Book Review: The Map of Time

Synopsis from Goodreads: This rollicking page-turner with a cast of real and imagined literary characters and cunning intertwined plots stars a skeptical H.G. Wells as a time-traveling investigator.

Characters real and imaginary come vividly to life in this whimsical triple play of intertwined plots, in which a skeptical H. G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and to save lives and literary classics, including Dracula and The Time Machine, from being wiped from existence. What happens if we change history?

The Map of Time by Felix Palma sounded intriguing and it was one my dad had sent me a copy of off his already read pile, which usually means I’ll enjoy it. Time travel, with HG Wells and other literary figures of late 19th century England? It sounded right up my alley.

Things I liked about this book:

  • Immersive in its detail, there is a lot of great world-building that makes 1890s London (and environs) come alive. The characters, both real and fictional, are brought to life with colorful descriptions so that you could completely visualize them and the world they inhabited. It was a fantastical time-capsule brought vividly to life.
  • Seamless integration of real-life people (like HG Wells, who is a prominent character in the story, especially the latter half, as well as Jack the Ripper, Bram Stoker, and Henry James) and the fictional characters into this well-developed world.
  • Fun little nods to history we know is true, like Queen Victoria’s longevity, that are given a new spin within the time-travel universe.
  • Interlocking, overlapping stories, which dropped lots of little clues to help advance the story and hinted at just enough to make you have an “aha!” moment when they were re-revealed later in the book. Really clever use of these story lines to keep you guessing about what was true and what wasn’t (both in our current reality and that of the characters).
  • Unique blend of time travel, sci-fi, fantasy, and historical fiction.

Things I didn’t like about this book:

  • It’s LONG. Like over 600 pages long. I felt like it could have used more editing and this is the first in a series, so other long ones follow.
  • While I appreciate a bit of dry wit and some tongue-in-cheek humor, it honestly felt like sometimes the author was just showing off that he was writing fiction and knew he was writing fiction. Kind of a “wink-wink, nod-nod” smarmy uncle feeling, you know? I’m not sure if that was because of the (in his words) “all seeing” narrator who occasionally popped into the story or not, but that was a distraction for me.
  • Some of the explanations about how time travel theoretically works were a bit too drawn out. Let me make my own mental jumps to figure it out – I don’t need to have an entire set of blueprints for this to get the concept and I don’t need to see inside the ship to know it can sail.

Overall a 3-1/2 out of 5 star read for me. I really liked the historical/historical fiction part of it and enjoyed the details of that world, but it ran on longer than I felt it needed to and there were sections I wound up skimming that seemed repetitive or not necessary to advance the story.

Note: Despite having gotten the print copy from my dad, I opted to audiobook this one and I’m really glad I did. I LOVED the narrator for the version I listened to. He really brought each of the characters to life with a distinct voice and I’m pretty sure I would have had a tough time getting through this one without his help to keep me engaged.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Map of Time

  1. This sounds like an interesting concept, though I think the all-knowing narrator POV would drive me bonkers. I don’t usually enjoy that style of writing. I might have to check and see what the audiobook narrator has also read, though; I’ve been known to pick up audiobooks I was only partially interested in because of the narrator. 😉

  2. I love the premise of this one with the mix of real and fictional characters (and London setting). However, books with 500+ pages always make me sceptical. Sometimes, the length is fine, but quite often I find myself thinking (like you did here) that a bit of editing would have been beneficial.

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