THE MAP OF TIME is set in Victorian London and follows several interlacing story lines, all of which center on time travel,Release date: June 28, 2011
THE MAP OF TIME is set in Victorian London and follows several interlacing story lines, all of which center on time travel, both real and imagined. Inspired by H.G. Wells’ novel, THE TIME MACHINE, the concept of time travel is the latest rage among fashionable members of British high society.
Cousins Andrew Harrington and Charles Winslow are aristocratic twenty-somethings living in indolent splendor. Andrew falls in love with a poor Whitechapel prostitute who is subsequently murdered by the infamous Jack the Ripper. On the anniversary of her death, Andrew is on the verge of committing suicide when Charles interrupts to propose a visit to the past, by way of Wells’ attic, to stop the Ripper before he can murder Andrew’s mistress.
Elsewhere in London, a firm alleges to have located a time portal to the year 2000, when humans battle steam-powered automatons in a steampunk version of Terminator, and offers guided expeditions to the future. Claire Haggerty hates the life set out for a Victorian young woman of social standing (“she loathed those corsets apparently designed by the devil himself, she longed to be able to use her brain the way any man could, and she was not the slightest bit interested in marrying any of the young men hovering around her”). She daydreams of defecting to the year 2000 to be with the human hero of the war against the robots.
And finally, Inspector Colin Garrett of Scotland Yard investigates a series of murders which can only have been perpetrated by a traveler from the future with advanced weapon technology. Authors H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker and Henry James are among the intended victims.
Sprinkled throughout the novel are interesting discussions about the nature of time (“the elasticity of time, its ability to expand or contract like an accordion regardless of clocks”), parallel universes (“if the grass in next door’s garden was always greener, how much more luxuriantly verdant must it be in the neighboring universe?”) and the paradoxes inherent in discussion of time travel.
The point of view is third-person omniscient with occasional direct comments from the narrator to the reader, as in this passage: “And so Andrew rode on, seized by a wild impulse, overwhelmed for the first time by a burning, pulsating sensation, which might reasonably be described as happiness. And, prey to the effects of such a violent infatuation, everything in the universe he rode past appeared to sparkle, as though each of its elements—the paths strewn with dead leaves, the rocks, the trees, even the squirrels leaping from branch to branch—were lit up by an inner glow. But have no fear, I shall not become bogged down in lengthy descriptions of acres of impassioned, practically luminous parkland because, not only do I have no taste for it, but it would be untrue, for despite Andrew’s altered vision, the landscape clearly did not undergo any real transformation, not even the squirrels, which are well known as creatures who pursue their own interests.”
The novel was written in Spanish by Félix J. Palma and translated to English by Nick Caistor. The English is occasionally clunky; however I read an ARC (advance reading copy), and presumably the wrinkles will be ironed out for the official printing. ...more
The Yherajk are a peaceful alien race. They’ve been watching television signals broadcast into space from Earth for decades and have decided it is timThe Yherajk are a peaceful alien race. They’ve been watching television signals broadcast into space from Earth for decades and have decided it is time to introduce themselves to humanity. Problem is, they “look like gelatin and smell like a cat in heat,” so they hire Tom Stein, a junior Hollywood film agent, to improve their image and smooth the process.
Because the aliens have been studying American pop culture for half a century, they are familiar with our idioms, freely quote from movies, and discuss religion and politics. One funny passage is: “My name is Gwedif. I’m a representative of an alien race that is right now orbiting high above your planet. We have an interesting proposition, and we’d like to discuss it with you.” […] “A representative of an alien race,” I said. “Like one of those Heaven’s Gate folks? You following a comet or something?” “No,” Gwedif said. “I’m one of the aliens myself. And we passed by Hale-Bopp on the way in. No spaceship that we could see. Those people didn’t know what they were talking about.”
That had me laughing out loud, since I was fascinated by both the Hale-Bopp comet and the nutters who thought they were going to ride it to a better place. (Perhaps a happy, welcoming, non-judgmental, Star Trek-type place where sci-fi fans aren’t teased for wearing turtlenecks and having themselves castrated?)
David’s father is a therapist who runs a sort of halfway house for troubled youths. One of his charges is Zelda, who looks like a fourteen-year-old giDavid’s father is a therapist who runs a sort of halfway house for troubled youths. One of his charges is Zelda, who looks like a fourteen-year-old girl but claims to be from outer space—specifically Vahalal, a planet inhabited by women, where men are “vaporized by the Valks.” She has come to Earth to find her “chosen one,” the person to whom she was assigned by her goddess on the basis of genetics. That person happens to be Johnny Depp. She escapes to run around downtown Paris wearing only a tiny bikini and knee-high leather boots, accompanied by David and his sister Malou.
The first person narration should appeal to middle-grade boys:
“She leaps right in front of me, grabs my T-shirt, and pulls me toward her till I can feel her… well, bazongas right there against my chest. ‘I could punch you in the nose and give you a taste of Space Splashing,’ she says, raising a threatening fist. I’ve never been this close to a girl before. And if I weren’t so scared about the aforementioned punch, I would think she smells amazing! Like honey and… space spices?” ...more
I saw Max Brooks, the author of WORLD WAR Z, on a History Channel show called “Zombies: A Living History.” I was annoyed: he’s confident and affable,I saw Max Brooks, the author of WORLD WAR Z, on a History Channel show called “Zombies: A Living History.” I was annoyed: he’s confident and affable, the published author of a bestselling novel, and I’m pretty sure he’s younger than me. I was jealous. But I looked up the novel, read some online reviews and bought it. Now I don’t begrudge Brooks his success, because the book is bloody brilliant.
In the aftermath of a global zombie apocalypse, the anonymous narrator travels the world, collecting stories from human survivors: soldiers and doctors, housewives and mercenaries, politicians and survivalists. Each chapter is the recollections of a different person, assembled into chronological order.
As I read the book the night before Halloween, my husband asked, “Is it scary?” I answered, “Not scary in the traditional sense of horror, but scary in the sense that you can totally see everything happening, the way governments respond—everything is completely plausible.”
Disregard for now the zombies. Just think of any virulent, lethal, previously unknown infectious disease. The virus spreads rapidly around the globe, transferred not only by international commerce and travel, but also by the rampant black-market trade in human organs. Some governments cover up outbreaks. Other governments mobilize their armies—targeting civilians as well as the infected. Society breaks down. A few intelligence officers figure out what’s happening and hand-deliver an “Eyes Only” report to the White House, which is ignored and relegated to a bottom desk drawer in a remote field office. A sensationalized, televised battle between humans and zombies fails spectacularly when the army shows up with fabulously expensive, high-tech weaponry that has no effect against the enemy. Millions die after evacuating their homes—not from the infection but from violence or starvation or exposure. Desperation. Panic. Religious fervor. Nukes.
So, yes, it’s scary.
Max Brooks has clearly done his homework, and the novel is well-written. The voice of each survivor comes through clearly and their terror is evident, both in what they say and in what is left unsaid, as in these passages:
From a soldier who was witness to one of the first outbreaks: Beyond them, in the first chamber, we saw our first evidence of a one-sided firefight, one-sided because only one wall of the cavern was pockmarked by small arms. Opposite that wall were the shooters. They’d been torn apart. Their limbs, their bones, shredded and gnawed…some still clutching their weapons, one of those severed hands with an old Makarov still in the grip. The hand was missing a finger. I found it across the room, along with the body of another unarmed man who’d been hit over a hundred times. Several rounds had taken the top of his head off. The finger was still stuck between his teeth.
From a girl who evacuated with her family to the woods of northern Canada: I was a pretty heavy kid. I never played sports, I lived on fast food and snacks. I was only a little bit thinner when we arrived in August. By November, I was like a skeleton. […] One time, around Thanksgiving…I couldn’t get out of my sleeping bag. My belly was swollen and I had these sores on my mouth and nose. There was this smell coming from the neighbor’s RV. They were cooking something, meat, it smelled really good. Mom and Dad were outside arguing. Mom said “it” was the only way. I didn’t know what “it” was. She said “it” wasn’t “that bad” because the neighbors, not us, had been the ones to actually “do it.”
Recommended for anyone who has wondered, “What if?” ...more
Interesting read. A PRINCESS OF MARS should be read by all fans of modern science fiction, just as THE LORD OF THE RINGS should be read by all fans ofInteresting read. A PRINCESS OF MARS should be read by all fans of modern science fiction, just as THE LORD OF THE RINGS should be read by all fans of modern fantasy. In fact, Burroughs' writing reminds me of Tolkien's: more "telling" than "showing," fantastical descriptions of place and culture, and uncivilized brutes (green Martians and goblins) who speak eloquently (like, "Do you know what your unprecedented temerity would have cost you had you failed to kill either of the two chieftains whose metal you now wear?").
THE GODS OF MARS explores religion and its power over civilization, even when the religion is cruel and unfounded.
THE WARLORD OF MARS explores racial prejudices....more
I attended a reading by sci-fi author John Scalzi last year when he was promoting his novel FUZZY NATION. He asked if we, the audience, would like toI attended a reading by sci-fi author John Scalzi last year when he was promoting his novel FUZZY NATION. He asked if we, the audience, would like to hear the prologue from his work in progress. We all cheered. He swore us all to silence; we promised we wouldn’t reveal the novel’s name or concept until it was published. He then said he would read the chapter without disclosing the title; afterward he would have us guess the title. The prologue follows a young starship ensign on his first—and only—away mission on a foreign planet, during which he and the other young crew member are unceremoniously eaten by Borgovian Land Worms. The Captain and Science Officer momentarily regret the loss of their ensigns and then declare, “We need more crew.” After the reading, Mr. Scalzi asked the audience what the title ought to be and we all yelled, “REDSHIRTS!”
Do you remember in the classic STAR TREK television series when Kirk, Spock and Bones would beam down to a strange planet along with a nameless red-shirted ensign? In their subsequent adventures, they would disregard the prime directive, Kirk’s shirt would be ripped, Spock would raise an eyebrow, Bones would swear, “Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor,” and the hapless, anonymous ensign would die horribly. But fortunately for the bridge officers, there was always another redshirt available for the next episode.
In REDSHIRTS, Mr. Scalzi explores this epidemic of redshirts dying on away missions. The novel’s subtitle reads, “They were expendable… until they started comparing notes.” The novel follows Ensign Andrew Dahl, newly posted to the starship Intrepid. He and his fellow junior crewmembers gather statistics and investigate the crew deaths which circle like vultures around five particular senior officers. They also notice that during dramatic moments, the ship’s inertial dampeners tend to fail so the crew can tumble artfully across the bridge, and a random piece of equipment can be expected to explode spectacularly to further the theatrical tension. They begin to suspect that they’re extras in a sci-fi television show—and a poorly written one at that.
John Scalzi is one of the funniest sci-fi authors around. Recommended for any fan of science fiction. ...more
Most readers have probably seen Steven Spielberg’s movie version of JURASSIC PARK, which was released in 1993, won a bunch of Oscars, and earned a zilMost readers have probably seen Steven Spielberg’s movie version of JURASSIC PARK, which was released in 1993, won a bunch of Oscars, and earned a zillion dollars at the box office. The special effects were extraordinary for the time. I still remember seeing the movie on opening day (wearing amber earrings especially for the occasion) and being wowed by the scene when the protagonists first see brachiosaurs towering over the trees.
But: Don’t judge a book by its movie. The book is better.
The plot, if you’re one of the few who’ve never heard of the novel or movie, is a Mary Shelley-esque warning about the dangers of unchecked scientific advancement. John Hammond, a wealthy, eccentric dinophile, buys an island in Central America and establishes Jurassic Park, an amusement park/ zoo featuring cloned dinosaurs. His scientists extract dinosaur DNA from blood from the guts of ancient mosquitoes trapped in amber, and then recreate the living creature from the DNA.
The entire novel takes place in one weekend. Like many of Michael Crichton’s thrillers (ANDROMEDA STRAIN, CONGO, SPHERE), the novel throws assorted strangers together in an isolated and dangerous situation. Some live, some die—usually horribly and creatively. In this case, the island is cut off from communication with the mainland, a storm approaches, the bad guy sabotages the system so he can steal frozen embryos, the electric fences fail allowing the dinos to run amok, and the tyrannosaurs and velociraptors learn that humans are yummy snacks.
The main characters are paleontologists Grant and Sattler, mathematician/ chaos theoretician Malcolm, attorney Gennaro, park operator Arnold, game hunter Muldoon, geneticist Wu, veterinarian Harding, publicist Regis, computer guru Nedry, and Hammond’s grandchildren Lex and Tim. In the movie, many characters were eliminated or changed unnecessarily (i.e., making Grant and Sattler a romantic couple and changing the ages of the kids), but in the book they are fully developed and much more interesting. For example, in the movie, Gennaro is Hammond’s toady, a wimpy “yes man,” but in the novel he is concerned about safety in the park and frequently challenges Hammond.
Some of the best scenes from the book didn’t make it to the movie: a raft trip through a pterodactyl aviary, Grant killing velociraptors with poisoned glowing blue eggs, Grant and Sattler investigating a raptor nest, and—most importantly—Hammond getting his come-uppance and finally learning the dangers of hubris when he is unceremoniously eaten by tiny procompsognathids.
The story is lots of fun, of course, but is also a commentary about modern Western society’s dependence on science. Malcolm says, “We live in a world of frightful givens. It is given that you will behave like this, given that you will care about that. No one thinks about the givens. Isn’t it amazing? In the information society, nobody thinks. We expected to banish paper, but we actually banished thought.” Genetic engineering was just beginning to be explored in 1990, but the issues that Crichton raises are still relevant in 2012. There is very little oversight when it comes to genetic engineering, and we don’t really know what will happen in the long term when genetically-engineered plants and animals are released into the wild (such as the AquAdvantage genetically-modified salmon).
The movie focuses on Nedry’s sabotage and dinos eating people dramatically, but the book explains that the park was already doomed before Nedry: dinosaurs had already escaped the island and killed people on the mainland, and the supposedly sterile dinosaurs on the island had already started breeding. Unforeseeable complications always develop when real life is involved. ...more
Confusing yet oddly compelling. Definitely a book which requires thought while reading; it's not a book to breeze through. For example, this sentence:Confusing yet oddly compelling. Definitely a book which requires thought while reading; it's not a book to breeze through. For example, this sentence: "The rootkit is a gray sludge of interlocking philosophical objections to the Real, a self-propelled vacuole of solipsism and self-regard that leaves a slimy trail of ironic disdain on every concept it touches."...more
The ending didn't grab me, but a good read overall, with an intriguing mystery and an interesting protagonist (an art historian of an alien species deThe ending didn't grab me, but a good read overall, with an intriguing mystery and an interesting protagonist (an art historian of an alien species descended from vegetarian herd animals)....more
Fun story, but very dated. It's like Mad Men in space: smoking in the office, drinking cocktails before noon, and having "the girl" (i.e., the secretaFun story, but very dated. It's like Mad Men in space: smoking in the office, drinking cocktails before noon, and having "the girl" (i.e., the secretary) place your calls. This brings up an interesting question: why are some sci-fi novels from the 1960's still relevant while others are so dated? All in all, John Scalzi's modern remix of the story, Fuzzy Nation, is a better read....more