Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Review: A Strange Map of Time

Download the story from the Fully Booked website.

As the title suggests, this is a time travel story though one in the vein of magical fantasy rather than science fiction. The main character is born at some future time as a precocious child. Following a map that he has drawn, the titular map of the story, he starts travelling back in time to unravel the mystery behind his identity.

It's a charming story, and many of the elements work well together. The epigram and the setting all coherent to the story and are not in any way arbitrary, thus escaping the typical fault of Filipino-written fantasy/science fiction tales. From the get-go, the reader already knows the identity of the character, but what drives the story forward is the reason why he is travelling through time. It is an subtle unspoken device and one that draws you in up to the end of the tale.

All this is very well, because the story suffers from a muddled beginning that could potentially turn off readers. Who is the main character, and why is he so strange? It doesn't help much that the story hints that it's taking place in the 22nd century, leading one to wonder initially if it's a science fiction story. Fortunately, things start to come together once you get the futuristic scifi elements out of the way.

Which is just as well. Drawing a scifi setting is clearly not one of the strong suits of the author. The hoverjeepneys he uses to place the time at the beginning of the story are a jarring contrast to the very contemporary mannerisms of the supporting cast. There's some attempt to paint a world without stars, possibly hinting at grimy air and high-rises. It's all gratuitous and doesn't work very well. The story could have been made stronger by just situating it in the present.

There are some other minor editorial nits: part of the muddled beginning is the unfocused central intelligence as the narrator shifts from character to character. Thankfully, that disappears as the story progresses. Somewhere in the middle, the suspense relating to the identity could have been sustained. Closer to the end are some problems with tenses. All of these are quite forgiveable and once corrected would lead to a more enjoyable experience for the reader.

Ultimately, it's the unfolding mystery, the prose, and the imagery which tips the balance for the story. The narrative is excellent, and the dialogue works quite well. The payoff at the end is well-earned.

I must end this mini-review with a small disclaimer. I know the author of the story because he imprudently admitted as much in a shameless attempt at getting votes for the People's Choice. That makes it harder to write an impartial review, even one done purely on a lark. Not that it would have mattered, anyway, as many of the story elements are a dead giveaway. Anyway, I feel compelled to make the disclaimer because this is a story that I liked very much.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I agree for the most part. The primary consideration I have for this story lies in the fact that its elements just tie together so well. I think that it still has its flaws, but they can probably be corrected with a good editing run.