narratives together we have H.G. Wells - the only major character who recurs substantially throughout.  The first section's a time traveling back-to-the-future tale in which a wealthy, indolent aristocrat attempts to save his prostitute-lover from becoming Jack the Ripper's final victim.  The second's a romance across time and social class.  And the third's a Map of Time mystery-thriller in which Wells sets out to save some of the great literary works of his time.

My opinion:
I will say that I thought the second and third parts were at least pass-the-time worthy, although the first 300+ page section had me slogging along with too many thinly-drawn and unlikeable characters leading to a plot that, while reasonably event-heavy, didn't maintain my interest.  For me, the uninteresting and unlikeable protagonist of the first section contributed to my boredom.  Perhaps the author was attempting to ironically portray a literary 'type' in his broodingly Byron-esque Romantic hero and to mimic Dickensian tendencies to populate his novels abundantly, but for me the latter choice detracted from the section's focus, pacing, and momentum, while the former choice repelled me from interest in the narrative whatsoever.

The second section featured the only major female character in the whole book, crafted perhaps as an ironic nod to an Elizabeth Bennett Austen-esque archetype while its hunky-earnest-yet-poverty-stricken male lead offered a second pass at Palma's recurring theme of class-crossed romance.  This romantic hero's dual roles as actor/time-travelling-savior-of-humanity added to the author's exploration of appearances vs. reality here as well.  This section at least held my attention, as did the third part, which focused more heavily on HG Wells as a character, and even explored multiple Wellses in multiple time periods attempting to solve crimes against literature and history.

All in all:  Steampunkers and lovers of speculative fiction might find this one fun because it is indeed rife with Victoriana and time-travel musings, but for "just regular readers": You'll need a (steam)boatload of time - and possibly patience - for this one...


Actions: Honestly, I felt compelled to read this entire novel because I received it as an ARC copy and my ethics demanded that I follow through on my implied agreement to review it fairly. 
     The only way to prevent future instances of spending 12+ hours of my life doggedly slogging through a book that just isn't for me is to be much more selective in what I accept for review.  In the month since I completed The Map of Time, I have shifted my habits from grasping at the next shiny new book available for review to selecting carefully from the many wonderful possibilities out there in the book blogging world. 
And when I sample new genres, from now on I will do so with library books and on the recommendation of trusted reviewers.  I would have done well to consult vvb3reads for her expert opinions on steampunk books - not to mention her knowledge of all the related -punk genres - rather than committing to an unknown!


Jenna (Literature and a Lens) said...

I've been interested in the Steampunk genre for some time, but just haven't found a good book to commit to. This one definitely doesn't sound like the right place to start, which for me has more to do with the length. Sounds like Palma was trying to do too much at once. Thanks for the honest review!

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Too bad--I was hoping you were going to say that this book dazzled you and it was amazing. And in this case, it sounds like your disappointment can't be laid at the foot of the translator, either.

Laurie said...

Jenna - If you hop down to the comments of my 'Steampunk Virgin' posting earlier this week, you'll find a website link for good Steampunk recs., and E. at As the Crowe Flies & Reads suggested a series in the comments there too. Now I'll follow my own action and follow their leads!
All: Upon reflection, I'm wondering if the intensity of the praise that accompanied the book was a major factor in my reception of it. The second half, after all, was a decent read. But given that while I'm not a particularly slow reader, I'm not a spectacularly fast one either, in the end it just didn't feel like time all that well spent.

viagra online pharmacy said...

Actually this one isn't a bad book but tl;dr I don't have lots of time!

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