I purchased this for sale a while back. The massmarket paperback version had just come out, and thus, all the hardcover editions at the bookstore I usually frequent had their prices drastically reduced to single digits. Intrigued by the cover and the synopsis (H.G.Wells as the main character? He’s one of my favourite classics authors, so this I had to read), I decided to give it a go. It sounded like everything I love in a novel — fantasy, science fiction, time traveling, a bit of romance, a bit of mystery, reading, books — and I have to say, I was not disappointed. There’s even some steampunk elements thrown in.
The Map of Time boasts three plots that are interwoven with one another. Well, the jacket flap says they are interwoven but to me, it really felt like three separate stories that lightly relate to one another. Reading some other reviews of this book, this seemed to be a turn-off for many readers and I completely understand. It kind of turned me off too, a bit. I like multiple plot novels as much as the next reader, but The Map of Time felt a little too similar to reading three short stories that have similar characters in the same world, instead of one novel. Don’t get me wrong, the three plots did interrelate with one another, but not as much as one would have thought.
The Map of Time has H. G. Wells as a central character in each of its three plots. H. G. Wells is, as many people know, a classic science fiction author, who wrote works such as The Time Machine and The Invisible Man. In the first plot, H. G. Wells helps a rich young man named Charles Winslow save the life of his cousin Andrew, who wants to commit suicide because the love of his life was killed by Jack the Ripper eight years ago. In the second plot, H. G. Wells helps a young man named Tom Blunt keep up an elaborate lie to save the life of a wealthy young woman whose desperately in love with Tom. And in the final and third plot, H. G. Wells tries to solve a puzzling series of murders where it appears as if the victims had a hole burned right through their body by a heat ray, an invention from the future.
Despite the disconnected feeling I got from the three plots that supposedly intersect one another (but not really), I still found this book to be absolutely mesmerizing and difficult to put down. It shocks and surprises you time after time. Whenever you think you got something figured out, it throws another curveball at you. It really feels like a magical adventure, full of good humor and really fun, clever writing. I found all three stories deliciously entertaining, addicting and full of good humor. The writing itself is brilliant, grandiose and quirky. I honestly didn’t even realize it was a translation of the original novel until I read that somewhere. I think someone described this book as a “magic show” somewhere and I think that’s a perfect description. Time and time again, I was dazzled, only to have the truth revealed … and then somehow, I get dazzled again.
Every character is unique in their own way and very memorable. They all have very elaborate backstories, which at times, can seem a bit excessive. Even rather minor characters, such as Andrew’s father, have their entire life biography revealed to you. I suppose I would ordinarily be annoyed by all this superfluous information that has no real bearing on the story, but I found even the backstories of these minor characters curiously interesting. It didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book one bit.
You don’t need to have read any of H. G. Wells’ works in order to appreciate this book fully, although I’m certain it may help a bit (I, myself, have only read two of his works, none of them being The Time Machine which was featured so prominently in The Map of Time). It does a wonderful job of inspiring you to read his novels though, although it does spoil everything. So I would suggest reading Wells’ book first then this one second if you already intended to read The Time Machine. All in all, a brilliant story that got me through being stuck at home due to snow, and a power outage (heh). I definitely recommend giving this book a shot, hopefully you will like it too. I am looking forward to reading the second in this series, The Map of the Sky.