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Authors: Félix J. Palma

The Map of Chaos

BOOK: The Map of Chaos
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Praise for
The Map of Time

“A brilliant and breathtaking trip.”

—Scott Westerfeld,
New York Times
best-selling author of
Leviathan

“A singularly inventive, luscious story with a core of pure, unsettling weirdness. With unnerving grace and disturbing fantasy, it effortlessly straddles that impossible line between being decidedly familiar, and yet absolutely new.”

—Cherie Priest, author of
Boneshaker

“Palma makes his U.S. debut with the brilliant first in a trilogy, an intriguing thriller that explores the ramifications of time travel in three intersecting narratives.”

—
Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“Readers who embark on the journey . . . will be richly rewarded.”

—
Booklist
(starred review)

“Lyrical storytelling and a rich attention to detail make this prize-winning novel an enthralling read.”

—
Library Journal
(starred review)

“Palma is a master of ingenious plotting.”

—
Kirkus Reviews

“A big genre-bending delight.”

—
The Washington Post

“Palma uses the basic ingredients of steampunk—fantasy, mystery, ripping adventure, and Victorian-era high tech—to marvelous effect.”

—
The
Seattle Times

“A thought-provoking and entertaining read.”

—
The
Boston Globe

Praise for
The Map
of the Sky

“The unreal becomes real, fantasy becomes history, and the reader is thoroughly entertained by an unending parade of bafflements and surprises. This book is a complete delight.”

—K. W. Jeter, author of
Infernal Devices

“A top-notch sequel . . . Fans of intelligent science fiction as well as historical thrillers will be rewarded.”

—
Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“The wondrous Palma genre-hops to great effect in this worthy sequel.”

—Booklist


The Map of the Sky
keeps the reader guessing, checking, and thinking, all the while providing many sidelights on the literary history of sci-fi itself.”

—
The Wall Street Journal

“A cross-genre masterpiece.”

—Associated Press

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CONTENTS

EPIGRAPH

WELCOME

PROLOGUE

PART ONE

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

PART TWO

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

PART THREE

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

CAST OF CHARACTERS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

To my parents and their literary work, whose pages continue to grow.

D
O
I
BELIEVE IN GHOSTS?
N
O, BUT
I
'M AFRAID OF THEM.

—Marquise du Deffand

I
F WE COULD SOMEHOW CONTROL THESE PROBABILITIES, ONE COULD PERFORM FEATS THAT WOULD BE INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM MAGIC
.

—Michio Kaku,
Parallel Worlds

L
ORD KNOWS WHAT IT WAS THAT
I
DREAMED,
E
EXPERIENCED, AND THEN DREAMED ONCE MORE, UNTIL
I
AM NO LONGER ABLE TO TELL DREAM AND REALITY APART.

—Eric Rücker Eddison,
The Worm Ouroboros

W
ELCOME, DEAR READER, AS YOU PLUNGE INTO THE PAGES OF OUR FINAL MELODRAMA, WHERE FRESH ADVENTURES AWAIT YOU EVEN MORE ASTONISHING THAN THE LAST!

B
EFORE EMBARKING UPON THIS STORY, BE SURE TO GO TO THE END OF THE BOOK, WHERE YOU WILL FIND THE CAST OF CHARACTERS WHO WILL ACCOMPANY YOU
.

I
F TIME TRAVEL AND
M
ARTIAN INVASIONS WERE NOT ENOUGH TO QUICKEN YOUR PULSE, YOU ARE INVITED TO VENTURE INTO A WORLD INHABITED BY GHOSTS AND OTHER MONSTERS OF THE MIND
.

Y
OU MAY WISH TO RECONSIDER BEFORE READING ON
. H
OWEVER, IT IS MY DUTY TO WARN YOU THAT IF YOU LOSE COURAGE, YOU WILL NEVER DISCOVER WHAT LIES BEYOND THE WORLD YOU THINK YOU KNOW.

P
ROLOGUE

T
HE DEBATE WAS DUE TO
commence in fifteen minutes when they glimpsed the Palace of Knowledge silhouetted against the golden canvas of twilight. The tiled domes of the vast edifice, soaring above the pointed rooftops of the London skyline, fragmented the sun's last rays into myriad shimmering reflections. Bloated zeppelins, aerostats, ornithopters, and winged cabriolets circled around like a swarm of insects, bobbing amidst the clouds. In one of those very carriages, gliding majestically toward the building, sat the eminent biologist Herbert George Wells, accompanied by his lovely wife. Or should I say, his intelligent, dazzlingly beautiful wife.

At that moment, the biologist looked down from his window. An agitated crowd thronged the narrow streets that snaked between the lofty towers studded with stained glass windows, and connected by suspension bridges. Gentlemen in top hats and capes prattled to one another through their communication gloves, ladies walked their mechanical dogs, children whizzed by on electric roller skates, and long-legged automatons made their way through the torrent of people, stepping over them with calculated agility as they went diligently about their errands. From the waters of the Thames, gilded by the sunset, tiny
Nautilus
es manufactured by Verne Industries would occasionally rise to the surface, like globefish, to disgorge their passengers on both banks of the river. However, as they drew closer to where the palace stood in South Kensington, the teeming anthill appeared to be moving in one direction. Everyone knew that the most important debate to be held in the Palace of Knowledge in the last ten years was taking place that evening. Just then, as if to remind the ornithopter's passengers, a mechanical bird flew by announcing the event with pompous enthusiasm before gliding toward the nearest building, where it continued its refrain perched on a gargoyle head.

Inside the flying machine, Wells took a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself and wiped his clammy hands on his trouser legs.

“Do you think
his
hands are sweating as well?” he asked Jane.

“Of course, Bertie. He has as much invested in this as you. Besides, we mustn't forget that his problem makes it—”

“What problem? Oh, come now, Jane!” Wells interrupted. “He's been seeing the best speech therapist in the kingdom for years. It's high time we stopped thinking he has a problem.”

As though considering the matter closed, Wells settled back in his seat and gazed absentmindedly at the rows of sunflower houses colonizing Hyde Park, turning on their pillars in search of the sun's last rays. He wasn't going to admit to Jane that his rival suffered from that insidious problem (which, if necessary, he fully intended to make use of), for if the man trounced him, his defeat would be doubly shameful. But Wells wasn't going to fail. Whether or not the old man had his
little
problem under control, Wells outstripped him as a speaker. If he gave an inspired performance that evening, he would beat the old man hands down, and even if he didn't he would still triumph. Wells was slightly concerned that his opponent might win the public over with some of the syllogisms he used to spice up his rhetoric. However, Wells trusted the audience would not be blinded by a vulgar fireworks display.

Wells smiled to himself. He truly believed that his was the most significant generation to have walked the Earth, for, unlike those that had gone before, his held the future of the human race in its hands. Right or wrong, the decisions it made would reverberate through the centuries to come. Wells couldn't hide his enthusiasm at belonging to this exhilarating period of human history, when the world's salvation was to be decided. If all went well, that evening his name might be recorded for all time in the annals of History.

“It isn't vanity that makes me want to win, Jane,” he suddenly said to his wife. “It is simply that I believe my theory is correct, and we can't waste time proving his.”

“I know, dear. You are many things to me, but I have never thought of you as vain,” she fibbed. “If only there were sufficient funding to back both projects. Having to choose between them is risky. If we're mistaken—”

Jane broke off in mid-sentence, and Wells said nothing more. His was the winning theory, he was certain of that. Although there were times, especially certain nights as he observed the lights of the city through his study window, when he wondered whether finally they weren't all mistaken; whether his world, where the quest for Knowledge controlled everything, really
was
the best of all possible worlds. During those moments of weakness, as he referred to them in the cold light of day, he toyed with the idea that Ignorance was preferable to Knowledge. It might have been better to allow Nature and her laws to remain shrouded in darkness, to carry on believing that comets heralded the death of kings, and dragons still dwelled in unmapped territories . . . But the Church of Knowledge, the sole religion on the planet, whose Holy See was in London, brought together philosophy, theology, politics, and the sciences in a single discipline. It ruled men's lives from the moment they were born, encouraging them to decipher the Creator's work, to discover its components. It even compelled them to solve the riddle of their own existence. Under the Church's auspices, man had transformed the quest for Knowledge into his reason for being, and, in his eagerness to unravel each of the mysteries that made the universe beautiful, he had ended up peeping behind the curtain. Perhaps they were now simply paying the price for their recklessness.

BOOK: The Map of Chaos
4.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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