Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Map of Time and The Map of the Sky

I bought The Map of Time by Felix Palma when Eryn and I went to visit my sister in law while she was in the hospital.  Not too long after my own stay, as I remember parking in the handicapped portion of the ramp to visit her and how slow I was walking what seemed like half a mile to her room through hospital halls.  We stopped by Uncle Hugo's afterward, and I'm there seldom enough that I try to pick up a few books when I am, even if my choices are based entirely upon the cover and the blurb on the back.  Palma's book was one of two I picked up, having been a bit of an H.G. Wells buff in my younger years.

I enjoyed it, although it was a bit long winded in parts.  Particularly when it came to the relationships and it started to go a bit romance novel.  And here and there the author leaked through, patting himself on the back for being a clever author in the same vein as H.G. Wells. But I brushed over those bits and enjoyed the core story, which admittedly could have been half as long, despite the almost complete lack of science fiction.  Instead, it read a bit like a few tales out of The Decameron, but with a science-fiction-that's-not-really-science-fiction twist.  For clarification, if you haven't read The Decameron, it was a collection of interwoven stories about trickery, but within a science fiction/literary vein.

So when I stumbled upon The Map of the Sky at the Dakota County Library on the new shelves, I thought I'd read the sequel.  Big mistake.  Huge mistake.  The back of the book bio calls Palma "one of the most brilliant and original storytellers of our time."  And yet this book spends almost 200 pages (I estimate, I'm not going to count) retelling The Thing, strapping it to the characters from the first book, throwing in Edgar Allen Poe for no good reason I can discern, and then dumping the whole thing into "what if the invasion had been real?"  Yet maintaining the flaws from the first book I mention above.  It drags on with the invasion story, humankind sinking ever deeper into despair until...and this is spoiler for both books...H.G. Wells uses his ability to time travel (something that was completely unnecessary at the very end of the first book, and the only real bit of science fiction) to change the past, create a second timeline, and ensure the invasion never happens in the first place.  Despite overly chatty aliens, we never discover what they're really after.  Despite them being mixed among humankind for almost 300 years, there's no real depth to their interaction.  In summation, it becomes they hid in the sewers and at least one of them began to enjoy his interaction with humans, probably because he chose to mimic a priest.   589 pages of going nowhere fast while retelling old tropes, only to land on H.G. Wells made it all a dream (an alternate timeline).

Interestingly, while I'm simultaneously writing and reading here, I found this review by the AV Club which reiterates most of what I've said above.
"...this is a story that’s been told many times before, and didn’t really need another retelling...The second section of the novel plays out like any number of alien-invasion action films"
I definitely won't be reading the last book of the trilogy.

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