I got The Map of Time as an ARC months and months ago, but it took me a while to get around to reading it, and then even longer to write something about it. Three things that made me pick it up: the lovely cover, Victorian London, and time travel (duh).
Surprisingly, I had some trouble getting into the novel in the beginning (I think the fact that I’ve gotten accustomed to reading books for children might be part of the problem). Also, the book is told from several different perspectives, but that isn’t apparent at first. I don’t know if it was a wise choice to start out with Andrew Harrington, because quite frankly, I find him very whiny and unlikeable.
Andrew is one of those poor little rich boys, who is miserable until he falls in love with a prostitute who lives down by the docks in the scary part of London. Unfortunately, said prostitute gets murdered by Jack the Ripper, and Andrew blames himself for her death (let’s be honest, it’s kind of his fault, since all her prostitute friends are getting dismembered, and he has the money to move her somewhere safer). Anyway, Andrew’s friend and cousin, Charles, is tired of his moping around (not so much that he is worried about his mental health, but more so that he misses his gambling buddy/wingman), and convinces him that he could solve his problems by going back in time and preventing her death.
Luckily for them, Gilliam Murray has just opened up shop for Murray’s Time Travel, which will transport you back in time for an enjoyable romp through the year 2000, and back again in time for tea. Gilliam tells the pair a fantastical story about how he discovered time travel, it’s intricacies and idiosyncrasies, and why, though he’d love to help them, he is currently only able to travel to the future, not the past. However, he is sure H.G. Wells (yes, the author) would be glad to step in.
Wells agrees to loan out the use of his time machine, but when Andrew returns from his mission, he is surprised to find that nothing has changed in his own time. Wells explains that his actions caused the creation of a parallel universe, where his lover and himself are probably happily married at the moment. Oddly enough, this seems to be enough for Andrew, and he genially returns to his life of debauchery and throwing his money around.
Then we are introduced to Lucy, who has an overactive imagination and has read entirely too many romance novels. She decides to buy a ticket to the future from Murray, and intentionally stay behind. To her disappointment, her plan is thwarted by the vigilant tour guide, but not before she meets the leader of the human resistance (against the robots, natch) and falls in love with him. This leads to all sorts of complicated maneuvers, letters, and H. G. Wells’ involvement again, to facilitate their romance.
I will have to stop my summary here, because if I continue, I’m afraid I’ll spoil the plot twists, and that is really the best part of the novel. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say the author is very good at convincing you of one thing, then surprising you with another, before tricking you into believing something else. Things kind of got mad crazy at the end, but the story is very imaginative, and I enjoyed seeing how the characters plotlines ended up overlapping and influencing one another.
Warning: things might not be what they seem.