Archive for January, 2012

The Map of Time

Monday, January 30th, 2012

By Felix J. Palma

The Short Take:

This sly book is not quite the fantasy about time travel you think it is at first glance. Or is it? Written like three novellas with a common thread, it is witty, sweet, a bit frightening, and has H. G. Wells as a central character. What more can you want?

Why?

I admit to a fondness for fantasy. I also like it when real people are incorporated into fiction books: In addition to Wells, you encounter Jack the Ripper, Bram Stoker, and more. So right away this book has two things in its favor for me. But what really wins me over is the way Palma sends his story line down one path and then suddenly veers off in a surprising new direction. I just really enjoy it when a writer puts one over on me, so to speak.

There’s so much that is fresh and interesting in this novel. For example, there’s a sequence between H. G. Wells and the Elephant Man (aka Joseph Merrick) that is excellent reading though it doesn’t really have a lot to do with the story. With gems like this scattered throughout the book, plus the engaging three main stories, there’s a lot to enjoy. I certainly did.

A Little Plot:

As usual with me, very little. I hate giving things away.

Set in Victorian England, right after Well’s success with The Time Machine, all three story lines (which do intertwine) have to do with time travel. A recently opened business, Murray’s Time Travel, which takes people to a specific point in the future, also weaves throughout.

The first story centers on a suicidal young man who yearns for his now dead (and highly inappropriate) lover. He wants to go back in time.

The second story involves a bright young woman who feels suffocated by the restrictions placed on her in the present and wants to travel to the more adventurous future.

While both these stories involved H. G. Wells in some way, he plays a central role in the third. Someone is using the fourth dimension of time to steal unpublished masterpieces from their authors. This is the one that can really make your head spin.

Originally written in Spanish, the author’s website has an English option. If you would like to know more about him and this book, click here.

Last Man in Tower

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

By Aravind Adiga

The Short Take:

This book is brilliant. It should be one for the ages, not only for the characters and plot but because it delivers insights on the India of right now — the good, the bad, and the “could go either way.” Loved it.

Why?

I had thoroughly enjoyed Adiga’s White Tiger but thought this novel was even better. It wasn’t as hard edged as his last novel, instead bringing the reader a much more nuanced and richer tale, populated by characters who are neither good nor bad but simply trying their best.

At first the multitude of characters felt overwhelming (possible exacerbated by the fact I was reading the book in ten minute intervals), but they were each so distinctly drawn that keeping them straight became no problem. And, they were such interesting characters: filled with conflicting emotions, able to reasonably decide on one course of action only to change direction dramatically based on a single flare of emotion.

The people in Adiga’s novel might live in a foreign world — with different customs, religions, and lifestyles — but you could understand their actions and motivations as if they lived right in your neighborhood.

A Little Plot:

Vishram Society Tower A is like a condo: all the tenants are joint owners. The building is deteriorating but their sense of community is strong. That is until a highly-motivated property developer offers the residents far more money for their flats than they are worth. Why? He wants to build the most prestigious apartment development around and he must have their land to do it.

For some, the money is a wished-for miracle. For others, the whole situation is highly questionable. By hook or crook, the developer convinces more people to sell; but there are still holdouts and the decision to sell Vishram Society Tower A must be unanimous.

That is when things get really interesting.

To visit the author’s website, click here. And put this book on your list to read. You don’t want to miss it.

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