The Map of Time

The Map of Time

by Félix J. Palma

Hardcover(Atria Books)

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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.Set in Victorian London, The Map of Time boasts a triple-play of intertwined plots in which a skeptical H.G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel. Now, he must save the lives of an aristocrat in love with a murdered prostitute from the past; of a woman bent on fleeing the strictures of Victorian society; and of his very own wife, all of whom may have become a pawn in a fourth-dimensional plot to murder the authors of Dracula, The Time Machine, and The War of the Worlds in order to alter their identities and steal their fictional creations.

But, what happens if we change history? Mingling fictional characters with real ones, Félix J. Palma weaves a historical fantasy as imaginative as it is exciting, a story full of love and adventure that also pays homage to the roots of science fiction while transporting its readers to a fascinating Victorian London for their own taste of time travel.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439167397
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 06/28/2011
Series: Map of Time Series , #1
Edition description: Atria Books
Pages: 624
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Félix J. Palma has earned more than a hundred awards for his short stories. The Map of Time is his first book to be published in the United States.

Read an Excerpt


ANDREW HARRINGTON WOULD HAVE GLADLY died several times over if that meant not having to choose just one pistol from among his father’s vast collection in the living room cabinet. Decisions had never been Andrew’s strong point. On close examination, his life had been a series of mistaken choices, the last of them threatening to cast its lengthy shadow over the future. But that life of unedifying blunders was about to end. This time he was sure he had made the right decision, because he had decided not to decide. There would be no more mistakes in the future because there would be no more future. He was going to destroy it completely by putting one of those guns to his right temple. He could see no other solution: obliterating the future was the only way for him to eradicate the past.

He scanned the contents of the cabinet, the lethal assortment his father had lovingly set about assembling after his return from the war. He was fanatical about these weapons, though Andrew suspected it was not so much nostalgia that drove him to collect them as his desire to contemplate the novel ways mankind kept coming up with for taking one’s own life outside the law. In stark contrast to his father’s devotion, Andrew was impassive as he surveyed the apparently docile, almost humdrum implements that had brought thunder down to men’s fingertips and freed war from the unpleasantness of hand-to-hand combat. Andrew tried to imagine what kind of death might be lurking inside each of them, lying in wait like some predator. Which would his father have recommended he blow his brains out with? He calculated that death from one of those antiquated muzzle-loading flintlocks, which had to be refilled with gunpowder and a ball, then tamped down with a paper plug each time they were fired, would be a noble but drawn-out, tedious affair. He preferred the swift death guaranteed by one of the more modern revolvers nestling in their luxurious velvet-lined wooden cases. He considered a Colt Single Action revolver, which looked easy to handle and reliable, but discarded it when he remembered he had seen Buffalo Bill brandishing one in his Wild West Shows. A pitiful attempt to reenact his transoceanic exploits with a handful of imported Red Indians and a dozen lethargic, apparently opium-drugged buffalo. Death for him was not just another adventure. He also rejected a fine Smith & Wesson: that was the gun that had killed the outlaw Jesse James, of whom he considered himself unworthy, as well as a Webley revolver, specially designed to hold back the charging hordes in Britain’s colonial wars, which he thought looked too cumbersome. His attention turned next to his father’s favorite, a fine pepperbox with rotating barrels, but he seriously doubted whether this ridiculous, ostentatious-looking weapon would be capable of firing a bullet with enough force. Finally, he settled on an elegant 1870 Colt with mother-of-pearl inlays that would take his life with all the delicacy of a woman’s caress.

He smiled defiantly as he plucked it from the cabinet, remembering how often his father had forbidden him to meddle with his pistols. But the illustrious William Harrington was in Italy at that moment, no doubt reducing the Fontana de Trevi to a quivering wreck with his critical gaze. His parents’ decision to leave on their trip to Europe the very day he had chosen to kill himself had also been a happy coincidence. He doubted whether either of them would ever decipher the true message concealed in his gesture (that he had preferred to die as he had lived—alone), but for Andrew it was enough to imagine the inevitable look of disgust on his father’s face when he discovered his son had killed himself behind his back, without his permission.

He opened the cabinet where the ammunition was kept and loaded six bullets into the chamber. He supposed that one would be enough, but who knew what might happen. After all, he had never killed himself before. Then he tucked the gun, wrapped in a cloth, inside his coat pocket, as though it were a piece of fruit he was taking with him to eat later on a stroll. In a further act of defiance, he left the cabinet door open. If only he had shown this much courage before, he thought. If only he had dared confront his father when it had mattered, she would still be alive. But by the time he did so, it was too late. And he had spent eight long years paying for his hesitation. Eight years, during which his pain had only worsened, spreading its slimy tendrils through him like poison ivy, wrapping itself around his insides, gnawing at his soul. Despite the efforts of his cousin Charles and the distraction of other women’s bodies, his grief over Marie’s death refused to be laid to rest. But tonight it would all be over. Twenty-six was a good age to die, he reflected, contentedly fingering the bulge in his pocket. He had the gun. Now all he needed was a suitable place to perform the ceremony. And there was only one possible place.

With the weight of the revolver in his pocket comforting him like a good-luck charm, he descended the grand staircase of the Harrington mansion in elegant Kensington Gore, a stone’s throw from the Queen’s Gate entrance to Hyde Park. He had not intended to cast any farewell glances at the walls of what had been his home for almost three decades, but he could not help feeling a perverse wish to pause before his father’s portrait, which dominated the hall. His father stared down at him disapprovingly out of the gilt frame, a proud and commanding figure bursting out of the old uniform he had worn as a young infantryman in the Crimean War until a Russian bayonet had punctured his thigh and left him with a disturbingly lopsided gait. William Harrington surveyed the world disdainfully, as though the universe were a botched affair on which he had long since given up. What fool was responsible for that untimely blanket of fog which had descended on the battlefield outside the besieged city of Sebastopol, so that nobody could see the tip of the enemy’s bayonets? Who had decided that a woman was the ideal person to preside over England’s destiny? Was the East really the best place for the sun to rise?

Andrew had never seen his father without that cruel animosity seeping from his eyes, and so could not know whether he had been born with it or had been infected with it fighting alongside the ferocious Ottomans in the Crimea. In any event, it had not vanished like a mild case of smallpox, leaving no mark on his face, even though the path that had opened up in front of his hapless soldier’s boots on his return could only be termed a fortunate one. What did it matter that he had to hobble along it with the aid of a stick if it helped him reach his present position? For, without having to enter any pact with the devil, the man with the bushy moustache and clean-cut features depicted on the canvas had become one of the richest men in England overnight. Trudging around in that distant war, bayonet at the ready, he could never have dreamed of possessing a fraction of what he now owned. How he had amassed his fortune, though, was one of the family’s best-kept secrets, and a complete mystery to Andrew.

THE TEDIOUS MOMENT IS now approaching when the young man must decide which hat and overcoat to pick from among the heap in the hall closet: one has to look presentable even for death. This is a scene which, knowing Andrew, could take several exasperating minutes, and since I see no need to describe it, I shall take the opportunity to welcome you to this tale, which has just begun, and which after lengthy reflection I chose to begin at this juncture and not another; as though I, too, had to select a single beginning from among the many jostling for position in the closet of possibilities. Assuming you stay until the end of this tale, some of you will no doubt think that I chose the wrong thread with which to begin spinning my yarn, and that for accuracy’s sake I should have respected chronological order and begun with Miss Haggerty’s story. It is possible, but there are stories that cannot begin at their beginning, and perhaps this is one of them.

So, let’s forget about Miss Haggerty for the moment, forget that I ever mentioned her, even, and let’s go back to Andrew, who has just stepped forth from the mansion suitably dressed in a hat and coat, and even a pair of warm gloves to protect his hands from the harsh winter cold. Once outside the mansion, the young man paused at the top of the steps, which unfurled at his feet like a wave of marble down to the garden. From there, he surveyed the world in which he had been brought up, suddenly aware that, if things went according to plan, he would never see it again. Night was gently spreading its veil over the Harrington mansion. A hazy full moon hung in the sky, bathing in its soft glow the immaculate lawns surrounding the house, most of them cluttered with flower beds, hedges, and fountains, dozens of oversized stone fountains decorated with excessively ornate sculptures of mermaids, fauns, and other mythical creatures. His father had accumulated such a large number of them because as an unsophisticated soul his only way of showing off his importance was to buy a lot of expensive and useless objects. In the case of the fountains his extravagance was excusable, because they combined to soothe the night with their watery refrain, making the listener want to close his eyes and forget everything except the sound of that hypnotic burble. Further off, beyond the neatly clipped lawns, stood the immense greenhouse, graceful as a swan poised for flight, where his mother spent most of the day marveling over the exotic flowers that sprouted from seeds brought back from the colonies.

Andrew gazed at the moon for several minutes wondering whether man would ever be able to travel there, as had the characters in Jules Verne and Cyrano de Bergerac’s works. And what would he find if he did manage to land on its shimmering surface—whether in an airship or shot out of a cannon or with a dozen bottles of dew strapped to his body in the hope that when it evaporated he would float up to the sky like the Gascon swashbuckler’s hero? Ariosto the poet had turned the planet into a warehouse where lunatics’ reason was stored in vials, but Andrew was more drawn to Plutarch’s idea of it as the place where noble souls went after they left the world of the living. Like Plutarch, Andrew preferred to imagine that the moon was where dead people dwelled. He liked to picture them living at peace in ivory palaces built by an army of worker angels or in caves dug out of that white rock, waiting for the living to meet death and to carry on their lives there with them, exactly where they had left off. Sometimes, he imagined that Marie was living at that very moment in one of those grottos, oblivious to what had happened to her and grateful that death had offered her a better existence than life. Marie, pale in all that white splendor, waiting patiently for him to decide once and for all to blow his brains out and come to fill the empty space in her bed.

He stopped gazing at the moon when he noticed that Harold, the coachman, had followed his orders and was standing at the foot of the stairs with a carriage at the ready. As soon as he saw his young master descending the flight of steps, the coachman rushed to open the carriage door. Andrew had always been amused by Harold’s display of energy, considering it incongruous in a man approaching sixty, but the coachman clearly kept in good shape.

“Miller’s Court,” the youth commanded.

Harold was astonished at his request.

“But sir, that’s where—”

“Is there some problem, Harold?” Andrew interrupted.

The coachman stared at him for a moment, his mouth hanging ludicrously half-open, before adding:

“None whatsoever, sir.”

Andrew gave a nod, signaling that the conversation was at an end. He climbed into the brougham and sat down on the red velvet seat. Glimpsing his reflection in the carriage window, Andrew gave a sigh of despair. Was that haggard countenance really his? It was the face of someone whose life has been seeping out of him unawares, like a pillow losing its stuffing through an open seam. In a certain sense, this was true. Although his face retained the harmonious good looks he was fortunate enough to have been born with, it now resembled an empty shell, a vague impression left in a mound of ashes. The sorrow that had cast a shadow over his soul had taken its toll on his appearance, too, for he could scarcely recognize himself in this aging youth with hollowed cheeks, downcast eyes, and an unkempt beard who stared back at him in the glass. Grief had stunted him, transforming him into a dried-up, sullen creature. Fortunately, the cab began to rock as Harold, having overcome his astonishment, clambered up to his perch. This took Andrew’s attention away from the blurred face sketched onto the canvas of the night. The final act of the disastrous performance that had been his life was about to begin, and he was determined to savor every moment of it. He heard the whip crack above his head and, caressing the steely bulge in his pocket, he let himself be lulled by the carriage’s gentle sway.

THE CARRIAGE LEFT THE mansion and drove down Carriage Drive, which bordered the lush vegetation of Hyde Park. Gazing through the window at the city, Andrew thought that in less than half an hour’s time they would be in the East End. This ride had always fascinated and puzzled him in equal measure, because it allowed him to glimpse in a single sweep every aspect of his beloved London, the world’s greatest metropolis, the giant head of an insatiable octopus whose tentacles stretched over almost a fifth of the world’s surface, holding Canada, India, Australia, and a large part of Africa in its viselike grip. As the handsome carriage sped east, the salubrious, almost countrified atmosphere of Kensington soon gave way to the crowded urban environment of Piccadilly, and beyond to the Circus where Anteros, the avenger of unrequited love, protrudes like an arrow fired at the city’s heart. Beyond Fleet Street, the middle-class dwellings seemingly huddled around St. Paul’s Cathedral gradually came into view. Finally, once they had passed the Bank of England and Cornhill Street, a wave of poverty swept over everything, a poverty that people from the adjoining West End knew of only from the satirical cartoons in Punch, and which seemed to pollute the air, making it foul to breathe as it mingled with the stench rising from the Thames.

Andrew had last made this journey eight years earlier, and since then he had always known that sooner or later he would make it again for the very last time. It was hardly surprising then that as they drew nearer to Aldgate, the gateway to Whitechapel, he felt slightly uneasy. He gazed warily out of the window as they entered the district, experiencing the same misgivings as he had in the past. He had never been able to avoid feeling overwhelmed by an uncomfortable sense of shame knowing that he was spying on what was to him an alien world with the dispassionate interest of somebody who studies insects. Over time, though, his initial revulsion had turned into inevitable compassion for the souls who inhabited that junkyard where the city dumped its human waste. And, peering out of the window, it seemed as if there was every reason for him to feel that compassion still: London’s poorest borough had changed relatively little in the past eight years. Wealth brings poverty in its wake, thought Andrew, as they crossed the ill-lit, rowdy streets, crammed with stalls and handcarts and teeming with wretched creatures whose lives were played out beneath the menacing shadow of Christ Church. At first, he had been shocked to discover that behind the dazzle of the city’s façade there existed this outpost of hell where, with the Queen’s blessing, human beings were condemned to live like beasts. But the intervening years had made him less naïve, so that he was no longer surprised to see that even as the advances of science were transforming the face of London and the well-to-do amused themselves by recording their dogs’ barks onto the wax-coated cylinders of phonographs or conversed via telephone under the glow of Robertson’s electric lamps, while their wives brought their children into the world still groggy from chloroform, Whitechapel had remained immune to all this progress, untouchable beneath its rotten shell, drowning in its own filth. A quick glance was enough to tell him that crossing into this world was still like sticking his hand into a hornets’ nest. It was here that poverty showed its ugliest face, here that the same jarring, sinister tune was always playing. He observed a couple of pub brawls, heard screams rising from the depths of dark alleyways, and glimpsed a few drunks sprawled in the gutter while a gang of street urchins stripped them of their shoes. They exchanged glances with a pair of pugnacious-looking men standing on a street corner, the petty rulers in this parallel kingdom of vice and crime.

THE LUXURIOUS CARRIAGE CAUGHT the attention of several prostitutes who shouted lewd proposals to him, hitching up their skirts and showing their cleavage. Andrew felt a pang of sorrow as he gazed upon this pitiful back-street spectacle. Most of the women were filthy and downtrodden, their bodies bearing the mark of their daily burden. Even the youngest and prettiest could not escape being stained by the misery of their surroundings. He was revisited by the agonizing thought that he might have saved one of these doomed women, offered her a better life than the one her Creator had allotted her, and yet he had failed. His sorrow reached a crescendo as the carriage rattled past the Ten Bells, emitting an arpeggio of creaks as it turned into Crispin Street on its way to Dorset Street, passing in front of the Britannia pub where he had first spoken to Marie. This street was his final destination. Harold pulled the carriage up next to the stone arch leading to the Miller’s Court flats, and climbed off the perch to open the carriage door. Andrew stepped out of the coach feeling suddenly dizzy and was aware that his legs were shaking as he looked around him. Everything was exactly as he remembered it, down to the shop with grimy windows run by McCarthy, the owner of the flats which stood beside the entrance. Nothing he saw indicated to him that time also passed in Whitechapel.

“You can go home now, Harold,” he told the coachman, who was standing in silence at his side.

“What time shall I fetch you, sir?” asked the old man.

Andrew looked at him without knowing what to say. Fetch him? He had to stifle a sinister laugh. The only thing fetching him would be the cart from the Golden Lane morgue, the same one that had come there to fetch what was left of his beloved Marie eight years before.

“Forget you ever brought me here,” was his reply.

The somber expression that clouded the coachman’s face moved Andrew. Had Harold understood what he had come there to do? He could not be sure, because he had never given a moment’s thought to the coachman’s intelligence, or indeed to that of any servant. He always thought that at the most they possessed the innate cunning of people who from an early age are obliged to swim against the current in which he and his class maneuvered with ease. Now, though, he thought he detected in old Harold’s attitude an uneasiness that could only have come from his having guessed Andrew’s intentions with astonishing accuracy. And the servant’s capacity for deduction was not the only discovery Andrew made during that brief moment when for once they looked directly at each other. Andrew also became aware of something hitherto unimaginable to him: the affection a servant can feel for his master. Despite the fact that he could only see them as shadows drifting in and out of rooms according to some invisible design, only noticing them when he needed to leave his glass on a tray or wanted the fire lit, these phantoms could actually care about what happened to their masters. That succession of faceless people—the maids whom his mother dismissed on the flimsiest grounds, the cooks systematically impregnated by the stable boys as though conforming to some ancient ritual, the butlers who left their employ with excellent references and went to work at another mansion identical to theirs—all of them made up a shifting landscape which Andrew had never taken the trouble to notice.

“Very well, sir,” murmured Harold.

Andrew understood that these words were the coachman’s last farewell; that this was the old fellow’s only way of saying goodbye to him, since embracing him was a risk he appeared unwilling to take. And with a heavy heart, Andrew watched that stout, resolute man almost three times his age, to whom he would have had to relinquish the role of master if they had ever been stranded together on a desert island, clamber back up onto the carriage. He urged on the horses, leaving behind an echo of hooves clattering into the distance as the carriage was swallowed up by the fog spreading through the London streets like muddy foam. It struck him as odd that the only person he had said good-bye to before killing himself should be the coachman and not his parents or his cousin Charles, but life was full of such ironies.

That is exactly what Harold Barker was thinking as he drove the horses down Dorset Street, looking for the way out of that accursed neighborhood where life was not worth thruppence. But for his father’s determination to pluck him from poverty and secure him a job as a coachman as soon as he was able to climb onto the perch, he might have been one more among the hordes of wretched souls scraping an existence in this gangrenous patch of London. Yes, that surly old drunk was the one who had hurled him into a series of jobs that had ended at the coach house of the illustrious William Harrington, in whose service he had spent half his life. But, he had to admit, they had been peaceful years, which he did when taking stock of his life in the early hours after his chores were done and the masters were already asleep; peaceful years in which he had taken a wife and fathered two healthy, strong children, one of whom was employed as a gardener by Mr. Harrington.

The good fortune that had allowed him to forge a different life from the one he had believed was his lot enabled him to look upon those wretched souls with a degree of objectivity and compassion. Harold had been obliged to go to Whitechapel more often than he would have liked when ferrying his master there that terrible autumn eight years ago, a period when even the sky seemed to ooze blood at times. He had read in the newspapers about what had happened in that warren of godforsaken streets, but more than anything he had seen it reflected in his master’s eyes. He knew now that young master Harrington had never recovered, that those reckless excursions to pubs and brothels which his cousin Charles had dragged them both on (although he himself had been obliged to remain in the carriage shivering from cold) had not succeeded in driving the terror from his eyes. And that night Harrington had appeared ready to lay down his arms, to surrender to an enemy who had proved invincible. Didn’t that bulge in his pocket look suspiciously like a firearm? But what could he do? Should he turn around and try to stop him? Should a servant step in to alter his master’s destiny? Harold shook his head. Maybe he was imagining things, he thought, and the young man simply wanted to spend the night in that haunted room, safe with a gun in his pocket.

He left off his uncomfortable broodings when he glimpsed a familiar carriage coming out of the fog towards him from the opposite direction. It was the Winslow family carriage, and the bundled-up figure on the perch was almost certainly Edward Rush, one of their coachmen. To judge from the way he slowed the horses, Rush appeared to have recognized him, too. Harold nodded a silent greeting to his colleague, before directing his gaze at the occupant of the carriage. For a split second, he and young Charles Winslow stared solemnly at one another. They did not say a word.

“Faster, Edward,” Charles ordered his driver, tapping the roof of the carriage frantically with the knob of his cane.

Harold watched with relief as the carriage vanished once more into the fog in the direction of the Miller’s Court flats. He was not needed now. He only hoped that young Winslow arrived in time. He would have liked to stay and see how the affair ended, but he had an order to carry out—although he fancied it had been given to him by a dead man—and so he urged the horses on once more and found his way out of that dreaded neighborhood where life (I apologize for the repetition, but the same thought did occur to Harold twice) was not worth thruppence. Admittedly, the expression sums up the peculiarity of the neighborhood very accurately, and we probably could not hope for a more profound appraisal from a coachman. However, despite having a life worthy of being recounted—as are all lives upon close scrutiny—the coachman Harold Barker is not a relevant character in this story. Others may choose to write about it and will no doubt find plenty of material to endow it with the emotion every good story requires—the time he met Rebecca, his wife, or the hilarious incident involving a ferret and a rake—but that is not our purpose here.

And so let us leave Harold, whose reappearance at some point in this tale I cannot vouch for, because a whole host of characters are going to pass through it and I can’t be expected to remember every one of their faces. Let us return to Andrew, who at this very moment is crossing the arched entrance to Miller’s Court and walking up the muddy stone path trying to find number thirteen while he rummages in his coat pocket for the key. After stumbling around in the dark for a few moments he found the room, pausing before the door with an attitude which anybody able to see him from one of the neighboring windows would have taken to be incongruous reverence. But for Andrew that room was infinitely more than some wretched lair where people who hadn’t a penny to their name took refuge. He had not been back there since that fateful night, although he had paid to keep everything exactly as it had been, exactly as it still was inside his head. Every month for the past eight years he had sent one of his servants to pay the rent for the little room so that nobody would be able to live there, because if he ever went back, he did not want to find traces of anyone but Marie. The few pennies for the rent were a drop in the ocean for him, and Mr. McCarthy had been delighted that a wealthy gentleman and obvious rake should want to rent that wretched dwelling indefinitely, for after what had taken place within its four walls he very much doubted anybody would be brave enough to sleep there. Andrew realized now that deep down he had always known he would come back, that the ceremony he was about to perform could not have been carried out anywhere else.

He opened the door and cast a mournful gaze around the room. It was a tiny space, scarcely more sophisticated than a shack, with flaking walls and a few sticks of battered furniture including a dilapidated bed, a grimy mirror, a crumbling fireplace, and a couple of chairs which looked as if they might fall apart if a fly landed on them. He felt a renewed sense of amazement that life could actually take place in somewhere like this. And yet, had he not known more happiness in that room than in the luxurious setting of the Harrington mansion? If, as he had read somewhere, every man’s paradise was in a different place, his was undoubtedly here, a place he had reached guided by a map not charting rivers or valleys but kisses and caresses.

And it was precisely a caress, this time an icy one on the nape of his neck, which drew his attention to the fact that nobody had taken the trouble to fix the broken window to the left of the door. What was the point? McCarthy seemed to belong to that class of people whose motto was to work as little as possible, and had Andrew reproached him for not replacing the pane of glass, he could always have argued that since he had requested everything be kept just as it was he had assumed this included the window-pane. Andrew sighed. He could see nothing with which to plug the hole, and so decided to kill himself in his hat and coat. He sat down on one of the rickety chairs, reached into his pocket for the gun, and carefully unfolded the cloth, as if he were performing a liturgy. The Colt gleamed in the moonlight filtering weakly through the small, grimy window.

He stroked the weapon as though it were a cat curled up in his lap and let Marie’s smile wash over him once more. Andrew was always surprised that his memories retained the vibrancy, like fresh roses, of those first days. He remembered everything so incredibly vividly, as though no eight-year gap stretched between them, and at times these memories seemed even more beautiful than the real events. What mysterious alchemy could make these imitations appear more vivid than the real thing? The answer was obvious: the passage of time, which transformed the volatile present into that finished, unalterable painting called the past, a canvas man always executed blindly, with erratic brushstrokes that only made sense when one stepped far enough away from it to be able to admire it as a whole.

© 2008 FÉlix J. Palma

What People are Saying About This

M. J. Rose

“Strange and wonderful. Magical and smart. Félix J. Palma has done more than written a wonderful novel, he's concocted a supernatural tour de force. Time travel, tragic love, murder and mystery all combine in what is nothing short of a surprising, satisfying and mesmerizing read.” –--(M.J. Rose, International Bestseller)

Cherie Priest

“The Map of Time is a singularly inventive, luscious story with a core of pure, unsettling weirdness. With unnerving grace and disturbing fantasy, it effortlessly straddles that impossible line between being decidedly familiar, and yet absolutely new.” --(Cherie Priest, author of Boneshaker)

Scott Westerfeld

"The Map of Time recalls the science fiction of Wells and Verne, and then turns the early masters on their heads. A brilliant and breathtaking trip through metafictional time." --(Scott Westerfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Leviathan)

Reading Group Guide

Why I wrote the Map of Time

I was inspired to write The Map of Time by The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, one of my favorite writers. The protagonist in that novel, which was published for the first time in 1895, is an inventor who builds a machine that enables him to travel into the future. I devoured that book as a boy, but when I reread it as an adult, I was surprised to find I didn't feel that same rush of emotion. I realized that part of why I was so taken with the book is that I actually believed a time machine could exist and that one day perhaps I too could travel into the future. That must have been how Wells' contemporaries felt. Science was taking such a grand leap forward in the nineteenth century and anything seemed possible. Travel into the future? Beyond the frame of our normal existence? To see things not destined for our eyes? I could almost see them rubbing their chins in hopeful fascination as they closed the novel, imagining it was only a matter of time before someone brought Wells' invention to life. Maybe in mere months, they'd imagine, someone would devise a contraption similar to the machines of their time, with gears and rods and pumping pistons, and ladies with feathered hats and gentlemen with bow ties and monocles would hop aboard for a ride. I couldn't get this image out of my head and that's when I knew I had found the seed of inspiration for my novel.
But I had never written any novel quite like this. To do it, I'd have to immerse myself in the Victorian era and think like an Englishman from the nineteenth century. I didn't know if I had it in me, but I was so drawn to the idea that I decided to risk it. I started to educate myself on the period so I could realistically portray what a fascinating time it was to be alive in London, the largest city on earth. I imagined rooftop chimneys lining the landscape in every direction toward the horizon, their billowing smoke mixing with the haze coming off the Thames to give London its distinctive fog. A time when the Empire's high achievements coexisted with grave-robbing
and the occult. A place where opulence and wealth shared a city with the Dickensian poverty of the East End, where one of the most famous murderers in recorded history, Jack the Ripper, stalked the shadows.
I wanted fictional characters as protagonists, but I felt it would give the tale an air of authenticity to have them share the pages with Jack the Ripper, Joseph Merrick the Elephant Man, and prominent writers of the time such as Bram Stoker and Henry James. And if anyone deserved a place in my novel it was H.G. Wells. His inclusion would allow me to pay homage to the man who wrote in my favorite genre, science fiction, and who inspired this book. But I didn't want Wells' character to be two-dimensional, a stereotype with predictable behavior. No, I wanted to get inside his head, to understand his view of the world through the books he had written, the women he had loved, the friends he had made. I wanted to think like him or, at worst, to create a new Wells—one infused with my own humanity.
And, most of all, I wanted to create a fast-paced novel filled with love and adventure, one that would explore the ways that imagination can save lives, a book that spoke to the nature of time, which, after all, defines who and what we are. A novel that, in short, would pay a modest tribute to the books that made a young boy dream.
I hope that you enjoy this wonderful ride.
Félix J. Palma

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The Map of Time 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 175 reviews.
Sarijj More than 1 year ago
How does one review a book without talking about it? This is my dilemma as I try to persuade you to rush out and pick up Felix Palma's book The Map of Time. This from Publisher's Weekly: Spanish author Palma makes his U.S. debut with the brilliant first in a trilogy, an intriguing thriller that explores the ramifications of time travel in three intersecting narratives. In the opening chapter, set in 1896 England, aristocratic Andrew Harrington plans to take his own life, despondent over the death years earlier of his lover, the last victim of Jack the Ripper. Meanwhile, 21-year-old Claire Haggerty plots to escape her restrictive role as a woman in Victorian society by journeying to the year 2000. A new commercial concern, Murray's Time Travel, offers such a trip for a hefty fee. Finally, Scotland Yarder Colin Garrett believes that the fatal wound on a murder victim could only have been caused by a weapon from the future. Linking all three stories is H.G. Wells, the author of The Time Machine. Palma brings Wells and other historical figures like Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, plausibly to life. For those of you who are not familiar with Victorian England you must keep in mind this is a period of time that saw science advance even though many still believed in fairies and magic. For many, science was the greatest magic of all and would easily believe anything they saw. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the man behind Sherlock Holmes believed two little girls had take pictures of fairies, while others spent time in salons communicating with the dead. What happens in this book could have easily happened during this period. This is as much as I can say about book without giving anything away, for you see half the fun of the book is not knowing what is really going on. Instead of writing about the plot and characters I will instead, write about my first experience with Palma. I received an ARC from Simon and Schuster after requesting it from an online blurb. The day the book came in I opened it up, wondering what I had gotten myself into. It is 612 pages long, and I had already agreed to review a couple of other books. After only two pages, with wide eyes I slammed the book down. "oh, oh" I thought, this may be a book I cannot put down. I quickly finished the other books then started The Map of Time last Friday night. By Monday afternoon I was finished. I read it over the weekend ignoring everything and everybody. The book reminded me of a visit to a large carnival. There were rollercoaster twist and turns, wonderful characters to watch, savory sentences and then there is Palma, part showman, part con man, part ringleader. You know he is in charge and although he may be putting you on, you gleefully follow anyway. I would bet B.T. Barnum and Plama would get along famously! There came a time in the book that under almost any other writer I would have groaned and said "oh, come on!" Instead I laughed as it became clear he had conned me and I joyfully kept reading, breathlessly wondering what would come next. This is much more than a book, it is a ride, it's a show and above all, it is something you may remember for a long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to write a review bc of all the bad reviews on here. The beginning of the novel is super slow, for around the first hundred pages.but the rest of the book is well-paced with detailed characters and an interesting plotline. Its set in Victorian times and deals with the idea of time travel, with H.G. Wells as one of the main characters. Honestly one of my favorite books.
Natasha Grey More than 1 year ago
This book is actually several stories woven together. I liked that i was never able to predict where we were going next. It takes some patience when it stops and starts a few times, but it's definitely worth a read!!
jim1658 More than 1 year ago
I am a quarter of the way through The Map Of Time and have never seen so many twists and turns. Very entertaining and will keep you guessing about the way things turn out. This exudes Victorian England without being 'flowery' in the least.
Marcie77 More than 1 year ago
There is a quote by Albert Einstein at the beginning of this novel that says "The distinction between past, present and future is an illusion but a very persistent one." I don't think the author, Felix J. Palma, could have found a more perfect quote to fit The Map of Time. The threads of time are so intrinsically woven its' hard to separate what is real and what is an illusion in this novel. This novel takes place in London during the reign of Queen Victoria. This is an interesting time period because so much progress in the area of science was being made. Society was more acceptable to new discoveries. Also it was a frightening time because the infamous Jack the Ripper was making his presence known throughout England. Andrew Herrington loses his lover, Marie Jeanette, to the abominable crimes of Jack the Ripper. Andrew is distraught over his loss. The only thing he wants out of life is to see Marie Jeanette again. His cousin Charles discovers a way that might be possible but first they must seek out the one person who started it all, H.G. Wells. This begins the adventure that takes readers into the past, present and future. The Map of Time is broken up into three parts. There are many interesting characters and several story lines that intertwine together. However all three parts and all the characters seem to center around the author of The Time Machine, H.G. Wells. Wells's book about time traveling is well known. He seems to be an authority on the subject of time traveling. Many people seek him out to answer questions about time traveling. His book, The Time Machine has opened up the door for time traveling to be accepted into society. I really liked reading about H. G. Wells. I think that Felix J. Palma did an excellent job mixing fact with fiction. After I finished reading this book I did a little research on H. G. Wells because I wanted to know how much liberty the author took when writing this novel. Felix. J. Palma put so much detail of Wells's life that it was hard to differentiate between fact and fiction at times. There are also many characters in this novel that readers might be familiar with such as, The Elephant Man, Bram Stoker, and Henry James. This book had its ups and downs for me. There are some parts of this novel that I absolutely loved. There were parts of this book that I found rather boring. I had to push through those parts and I'm glad that I did. Palma addresses some interesting questions in this novel such as "How much personal responsibility do we have concerning the future of our world?" "If we know what will happen in the future, should we try and change it or just let things fall to fate?" There are also many themes in this book that deal with division among the classes and science versus religion. This is definitely an interesting book and I'm glad that I read it. This book takes a dark tone at times and is a bit gruesome at others. It is fascinating to read about this time period. There are times that I found myself saying "whoa, what?" The Map of Time has adventure, mystery and humor. If you like historical fiction with a sci-fi twist, you should definitely read this book.
stiiffy More than 1 year ago
Any human being will LOVE this book. It has it ALL! ADVENTURE! ROMANCE! ACTUAL INSTANCES OF TIME TRAVEL! If you liked Drood, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, or any kind of scifi/history smashup, this book will blow you away. It starts off strong and just gets better until you are bursting at the seams to tell everyone you know about it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read! Could not put this one down. Well writen & poetic.
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
First, a bit about the story itself. Andrew Harrington has fallen in love with a prostitute by the name of Marie Kelly. Andrew comes from money, so falling in love with a working girl was not what his father had in mind. Nevertheless, he falls hard for her. Unfortunately, she is Jack the Ripper's 5th victim and Andrew arrives too late to save her. Staggering away from the murder scene, he is stricken over what's happened and plagued by his inability to save her. Eight years later and influenced by books such as The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, he decides to travel back in time to change Marie's fate. What follows is a genre-bender like no other. This book is either brilliant, or a total sham! At 624 pages, it starts off innocently enough, but then by the end of book one, it takes a completely different turn and then heads into the future with a new set of players. Although the story seems to shift underneath you, it's clear that Palma has something up his sleeve and that the stories are in fact connected in some way. This book is far from predictable. Every time I turned the page I pondered what just happened. Not because it was confusing in any way, but because I could not imagine how the author kept it all straight while writing the story. There are trips to the past, trips to the future, trips to parallel universes, there's a murder (actually more than one), thuggery (I came up with that term), fraud, a budding romance.okay, more than one and appearances by all sorts of folks including: The Elephant Man, Henry James, Bram Stoker and H.G. Wells himself. When I say that this book was a wild ride through time. I am not kidding. It was an adventure and from those very first pages, I found myself hooked. Mainly because I HAD to know how it ended, plus I love Victorian London and sci-fi. However, by the end of the book I was left with my mouth gaping open. I read this with another blogger and we were both either incredibly impressed or royally ticked. We weren't sure. I'm still not sure. If you like the elements I mentioned, enjoy a genre-bender every now and then, and don't mind being pulled through a lot of different subplots to partake in the adventure, then you'll love this book. After spending some time thinking about it, I am leaning more toward it being brilliant, but it's was a slow realization for me.
enmarqu More than 1 year ago
I loved the way the three stories are related and the fresh approach of the genre. At some point I felt I was reading one of the shakespearean plays. Definitely recommended.
Vanguard-TM More than 1 year ago
With all the mixed reviews I was afraid to read this book. I see where the divide is, but I enjoyed the book a lot. Do you like a magic show even though you know it is sleight of hand? Can you enjoy the style of a book more than the plot? Is it fine to you when the narrator is a part of the story? Do you like Neil Gaiman? Did you like the movie The Prestige? Pan's Labyrinth? If you find yourself nodding yes read this book.
Windbigler More than 1 year ago
I agree. One of the best books of the year, fun to read and I can't wait for the next one.
juliusa More than 1 year ago
So much hype yet again, with no substance. Gets boring about 1/3 in, silly story with no depth, juvenile writing style..basically, pass it up and find something better.
CCFL More than 1 year ago
Had a great premise, but the author never delivered, period.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm halfway through and find myself skimming quickly past the background stories - ie. the story behind the automatons. The cover immediately caught my eye. The synopsis made it sound like a run through Victorian times after Jack the Ripper. The first part of the book was good, but the conclusion for it and then moving onto another story was a huge disappointment. I had no idea that the story was fragmented this way. The background stories by Murray (Captain Shakleton, the automatons, the time hole in Africa, etc... ) I found tedious to get through and silly. Really disappointing.
Meadow522 More than 1 year ago
This is one very uniwue book that kept me guessing the whole way thtouhh. Judt as I thought I'd figured it out a curve bsll is thrown. I loved how it's 3 separate stories that all tied in so wonderfully. The author fid an excellent job bringing it all together. I particularly liked how even the author himself was almost a part of the story. The changes in point of views, where in some novels may totally confuse some readers, here worked really well. Finally I enjoyed how the story really addresses the questioj of should we mess with time and events if we had the opportunity to and risk creating effects that may inadvertently cause more harm than what the original event caused. We all would love to go back and change some things in our past, I'm sure, but shiulf we.? Anyeay I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved most of the book. The first story was the best one. I was disappointed with the ending. I kept thinking the three stories were going to come together in some exciting way, but it was not exciting and it became very slow reading at the end. Still, I would recommend it as a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing, written in the same labguage as the time period it was written in. The 3 parts interweave in a perfect blend
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book ive seen that uses other books as inspiration. Usually i think books like that are lame,but i really like this book. Even if you dont like it, its cheap.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a tedious, uninteresting attempt at recreating the prose of Verne and Wells! I barely made it through the first  third of this sluggish novel before deleting it from my iPad in disgust. Save your money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A tad cheesy, but I really liked this book and it's characterization of H.G. Wells. The original "The Time Machine" is included with this version.
Blerrbear More than 1 year ago
When reading through these reviews I see one of two things "Too long" or "Amazing" The first thing I want to know is, who picks up a book of this length, reads it (knowing how long the book is) and puts it down half way through complaining that it was "too long" If you pick up this book, you are fully aware of its length. The second recurring comment "Amazing" I am going to have to agree with. The story is interesting (assuming you take the time to get through the language and the length). The characters are relate-able, and have depth. I found them interesting and it was fun to read. Don't let the the "Too long" Comments get to you. If you find time travel, and Victorian England interesting, you will love this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ever go to a movie, described as one type of story, only to see a completely different story then expected. Or go to a magic show where the performer just wants to show he is more clever then you! Thats the way the first two thirds of this book make me feel. I have set this book done for weeks at a time in disappointment. The story is interesting, but the plot twist at the end of the first two st
TooTallTom More than 1 year ago
Could not get into this at all. Slow, ponderous writing. Do not recommend.
Thunderstruck More than 1 year ago
After reading the synopsis of this book, I thought it would be one that I would really like and would have a hard time putting down. However, the synopsis, in my opinion, is misleading, at least when it comes to the first two thirds of the book. While H.G. Wells does play a role in the story, it has nothing to do with investigating time travel, not in the first two parts anyway. There were a few places that I wanted to find out what happened next, but for the most part I basically had to make myself continue reading. After about 400 pages I just didn't have the desire to continue. Maybe one of these days I'll pick it back up and finish, but not likely.
Fantomboo More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up because the cover reading really draws you in, however I found it to be slow and lots of unnecessary explanations. Like the pages that took up pages of the retelling of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and the author constantly chasing rabbits just to say "let's get back to the story". There were interesting parts though and the ending ended up pretty good. I did like how the author put H.G. Wells at the center of all the stories. If you don't have anything else to read right now pick this up as something to fill the time.