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.