A review written by John. And since this is a sequel you may want to take a look at John’s review of The Map of Time.
John’s quick take: A sort of stand-alone sequel to the impressive The Map of Time, this is an equally complex and original story. Once again featuring H. G. Wells as a central character, this time Palma takes Wells’s The War of the Worlds as a foundation and spins a mind-bending tale of time travel, aliens, adventure, terror and love.
John’s description: H. G. Wells is not happy. Just a few months after the publication of his book The War of the Worlds, an American hack writer has written a sequel which Wells thinks of poor quality and in poor taste. He finally agrees to meet the writer for lunch, and after a few drinks Wells surprisingly starts to soften to him. After more drinks the American takes Wells to a secret room in the Natural History Museum and shows him an amazing otherworldly exhibit which totally stuns the British author (I will say no more in case I give away too much).
Several decades earlier, an ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic floundered as the ship became locked in the ice. The explorers are trying to make the most of their unhappy lot, when a flying object streaks overhead and crashes into the ice nearby. Their travails become worse when they find the object contained a strange alien beast, and soon they are embroiled in a fierce battle for survival.
Back in present day 1898, New York socialite Emma Harlow is bored of her constant suitors, and especially the egotistical and determined millionaire, Montgomery Gilmore. Eventually Emma agrees to marry Gilmore, but on one condition – first he has to create a reproduction of the Martian invasion scenes featured in The War of the Worlds. Thanks in part to things he achieved during his secret past, Gilmore thinks he can pull this off and starts planning the event.
A short while later in the outskirts of London, Wells is present when Gilmore’s show starts. Strange containers appear but soon it becomes apparent, to everyone’s horror, that a real alien invasion has started. Amazingly, in some ways the invasion mirrors Wells’s recently published novel. Even the might of the British empire can do nothing to stop the aliens, who’ve soon overrun London. Wells, Gilmore, Harlow, a strange detective and a motley crew of associates struggle to escape the onslaught – and Wells finds he has a strange gift which might just help.
John’s thoughts: As with The Map of Time, this is structured around three separate story lines which eventually become interweaved, thanks in part to a bending of the timelines. Also in line with the earlier novel, everything in this book centers around H. G. Wells, an intriguing character who is painted as being super-smart and rather prescient.
It’s an interesting story with a complex plot and many twists and turns. Again one of Wells’s most famous novels features prominently in the story; this time The War of the Worlds provides a foundation and launch pad for Palma’s strange tale. What would happen if a “war of the worlds” actually happened, and what might the famous author be able to do about it?
Palma clearly has a gift for storytelling and a great imagination. He leverages the original master of the science fiction genre, but this is a lot more than an homage to the great H.G. Wells – Palma takes the story into some pretty whacky places.
My quibbles about the book? It is some 600 pages long and I think it could have benefitted by some tight editing and losing 100 of those pages. In places it seems to take a long time to get to where it wants to go. It also builds quite a lot on characters and events from The Map of Time – not a problem for me as I’d read the earlier book, but for those who are reading Palma for the first time, there will be some missing background and character development that will take away from the reading experience.
I do really like the Victorian setting and Palma does a good job of creating a realistic Victorian era background and then mixing in some oddball storylines. Overall I’d rate it 4 stars and as with The Map of Time I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good historical fantasy novel or indeed a good fantasy novel, period. If you are a science fiction fan and a big follower of Victorian fiction, then this is most definitely one for you.
Atria Books | Hardbound | 594 pages | 2012
It looks like the trade paperback version of the book will be out in June of 2013, The Map of Time is now available in mass market paperback, and both books by Felix J. Palma are available in audio format.