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Bookmarks Issue: 
55-Nov-Dec-2011
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A-The Map of TimeCelebrated Spanish novelist and short story writer Felix J. Palma won the prestigious Ateneo de Sevilla XL Prize for the best-selling Map of Time (El Mapa del Tiempo) in his native Spain. It is his first novel to be published in the United States.

The Story: It is 1896, and The Time Machine by H. G. Wells has inspired a profitable commercial venture, Murray's Time Travel, by which well-heeled, Victorian-era Britons can visit the future. But this awe-inspiring new invention has unforeseen consequences for three Londoners. Wealthy, young Andrew Harrington, still mourning his lover's murder at the hands of Jack the Ripper, plans to commit suicide on the anniversary of her death when his cousin, newly returned from a trip with Murray's, offers him an alternative. Claire Haggerty falls hopelessly in love with a man from the future during one of Murray's excursions, and an inspector with Scotland Yard hunts for a killer with a strange, futuristic weapon.
Atria Books. 624 pages. $26. ISBN: 9781439167397

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Palma undertakes all three sections with irrepressible gusto, metafictional conceits, and a Fieldingesque busy-body narrator who promises (slyly) to reveal things ‘all in good time,' often urging the reader to be patient. ... It offers a rich bounty for readers to enjoy, the ultimate lush, compulsively readable summer book." Steve Donoghue

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"The Map of Time ponders the ways our minds can create our own truths, denying what we don't want to know or see, believing what we most wish to be true. And by making Wells the fulcrum, the book also becomes a wonderful meta-fiction, commenting on the act of writing itself, and how fiction can shape and alter our lives. After 611 pages, I was awestruck. All these plots, all these mysteries, all this lovely writing! By Jove, he's got it!" Sarah Willis

Onion A.V. Club 4 of 5 Stars
"The novel's structure works wonderfully, offering a variety of charming protagonists moving through their own disappointments, victories, action-packed climax, and beautiful ending. They each could stand alone, but they're incredibly satisfying when the finale draws them all together." Samantha Nelson

Seattle Post-Intelligencer 4 of 5 Stars
"The Map of Time is an extremely busy book that provokes the mind in many exciting ways. ... The author's characters are well drawn; the scenes are well played out and vividly described." Regis Schilken

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Fans of serious science fiction may find the story too metafictional. (Others may object that it's clogged with too many adjectives.) But Palma writes with such shrewdness and glee that I enjoyed The Map of Time more than any time-travel novel since Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog." Yvonne Zipp

Newark Star-Ledger 3.5 of 5 Stars
"A luxurious blend of history, romance, mystery and science fiction, this novel cleverly weaves fact and fiction, keeping the reader guessing to the end. ... He spoils the effect somewhat by frequently pointing out his own cleverness, in the persona of a Dickensian omniscient narrator, but overall, this is an enjoyable adventure and a strong translation." Victoria Truslow

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Palmas' book is baggy, and its chatty, omniscient narrator is a little too prone to digression. ... Nonetheless, Palmas writes with panache and good humor, and he's cooked up a crackerjack story." Adam Woog

Critical Summary

Before readers have finished Palma's "big, genre-bending delight" (Washington Post), they will have encountered not only the prescient author of The Time Machine but also Henry James, Bram Stoker, Jack the Ripper, and Joseph Merrick (the Elephant Man). Melding steampunk, mystery, history, and romance, Palma juggles a sprawling, stuffed plot and well-drawn characters to produce an adventure tale that manipulates readers' assumptions to keep them guessing right to the end. Some readers may have trouble warming to Palma's metafictional devices or chatty, omniscient narrator. Others may take a dim view of his rambling, florid writing style, but Palma's deft imitation of Victorian prose assists in bringing the era vividly to life. "As a whole," notes the critic from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, reflecting general sentiment, "I found the book fascinating."