H.G. Wells is an unhappy man. His latest work, The War of the Worlds, has a sequel that he didn’t write. Having agreed to meet with the American author who he believes has unjustly made money off his idea, Wells grumbles his way through the streets of London to the pub for the meeting. This author, who impresses Wells more than he cares to admit, tells him incredible tales of monsters and aliens; when Wells fails to believe, he offers to show him. In a locked room at the Natural History Museum, Wells gazes upon what he believes to be a true Martian --- just like the creatures he created in his latest book.
"There is so much going on, but Palma manages the story well, tying up loose ends and making each part of the book feel complete.... Palma does a good job of not making you feel as if he’s tossing out names, but instead creating enough back story for that character to make sense in the full context of the book."
At the same time, in America, young socialite Emma Harlow is once more declining the attentions of almost every eligible man in her social circle. When one of them, Montgomery Gilmore, manages to annoy her to the point of a challenge, she tells him what it will take to win her hand in marriage. A fan of Wells’ new book, she wants him to recreate the Martian invasion from The War of the Worlds. Gilmore, a man with money to burn, accepts the challenge and sets out to construct the invasion in the hope of winning Emma’s heart.
When the day arrives for Gilmore’s event, people gather around a supposed spaceship in a field outside of London. Among the onlookers are Emma and Wells, who was dragged there by an inspector from Scotland Yard believing that Wells would know what is going to happen. What occurs is beyond them all and has them running for their lives.
Felix J. Palma takes several different stories and weaves a tale that starts in London, travels to the Antarctic, heads to America, and then lands back in London. I have to admit that starting this review was daunting simply because I didn’t know where to begin. There is so much going on, but Palma manages the story well, tying up loose ends and making each part of the book feel complete.
THE MAP OF THE SKY is the sequel to his first novel, THE MAP OF TIME. While I want to say that this book can stand alone, there are some characters who return, in new incarnations, and having the entire back story does help in reading this one. Palma obviously has a special regard for Wells’ work, and even though his works are prominent aspects of THE MAP OF THE SKY, I don’t think one has to have read the books to enjoy the story.
Time travel, aliens, historical figures --- it’s a nice mix. I enjoyed the odd historical figure thrown in, Edgar Allan Poe for example, and Palma does a good job of not making you feel as if he’s tossing out names, but instead creating enough back story for that character to make sense in the full context of the book. I appreciate that. However, I will caution that this isn’t a book that lets you come and go; there’s a lot going on for it to be a leisurely read. It’s more the type of book that sucks you in with the small hints buried in the story, and twists and turns that don’t seem to have an ending until the entire scheme is played out.
Palma is an appealing writer, and I have to say I enjoyed both of his books. He’s into the details that make his stories come alive.
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on September 14, 2012