The Map of the Sky

The Map of the SkyThe Map of the Sky
by: Felix J. Palma

(Victorian/Science Fiction)

591 pages [Hardcover]

H.G. Wells is once again pulled into all manner of danger and adventure when the events in his novel, The War of the Worlds, begin happening around him.

I’m really becoming a fan of Felix J. Palma. The Map of Time was pretty awesome and The Map of the Sky is just as good. While his novels can feel a little long and drawn out at times, the payoff at the end makes it all worthwhile.

This time, I was prepared and read The War of the Worlds beforehand. With The Map of Time, not much of H.G. Wells’ novel factored into the story, other than the subject of time travel, and the machine itself. With The Map of the Sky, having The War of the Worlds fresh in your memory will make the story that much more fun. I won’t tell you how, exactly, but I think it’s worth it.

I was pleasantly surprised to see characters from The Map of Time show up in this novel. It was nice to spend some more time with them and watch as they faced the horrors of alien invasion. There is also something wonderfully fun about H.G. Wells being an unlikely hero. There were some surprising twists and turns, which I have come to expect from Mr. Palma, and the way it all turned out, in the end, wrapped things up well but left me thinking. I love it when a book leaves you with a little nugget of something to ponder over. I’m very much looking forward to The Map of Chaos, and I’ll be reading The Invisible Man first in preparation. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Comments on Classics: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Comments on Classics posts often contain spoilers,
so go read the book first and then come back. It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Comments on Classics

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – 1865 – Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-Glass – 1871 – Lewis Carroll

In a nutshell:
A little girl has a remarkable imagination.

Curiouser and curiouser…

Everything is an adaptation of a classic these days, especially Alice. In the recent years there has been a SyFi channel mini-series, Disney movies, and a TV show, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (even if it only lasted one season). There’s an Alice-based video game and Otherland’s Eight Squared. These two children’s stories have been referenced in so many ways and inspired so many new creations that I felt like it was time for me to experience the original. Long story short, I liked it.

Alice is a wildly imaginative, if somewhat bossy, little girl. Her journeys in Wonderland are the subject of two separate stories, one where she travels down the rabbit hole and the other through the looking glass. The Cheshire Cat features in the first while the connection to chess is in the second. I’m sure quite a few things went right over my head since the stories are very historically British, but it was still enjoyable. However, both the Bandersnatch and the Jabberwocky barely show up at all. In fact, they are only mentioned briefly in a poem, which was a little disappointing. Those characters have been featured so prominently in the 2010 Disney version of Alice that I thought they would show up more in the original stories.

With so much strangeness I can see why Alice’s adventures have spawned so many adaptations. There is just so much to expand upon. I can also understand why there are so many suggestions of madness among them.

While I liked both stories, I feel I’ve been a bit spoiled by all these flashy new versions of the story. In comparison, it can seem a little lacking.

But Alice is only the beginning because I also have all the rest of Lewis Carroll’s works in my pretty pink book. Someday I’ll share my thoughts on those too. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Comments on Classics: The Chronic Argonauts

Comments on Classics posts often contain spoilers,
so go read the book first and then come back. It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Comments on Classics

The Chronic Argonauts – 1888 – H.G. Wells – Short Story

In a nutshell:
A mad scientist builds a time machine in a rural Welsh village.

Before he wrote The Time Machine, H.G. Wells penned The Chronic Argonauts, another time-traveling tale. I only became aware of this story because it was briefly mentioned in Felix J. Palma’s The Map of Time. Naturally, I looked it up to see if it was real. It’s actually a pretty good story, but sadly there is very little time travel in it. The story mostly focuses on the build up of the strange Doctor Nebogipfel (great name by the way) and his occupation of a house with a violent history. Within this house, he performs strange experiments that involve odd lights and noises which frighten the locals and ultimately cause them to turn on him.

The reader doesn’t get to see much of his experimentation or the construction of the time machine and I wish there was a lot more there. I’d love to follow Nebogipfel’s struggle, being a man ahead of his time, unlocking the secrets of time travel.

The actual time travel in the story is brief and related by a secondary character after the fact, and there is very little detail there either. It seems the most interesting parts of the story were glossed over rather quickly. I want to know more about what happened in the years 4003, 17, 901 and 2. Mention of the abduction of a ward and assaults on public officials is hardly enough information in my opinion. Although, then it wouldn’t be a short story anymore. I feel like there is an opportunity here for an experienced author to fill in the blanks of this lesser-known story. If done well, it could be really awesome.

The final thing that struck me, as I was re-reading a bit before writing this post, was how much, by the end, Dr. Nebogipfel reminded me of Doctor Who. He seemed lonely and even suggested the reverend be his companion on his travels. Something about that had that lonely Doctor vibe to me.

If you have an interest in H.G. Wells, an interest in Victorian science fiction, or you are simply curious about this story, you can read it here for free. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

The Paradox

The ParadoxThe Paradox by Charlie Fletcher

(Victorian/Fantasy)

386 pages [Trade Paperback]

“When they fall, so do we all.” The last hand of the Oversight struggles to hold together while two of their most prominent members are lost to the mirrors. Nefarious plots abound while tragic discoveries are made.

It took nearly the entire first book of this series for me to get close to the characters, but it was well worth the effort. I enjoyed The Paradox so much more, especially because I felt I understood it better.

I love the characters now and the strange family they make. Fictional misfit families are one of my favorite things, next to animal companions and powerful worldbuilding. Some of the coolest aspects of these characters hadn’t shown up until the end of the previous book, so at the time, I didn’t know enough about them to see why they were so great. Here, knowing all of that, I really enjoyed spending time with them.

The mirrors, the awful truth behind The Disaster, multilayered bad guys, and the ever-increasing peril kept the pages turning. The mirrors were fascinating in how they affect those within, as well as what happens when blood is spilled upon them. The revelations about The Disaster were tragic. There were also some intriguing side plots with other characters outside of the Oversight, which seem to be leading in some very interesting directions. I do find these books to be just a little bit confusing at times, since there is so much going on, and with multiple threats to the Oversight, it was sometimes difficult to keep track of which was which. I felt like I should read both books over again in order to fully grasp what was going on, but let’s face it, I’m not going to do that. Given infinite time, I would gladly do so, but until I invent a time-machine, or manage to clone myself, once will just  have to be enough.

To put it simply, I was really happy with this one, minor confusions and all. Can’t wait to read The Reddest Hand! Until next time…

Happy Reading!

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

The Watchmaker of Filigree StreetThe Watchmaker of Filigree Street
by: Natasha Pulley

(Steampunk/Victorian)

318 pages [Hardcover]

Six months after a gold pocket watch finds its way into Thaniel Steepleton’s possession, it saves his life, leading him to the enigmatic watchmaker Keita Mori.

Victorian, Steampunk, Japanese, and an amazing cover…this was a book I could not resist when I happened upon it at my local library, even though I already had enough to read at the time. Given the subject matter I loved the first half, but then…

First, let me start out with what I loved about the story before I start complaining. The clockwork is amazing! It was everything I could have wanted in a steampunk story. Often it seems the larger steam-powered inventions get all the attention, but here, the delicate clockwork got to shine. Katsu was probably my favorite thing about the story, but I can’t tell you much about him without ruining his awesomeness. Just trust me. I also really enjoyed the use of scientific theories of the time. I don’t love steampunk just for the gadgets and awesome costume opportunities, but for the way people thought in Victorian times. Sure, there were plenty of short-sighted ideas at the time, and boundless sexism, but when it came to science and discovery the Victorians seemed to be more open-minded in their attitudes toward discovery and thinking outside the box. There was so much that was unknown and so much progress, in a short time, that anything could be possible. I wish we felt more like that today. In a lot of ways, I think we’ve decided that we already know everything worth knowing. Where are the inventors and the mad scientists to keep us on our toes?

Now for what I didn’t love so much. The story began to get a little odd and melancholy for the last third of the book or so. Thaniel’s relationship with Mori seemed a little off, especially considering how events might have been manipulated by Mori himself. I felt like I couldn’t trust him. He seemed likable enough on the outside, quiet and unassuming, but something about him bothered me after a while. He even came across as a little possessive. I just didn’t like how that all played out. While the ending of the story mostly made up for these things, I couldn’t really warm up to Mori. I’m not sure if that was intentional on the author’s part or not.

Ultimately, I got my hopes up with this one, and it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Awesome steampunk cover art will do that to a person…or me anyway. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Bellman & Black

Bellman & BlackBellman & Black by: Diane Setterfield

(Historical Fiction)

325 pages [Hardcover]

After killing a rook in a moment of youthful folly, William Bellman’s adult life begins to take a slowly devastating turn. Rooks never forget. In order to save the only precious person left to him, he makes a deal with a mysterious stranger.

Victorian? Check.

Mysterious? Check.

Slightly misleading book jacket description?…check.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a good book, and I’m happy to have it in my collection (even if I did get it from the bargain shelf), but the “decidedly macabre business” that Bellman and Black found isn’t nearly the nefarious sort of business I imagined. I won’t give away what it actually is, but it is a rather regular sort of business. When I read that description I was anticipating shadowy alleyways, murder, and other dastardly deeds. That is not what this story is.

In actuality, this book is an atmospheric kind of story, with something always lurking just out of sight, making you want to read more in hopes of glimpsing it. The story is largely just the tale of William Bellman’s life, how he kills a rook, finds happiness, loses it, and how he copes, partially with a little assistance from the mysterious Mr. Black. If it were only a story of Bellman’s life, it might have been less enjoyable, but the feeling and tone of the story made so many mundane things strangely fascinating.

It also helps that I have a fascination with Victorian/Edwardian department stores, so the details about everything from the mills that made the fabric to the function of the stores themselves was extremely interesting to me. Something about how they did things a hundred or more years ago seems so much more authentic somehow compared to how we do things today.

The theme of rooks and crows throughout the book helped to provide that eerie quality to the story, much like a foggy evening. Fog isn’t inherently dangerous or malicious, but you can’t help but feel like there’s something frightening lurking within it. That last page was awesome. I will forever view crows in a different light.

This story has a kind of poetic simplicity, which after reading complex tales of magic and politics is a nice break. Despite it not being quite what I expected, I found it thoroughly engrossing. Something about it drew me in. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

The Oversight

The OversightThe Oversight

By: Charlie Fletcher

charliefletcher.com

(Victorian/Supernatural/Fantasy)

434 pages (Trade Paperback)

 

An organization known as The Oversight polices the line between the normal and the supernatural, but only a few remain. “When they fall so do we all.”

*   *   *

It is a curious thing, how novels written in Victorian or pseudo-Victorian time periods are so often written at a higher writing level than your average book. Sentences are crafted a bit more artfully and there are more than a few big words for me to look up, like horripilant and crepuscular. I’d like to point out that my spell check doesn’t even think horripilant is a word, but that may be because this is more of a British usage.

My biggest problem with this kind of writing is that it slows me down. In this case the story wasn’t difficult to follow, it just took a little more time to digest all the verbiage. There are plenty of books out there that are written far more elaborately than this. Personally, I prefer clear writing to fancy writing, not to say that fancy writing can’t be clear on occasion. I don’t want to break up the story to look up words I don’t know, I just want to jump in and immerse myself in it. For me, the more advanced the writing the more distance I feel between me and the story, and it’s more difficult for me to get into it and bond with the characters.

Now to solve this problem authors either need to write more simply, or I just need to become smarter. Hmmm…I’ll work on that.

As for the story, even though I felt like the writing overshadowed it a little bit, it was good. The perilousness of being the last people secretly holding everything together, keeping the things that go bump in the night in check, added a great sense of urgency. The characters were ultimately great, but it took me most of the book to warm up to them. By the end I really liked them, which would have been more of a problem if it were a standalone novel, but since it’s a trilogy (from what I can tell) nothing is wasted. The magic was grounded in folklore which made it feel more plausible, and the idea of getting lost in a maze of mirrors for all eternity is especially cool.

Sophisticated writing aside, it was an interesting story, and I’ll be adding the sequels to my reading list. I guess I’ll just have to start reading the dictionary in preparation for the next one. But hey, being smarter is never a bad thing right? Until next time…

Happy Reading!