I want you to take a moment, and breath in a lung-full of air. Savor the taste of it. Notice that it’s ordinary, clean of the ozone-spark of anything like magic. And now that you know what you’ll be leaving behind, let me introduce you to something truly magnificent.
The Map of Time, by Felix J. Palma is without a doubt, the best thing I’ve ever read. It’s not a classic (yet), it’s not Poe, or Dickens, or Wilde, and it’s certainly not flawless, but it is still the very best. Let me attempt to explain what I mean.
Rather than listing all of the ways this book is exceptional, first let’s take a look at what’s wrong with it. Palma breaks loads of literary rules. There are more red-herrings than I can count. He uses real, dead human beings as characters. He makes fun of Terminator in the middle of the Victorian era. He’s writing in Spanish, but writing exclusively about English people. He switches POV whenever it suits him. He smashes the 4th wall to bits so frequently that I got used to it, and made fun of his own novel, inside of his own novel! And yet… When he breaks these ancient rules, he does it with such grace and smug brilliance that I not only forgave him for it, but I wanted to thank him for his bravery and for proving that it could be done.
I fell in love with this book on the first page. I had no idea what was in store for me (or H.G.Wells) when I read that first page, but I could smell the magic. But it’s not just the first page. Every character in this massive tome (I recommend the eBook simply so that the book is physically manageable) is treated with near-Vernian compassion, which gives them all a full life of their own. The plot is revealed in endless layer upon layer, each one perfectly plausible at the time and yet obviously ridiculous once you see the next. The actual events are dense and complexly connected, and yet there is always time to sit down with the Elephant Man for tea, and learn through sublime implications just how human he really is. How human we all are.
This book is a treasure trove of delight and beauty. There’s something wonderfully clever around every corner, and something honest, raw, and bittersweet tucking into every silence. There were moments, when reading this, that I honestly could not put the book down (even if I was supposed to be working, or I was starting to run late for my appointment) because I felt that electric tingle in my blood that always tells you: Stop. This is rare. This is something worth being late for. This, right here, is going to change your world and make it a little wider … even if just by a little.
I should, also, mention that there are actual flaws that I can’t exactly excuse. There seems to be no filtering when it comes to “romance” or gruesome violence. Although they are few, some of the scenes are so unexpectedly detailed, and yet surrounded by such charming passages, that I felt they were incongruous with the rest of the book. And so, as much as I’d like to, I can’t recommend this book to anyone under-aged or easily offended. I noticed many, many, typos throughout the book, probably due to the fact that it was translated from Spanish to English and is longer than Harry Potter. And yet… I found I could forgive Palma all of this, easily. I guess, in this case, an overwhelming amount of good really can outweigh the bad.
Now, I will not tell you what this book is about. If I did, it would spoil so many wonderful moments. So, you’re just going to have to take my word for it. If you’re fine with your air the way it is, then go read something else. But, if you’re like me and you prefer your air scented with a hint of magic crackling in the corners, then I have just the book for you.
Try the official first Chapter excerpt right here!
Get the Kindle version (seriously, the paperback is huge!) here.
Check out the gorgeous Official Site.
Are you an author who loves Steampunk as much as I do? Or, are you just a big big fan of a Steampunk/Neo-Victorian author? Would you like to see your favorite book, or your own book, featured on this blog? Please leave a comment on this post with a short pitch and a link! I’ll happily feature anything that I think will fit the style of my blog. And even if I don’t feature it, please please leave your info in a comment anyway! Who doesn’t love new books?