Sunday, 29 January 2012

Review: The Map Of Time by Felix J. Palma

While reading Felix J. Palma's The Map Of Time, it is incredibly easy to see what the author was trying to do; write a novel that celebrated and encapsulated the literary oeuvre of Victorian England.  Whether or not The Map Of Time is that novel depends on the reader's appreciation of a narrative that is capable of shifting from one genre to the next within a couple of pages.

There is much to admire here: the self-aware, all-knowing (and rather playful) narrator is a constant source of amusement, and the sheer frequency with which well-known figures pop up is impressive. Jack the Ripper, the Elephant Man, Henry James and Bram Stoker all play minor roles, while H.G. Wells himself can be viewed as something of a central character around whom all of the various subplots revolve.

The plot itself is pure metafiction. Following the success of H.G. Wells' novel The Time Machine, time travel is the most popular topic of conversation across the salons of London.  Palma uses this backdrop to deliver entertaining, mindbending discussions on paradoxes and alternate universes, with the novel itself forming something of a love letter to the birth of science fiction. Among the memorable characters who find themselves connected to the father of the genre, Wells himself, are Andrew Harrington, who wishes to turn back the clock and save his lover from Jack the Ripper, Claire Haggerty, a proto-feminist who yearns for freedom in the distant future, and Tom Blunt, a thug and charlatan embroiled in the grandest con ever attempted.

At times, the prose verges on workmanlike and events can get a tad repetitive (try counting how many visits are made to H.G. Wells' home in Surrey by various characters), but on the whole, The Map Of Time is to be savoured and applauded for its ambition, scope, and willingness to pull double bluff after double bluff on the reader.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Creepiest Title For A Romance Novel EVER (And Other Happenings)

My best friend Chloe and I have a weekly tradition. We visit my mum's cafe in Wellington, Shropshire, for free coffee, and then go for a leisurely stroll around the market, usually spending about an hour in the labyrinthine bookstall. It is a more dangerous pastime than you might expect, as the paperbacks are stacked so high that one wrong move could bury you. This weekend we updated our tradition to include bookstall bingo, a game in which participants must find the most inappropriately amusing book title. Chloe was the winner on this occasion, spotting a novel by the name of Fanny By Gaslight. However, I stumbled across a book that deserves an award all of its own: that of Creepiest Title For A Romance Novel.
Disturbing, non?
Other events of note this week/end:
  • Lana Del Rey finally released her debut album Born To Die, meaning the world is now able to base its opinion of her on more than two songs, a lousy Saturday Night Live appearance and gallons of Internet vitriol.
  • I got to wondering what Doctor Who companion Amy Pond might have to say about her unconventional family unit if she ever made an appearance on daytime television. The result of this pondering is an article that can be found at Huffington Post UK: "5 TV Families Who Need Jeremy Kyle".
  • Yet another celebrity fell victim to the now-infamous Twitter "death hoax" this week. "RIP Cher" trended worldwide on Friday 27th January, despite it being a widely known fact that Cher has a portrait in her attic that prevents her from dying.
  • And finally, via Funny Or Die, a glimpse at what a Sabrina The Teenage Witch reunion might look like...

Monday, 23 January 2012

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner

Back in the good old days when I had a full-time job and salary (i.e. a month ago), I would indulge in a little harmless daydreaming and procrastination. Now that I am self-employed, motivation and go-getter-ness are vital.  But I still find myself trawling Twitter, Facebook and my own imagination for distractions from work.  The latest subject to divert my attention is thus: who would I invite to my perfect dinner party?  I gave no consideration to realism in this endeavour, other than how many people I can physically fit around my table.

Paloma Faith

It goes without saying that this singer/actress would arrive wearing something outlandish and eye-catching. I read in an interview somewhere that she is a huge fan of Milan Kundera, so I imagine she could explain to me what his books are actually about, and maybe even treat us to a rendition of "Upside Down" before the night is over.

Matt Smith (As the Eleventh Doctor)

I know he's fictional. But is Paloma Faith showing up for dinner any more realistic, really? The Doctor would make an ideal dinner guest; he could regale us with tales of exploding suns, hostile aliens and other wacky adventures. Also, he has a time machine, so there is no excuse for turning up late.
Truman Capote

Alrighty then, if I can invite a fictional character to dinner, then who's to say I can't bring back the dead? Capote would have a withering one-liner prepared for any topic of conversation, and undoubtedly would have a thing or two to say about his fellow guests... Behind their backs, of course.
Shappi Khorsandi

Who doesn't love to be told a joke or two over dinner? Shappi Khorsandi has a winning smile and is downright hilarious, which would nicely fill those uncomfortable gaps between courses.

Robert Sheehan

His boyish charisma and cheeky Irish brogue (not to mention his foul mouth) evoked a young Cillian Murphy and won over legions of fans in sci-fi hit Misfits.  I reckon he'd have us in stitches over dessert, reciting some reliably filthy limericks.

So there we have it; my five imaginary dinner guests.  Who would you choose?  Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

I Love You, Internet!

Have you ever seen a photograph or a painting, and wondered what was happening just outside of the frame? Sebastian Cosor certainly has. This week I stumbled upon his interpretation of Edvard Munch's The Scream, a peculiar and wonderful three minute marriage of expressionism, animation and Pink Floyd. You'll find the short film above, and a round-up of this week's entertaining and inspirational scraps from the world wide web can be found after the jump.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


Yes, yes, I know.  I've left it a little late in the month to be writing a post about fresh starts.  But I've been very busy.  Honest.

Just before Christmas, I a rather drastic (some might say silly) thing.  I quit my job.  I'd reached a point where my part time copywriting work was beginning to look a lot more promising than my day job.  So I took the plunge, and as of the New Year, became self-employed.  Along with a tonne of CV writing, I started a rather exciting little venture with my good friend Libby.  You can check out us and our work at

The novelty of being my own boss hasn't quite worn off yet.  I still get up and go to work in the morning, but everything is on my terms.  Life hasn't changed drastically, yet it has.  I'm the same, just a little bit new and improved.  Much in the same way that Matt Smith is technically the same Doctor as David Tennant, only far, far superior. (I am well aware this is nerd baiting. Sorry.)  So what better time than (mid-to-late) January to give my blog a fresh lick of paint, and reintroduce myself?

On this site you'll find my scribblings from the last couple of years.  Lots of flash fiction, book reviews, and a smattering of poetry.  Last year I completed the first volume of Vampire Love Songs, a booze-and-blood-soaked webserial. One of my New Year's resolutions is to write the second volume in 2012.

I also blog occasionally for the Huffington Post on books and entertainment - another of my resolutions is to make this a more regular occurrence.  My work for HuffPost can be found here.

So, that's me.  Same old Phil, but re-energised and raring to go.  Regenerated, you could say.