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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Creator's Map

Emilio Calderón

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To purchase The Creator's Map

Title: The Creator's Map
Author: Emilio Calderón
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 256 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Creator's Map - US
El Mapa del Creador - US
The Creator's Map - UK
The Creator's Map - Canada
Die Karte Gottes - Deutschland
  • Spanish title: El Mapa del Creador
  • Translated by Katherine Silver

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Our Assessment:

B- : almost bland mix of love, war, and conspiracy stories, too unsure of what it wants to be

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 28/7/2008 Elisabeth Field
The LA Times . 30/7/2008 Tim Rutten
The NY Times D+ 29/7/2008 Richard Eder

  From the Reviews:
  • "This is Calderón’s first book to be translated into English, and, although occasional Americanisms may jar, it receives an elegant translation that conveys all the romance, fear and deception of Calderón’s original, El Mapa del Creador." - Elisabeth Field, Financial Times

  • "Calderón, unfortunately, has chosen to draw his own pop cultural influences from -- God help us all -- The Da Vinci Code and the Saturday-night-at-the multiplex buffoonery of the Indiana Jones flicks (.....) The Creator's Map suffers from a surfeit of interlocking plots, some introduced glancingly, many of which peter off into narrative irrelevance." - Tim Rutten, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Like Da Vinci, its mysteries are no more than mystifications. Unlike its exemplar, it is put together clumsily: an assemble-it-yourself kit enclosed with instructions in Korean. (...) A more skillful handling would frame it all as a running mystery; instead it becomes a creeping confusion. To succeed, a mystery smuggles its truth past the reader. Here, the smuggling is done so awkwardly as to spill out rattly chunks of hint, contradiction and clue while trying to get through." - Richard Eder, The New York Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Creator's Map promises all sorts of drama and conspiracies, but is ultimately a far smaller story; unfortunately, these suggestion of The Da Vinci Code-type intrigue -- which the author can't live up to -- make what's left seem rather bland. The story is framed by events in the year 1952, when one of the principles has died, but the focus of the book is on the years before and during World War II.
       The narrator is an architect, José María, who comes to study in Rome in 1937. He lives at the Spanish Academy, and with the civil war raging back home life -- and allegiances -- are complicated for the Spaniards there. But José María is, as one person eventually tells him, just a bystander, "an empty vessel". He manages to stay above the political fray for the most part, and eventually does his small part for the right cause, but he's no real fighter and just wants to get by. Sure, he leaks information to the others, but he also works building Italian defenses and eventually even spends a few months working in Berlin in the middle of the war.
       A love-triangle of sorts also develops quickly, as José María falls for young Montse, who, however, clearly also has a connexion with Prince Junio. From the introductory chapter we learn that José María and Montse are, in 1952, a married couple, but the path to conjugal bliss turns out to have been a rocky one.
       Assigned to sell some books from the Academy's library to raise funds, José María and Montse are drawn into a story about a so-called 'Creator's Map'. It's a big deal, apparently;

According to some the map in question was drawn by God himself and in it are the keys to understanding the world from the time of its creation.
       (In the wake of The Da Vinci Code the bar has apparently been set impossibly high as to what authors now have to serve up; needless to say such silliness is a hard sell. )
       The Nazis want it -- as:
"We couldn't care less whether or not Hitler and Himmler believe in the esoteric properties of a 'stupid map,' as you call it; however we are worried that if they get it, they will use it as an excuse to invade neighboring countries. It's not the map that's dangerous but rather the theory of vital space, the idea that Germany is overpopulated and needs new territories.
       Will Himmler get his grubby hands on the map ? And will he be able to open it ? -- as, conveniently, opening it will apparently destroy it .....
       What drama !
       What excitement !
       Well, maybe not.
       Calderon gets carried away with his conspiracy theories and secret societies (the Octaganus Circle !), from everywhere from the Vatican to Nazi Germany. But he never does very much with them; in fact, the whole 'Creator's Map'-plotline just dribbles along and then pretty much peters out.
       The nub of Calderón's story is elsewhere, and it's not even that bad, centred around wishy-washy José María and his role in everything that's going on (which only becomes completely clear in the 1952 sections). The idea here isn't half bad, and Calderón could have fashioned a decent story around that -- but he lacks the focus, too eager to bring too much in to the story, to make it grander than it can sustain.
       Calderón apparently writes young adult fiction too, and one of the major problems of this book is how very instructional it is, Calderón describing -- very briefly, often in awkward semi-asides -- major and minor historical episodes or facts (massacres, deportations, the course of the war, etc. etc.) from those years. He does not do so very artfully, and while he may be correct in assuming widespread ignorance on the part of his readers about these events, if he felt he had to explain these things he should have spent more time on them (and tried to weave the information into the story itself better).
       The Creator's Map is almost an adequate little semi-thriller, but between Calderón tossing in every conspiracy he ever heard of or imagined into this short book and the limited amount he gets out of all of that it turns out to be quite disappointing.

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The Creator's Map: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Emilio Calderón is a Spanish author.

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© 2008 the complete review

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