The Map of Time by Felix J Palma, translated by Nick Caistor, narrated by James Langton
Published in audio by Simon & Schuster Audio, published in print by Atria Books, both imprints of Simon & Schuster
After H.G. Wells publishes The Time Machine, the idea of time travel becomes all the rage in Victorian London, giving rise to, among other things, hopes of a better world and time tourism. Unsurprisingly, H.G. Wells finds himself in the middle of all of these plots and dreams, even if not always willingly. In The Map of Time, Palma weaves together three highly interrelated plots of time travel and the way it affects the lives of those involved, beginning with a man whose lover was murdered by Jack the Ripper, and who simply can’t bear to continue living in a world without her.
Thoughts on the story:
In the first section of the book in particular, the characters involved tend to go on expository flights of fancy. Far more of this section is exposition than any actual movement of plot. However, I begrudgingly admit that the information was more or less pertinent and interesting, and in such a long book, conveying it in a manner less resembling an info dump would have been space prohibitive. What is more important is that Palma created three novel-length stories that intertwine beautifully, all with Wells and time travel in the middle.
At times I wondered if all should really have been put together into a single book, but all depended on one another to such an extent that I was unable to decide whether they were even separate stories at all and can’t help but agree with the decision to keep them in a single volume. The most remarkable thing, is how quickly Palma was able to re-engage me each time we transitioned to a new section of the story. Part of this was the continuity with Wells, but part is also simply his gift for creating characters who are instantly interesting.
Thoughts on the audio production:
One potential downfall of audiobooks is that when things get boring, you cannot simply skim. With the tendencies that Palma’s characters had towards excessive exposition, I was afraid that this might be a serious problem. Instead, Langton’s extremely able narration kept things going. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t space out a bit during some of the extra-long histories of time travel, but Langton always kept me wanting to come back. For more complete thoughts on the audio production, please see my Audiofile Magazine review.
An incredibly entertaining and engaging read or listen.
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