Felix J. Palma has written the greatest love story of all time, while simultaneously crafting a masterpiece blend of classic science fiction, historical fiction, romance, mystery and oddly enough, steampunk fanfiction.
The Map of the Sky is a companion novel to Palma’s 2013 work, The Map of Time. Palma has set about creating a three-part series of adventure novels loosely based on H. G. Wells’ science fiction novels. The Map of Time is tied to The Time Machine, and The Map of the Sky is tied to War of the Worlds. Set in Victorian England, the three novels—two of which have been written thus far— comprise Palma’s Victorian Trilogy.
Now, Palma has a unique writing style that lead me to believe one thing, and managed to keep secrets from me every step of the way. It’s the same in The Map of Time as it is in The Map of the Sky. The big reveal of each secret caught me by surprise every time. The Map of the Sky utilizes many of the same characters as its companion novel, and although chronological in nature, it’s not necessary to read them in any certain order. One book does not reveal the secrets of the other, but reading them both really enhanced my reading experience. It was like I was in on an inside joke that only people who’ve read the other book would even have any idea of. Trapped by Palma’s style and craft in creating this world of backwards and overlapping secrets, this book was hard to put down, and the end made me want to just read it again in order to catch all of the secrets the second time around.
I can’t give away too much of the plot, for fear of letting a secret slip to some unwary blog reader looking to find a good book. However, in a nutshell, Montgomery Gillmore has fallen head over heels for the beautiful and stubborn American girl, Emma Harlow. Emma’s great-grandfather was Richard Adams Locke, author of the Great Moon Hoax and a man who, although a charlatan, was capable of making the world dream. Emma’s stubbornness has led her to decide that she will only ever be able to fall in love with a man who, like her great-grandfather, would be able to make the world dream. Enter Gillmore, a wealthy aristocrat. He has the power to do anything with money, but he lacks the imaginative power to make the world really believe that martians are invading, as happened in H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. Gillmore contacts Wells for help, and Wells ends up invariably involved when the invasion actually starts happening.
I can’t give much more than that without giving away some secrets, but this was a remarkable novel. Following the typical hero’s journey, we travel from happiness, through the darkness of the hellish tableau of an invasion directed by “intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, [that] regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us,” and then up through the wondrous and heavenly beauty that is timeless and boundless love.
From the acknowledgements at the end of the book, Palma mentions his wife and how he and she found themselves in the novel. He says that if, in some other universe or existence, they hadn’t met, the book would be undoubtedly different. But it’s improbable that any parallel universe exists wherein they haven’t fallen in love with one another. (Awwwwwww!)
A witty author/liar/charlatan/entertainer, an all-star cast with plenty of cameos, and the perspective that love really is the most powerful thing in the universe, make this novel one of the greatest that I have ever read. I readily recommend it to all. But don’t get angry when you find the author was lying to you, because maybe it was the truth the whole time.