a review by Steve Cameron
Victorian London, and a young gentleman, Andrew Harrington, is on the verge of committing suicide. He is unable to function, completely filled with grief over the death of his girlfriend at the hands of Jack the Ripper eight years previously. A young woman, Clare Haggerty, feels restrained within her society and longs to escape. H.G. Wells, currently feted for his success with The Time Machine, is frustrated that an old nemesis has set up a time-travel company. The stories of these three people become entwined, as they travel into the past to change history, and travel into the future to observe (hence the Map of Time).
Upon first reading the blurb, my first thought was of the 1979 movie, Time After Time. But apart from the inclusion of both H.G. Wells and Jack the Ripper, these two tales have little in common. The story here is told in three parts, each focussing on different characters and with some overlap in time. As with any good time travel story, the narrative is not told chronologically. The narrator, both omniscient and supernatural, tells the story with a great deal of humour – once refusing to reveal what occurs behind closed doors out of a sense of propriety, and another time telling a background story as the characters had not yet arrived at their destination.
The dialogue and description perfectly capture both the sense of London in the 1890s, and the feel of a Victorian novel. This is all the more remarkable considering the book has been translated from its original Spanish. I’ve previously read translated books where the language doesn’t flow, they just don’t feel right – but the writing here is taught, witty and very, very clever. The characters too, are authentic. And the writer has obviously done his research. Be prepared a host of other characters too, both fictional and actual, including Bram Stoker, Jules Verne and Henry James. This cross-genre novel (romance, science fiction, steampunk, adventure, romance, historical fantasy and so on) is superb, an engaging narrative that I had trouble putting down. Thoroughly recommended.
Previously published in Dark Matter issue 4, July 2011.