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The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter…

The Dream of Perpetual Motion (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Dexter Palmer

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4223125,093 (3.44)27
Title:The Dream of Perpetual Motion
Authors:Dexter Palmer
Info:Picador (2010), Paperback, 356 pages
Collections:Science Fiction/Fantasy, Your library
Tags:fiction, science fiction, fantasy

Work details

The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer (2010)

  1. 00
    The Tempest by William Shakespeare (sturlington)
    sturlington: The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a steampunk retelling of The Tempest

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I won this through First Reads.

This is a strange book, though I think I like it for the most part. It has a lot of interesting ideas, which make it worth reading in and of themselves.
It starts at the end, jumps back twenty years, forward ten, then forward to right before the end. I didn't mind that much at all, I thought it was pretty well done, but as soon as you figure everything out, it ends.
It often wanders off on tangents, unrelated to the story. I think that adds a lot to the book, but it gets annoying sometimes. ( )
  DeFor | Nov 28, 2013 |
I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book, which I would have been interested enough to seek out anyway.

It suffers slightly by comparison to another steampunk sci-fi favourite of mine, Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/827.The_Diamond_Age_Or_a_Young_Lady_s_Illustr...
but it is well worth the tour of this debut writer's dark imagination.

Even though I felt it was, at first, a gothic horror version of Charlie and the Chocolate factory crossed with Angela Carter's "Nights at the circus" [leaving aside the obvious "The Tempest" and "The Wizard of Oz":] the plot soon grows into it's own unique creature.

Populated with mechanical men, monsters and wizards this is a fantasy world that is strangely like our own in it's noise and loss of faith in "the age of miracles"

( )
  Phil-James | Mar 30, 2013 |
Surprisingly pleased with this so far... ( )
  amaraduende | Mar 30, 2013 |
It's hard to label Dexter Palmer's debut novel The Dream of Perpetual Motion. There are definitely elements of steampunk, but, at the same time, it's not exactly what I think of when I hear the word steampunk. You could just group it in the sci-fi genre--it's an alternative history where robots essentially infest the earth--but that doesn't seem the right place for it either. Inspired by The Tempest, this novel is equally Willy Wonka as it is Shakespeare. Classifying it is hard to do, which leaves the doors of criticism and interpretation wide open.

Fans of quality literature should not be scared however. Yes, there's a little steampunk and a lot of sci-fi. But there also is a wide spread of wonderful writing--vibrant language both formal and witty, moving scenes filled with a poeticism missing in too much literature. The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a thoughtful and gripping work.

My greatest critique of the book is that it loses it's magic half way through. Now, this is fitting given the subject--a world where everything magical has been explained away and duplicated with technology. The world where we first meet our hero, Harold Winslow, is seen through the eyes of a child. And it is a gorgeous, fascinating landscape. It is easy to become swept up in little Harold's dreams and fantasies. It's fun and it's terrifying, but mostly, it's magical.

As Harold grows, however, he begins to see how little magic there really is in the world. So it's only appropriate that the text reflect his. And Palmer does a magnificent job presenting this transition seamlessly. Whatever tiny elements of magic still exists at the end of the novel are explained away by the most tedious monologues. It's appropriate, but that doesn't mean it is as fun. Without the magic, the story begins to move with the mechanical motion of its army of robots. ( )
  chrisblocker | Mar 30, 2013 |
Locked in an airship slowly descending to Earth, our narrator Harold Winslow tells us a story - his first despite years of writing verse for the "sentiment development division of the Xeroville Greeting-card Works". And quite a tale it is, an explanation of why his lifelong love Miranda is also aboard , never to be seen or touched by him, and why her adopted father, the mad genius Prospero Taligent, builder of the airship, is also aboard in suspended animation. It seems the dream of perpetual motion in the sky, tended by mechanical men, is not to be.

It's a story full of literary concerns with language and sounds and storytelling. Several characters quite deliberately set out to shape the narratives of their lives and others. And, of course, there are the frequent allusions to Shakespeare's Tempest. The plotting is definitely along the literary genre lines. In the crucial finale of the novel, we have to stop to hear not one but four characters' stories.

Science fiction and steampunk fans should not expect something truly novel. Genre images and icons are appropriated, but there is not a great deal of speculative rigor here, the working out of an idea's implications no matter how inherently absurd that idea is. We have a dash of cyberpunk in a world run by corporations and with no nation states though we never go beyond the confines of Xeroville or hear of any other cities. This is an alternate history of the vaguest sort. We only know this world diverged from our timeline sometime after Shakespeare. It is only in the last two parts of the novel that we are introduced to anything approaching an inherently interesting speculation and that involves the nature of Prospero's imprisoned son Caliban. There are mechanical men and steampowered "demons" and other interesting machines, but they are mostly there for drama and color and not deeply pondered as technology. Despite Prospero's aestheticism, we don't revel in their beauty with long descriptions.

And yet it works. I'm not a fan of the modern literary novel, but I liked this amalgam. Palmer welds the literary clockwork assembly to the chassis of steampunk and retro science fiction imagery. The solder he uses is interesting dialogue and humor. I think I detected Philip K. Dick's influence on some of Prospero's wackier machines - particularly the shrinkcab. Prospero's frequently appearing henchmen Gideon and Martin are funny and sinister. There is a literal wielder of acid. And the section involving Harold's suicidally creative sister Astrid and the spouting of a great deal of litcrit jargon was funny and seemed to be Palmer's poke at a modern aesthetic that values discomfort over beauty. ( )
  RandyStafford | Mar 3, 2012 |
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Prospero. -- Dost thou hear?

Miranda. Your tale, sir, would cure deafness. 

-- William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Here opened another totally new education, which promised by far to be the most hazardous of all. The knife edge along which he must crawl, like Sir Lancelot in the twelfth century, divided two kingdoms of force which had nothing in common but attraction. They were as different as a magnet is from gravitation, supposing one knew what a magnet was, or gravitation, or love. -- Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams
First words



spiraling down

Into. The. Sea?

spiraling slowly down and crashing in to the open sea?
I’m going to try to tell a story now, and though I’ve made a life out of writing words, this is the first time I have told a story. There are no new stories in the world anymore, and no more storytellers.
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With his only companions being his insane lover and her cryogenically frozen father, greeting card writer Harold Winslow must come to terms with the madness of a genius inventor and his quest to create a perpetual motion machine.

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Dexter Palmer is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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Dexter Palmer chatted with LibraryThing members from Mar 22, 2010 to Apr 4, 2010. Read the chat.

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Average: (3.44)
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