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The Dream of Perpetual Motion Paperback – Bargain Price, February 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312680538
  • ASIN: B0071ULNWQ
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,987,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Palmer's dazzling debut explodes with energy and invention on almost every page. In a steampunky alternate reality, genius inventor Prospero Taligent promises the 100 kids he's invited to his daughter Miranda's birthday party that they will have their "heart's desires fulfilled." When young Harold Winslow says he wants to be a storyteller, he sets in motion an astonishing plot that will eventually find him imprisoned aboard a giant zeppelin, the Chrysalis, powered by Taligent's greatest invention, a (probably faulty) perpetual motion machine. As Harold tells his story from his airborne prison, a fantastic and fantastical account unfolds: cities full of Taligent's mechanical men, a virtual island where Harold and Miranda play as children, the Kafkaesque goings-on in the boiler rooms and galleries of Taligent's tower. Harold's narration is interspersed with dreams, diary entries, memos and monologues from the colorful supporting cast, and the dialogue, both overly formal and B-movie goofy ("I'm afraid the death rays are just a bunch of science fiction folderol"), offers comic counterpoint. This book will immediately connect with fans of Neal Stephenson and Alfred Bester, and will surely win over readers who'd ordinarily pass on anything remotely sci-fi. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“An extravagantly wondrous and admirable first novel.” —The Washington Post Book World

“A singular riff on steampunk—sophisticated, subversive entertainment that never settles for escapism.” —Jeff VanderMeer, The New York Times Book Review

“A gorgeously surreal first novel.” —Matthew Shaer, Bookforum

“The breadth and depth of Dexter Palmer’s storytelling is exhilarating. He’s written a smart, funny, sad, and beautiful novel, full of magic, mystery, mechanical men, and a delightful amount of mayhem.” Scott Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Ruins

“Dexter Palmer has written a strange, passionate, enthralling first novel, a novel that is itself a kind of perpetual motion machine—constantly turning, giving off more energy than it receives, its movement at once beautiful and counterintuitive.” —Kevin Brockmeier, New York Times bestselling author of The Brief History of the Dead


More About the Author

Dexter Palmer holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University; his dissertation was on the novels of James Joyce, William Gaddis, and Thomas Pynchon. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Set in the early twentieth century, after "the age of miracles," Dexter Palmer's steampunk novel and the city of Xeroville teem with technology rooted in the knowledge of the day: mechanical men instead of robots; answering machines that record on drums of wax; flying cars that rattle; teaching helmets lowered by cables and operated by hand cranks; and a zeppelin powered by the first (seemingly) perpetual motion machine. Amid this, the narrator of Dexter Palmer's debut novel tells how he grew from a shy, awkward boy to a prisoner aboard the Chrysalis, high above the world he used to know.

Palmer holds this complex novel together with bits of philosophy, sly wit, and a narrative voice that pulls the reader along from start to finish. It's an eloquent and often playful tale about the tenuous boundaries between mechanization and humanity, between love and narcissism, between perfection and fatal flaws. The cast of characters have names right out of Shakespeare: Prospero, the most brilliant inventor of his time and Harold's nemesis; Miranda, Prospero's adopted and sheltered daughter who acts more mechanical than human; and mad genius Caliban, the monster of Prospero's inventiveness. But other allusions abound, with hints of Roald Dahl, Jules Verne, Neal Stephanson, and L. Frank Baum to make this not only a fascinating read but also one that can be read again and again.

This novel is one of the best books I've read in 2010, and it deserves a readership that ranges from steampunk fans to literary fiction readers. The novel offers such a rich array of characters, ideas, and imagery that reading it feels like eating an enormous, magical feast. Expect to be challenged -- and to have people ask why you're smiling as you delve into Palmer's highly inventive world.

-- Debbie Lee Wesselmann
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Erika (Jawas Read, Too) on June 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I am reviewing a copy provided by the publisher.

Harold Winslow is prisoner aboard Prospero Taligent's Perpetual Motion Machine. In this luxuriantly mechanical 20th Century, Prospero is an inventor; his tin men and machines have taken over the world just as computers have done today. Harold's life is inundated with the noise of the city, the grinding and buzzing of a steady stream of mechanicals churning the city's economy, displacing the need for human labor like a universe evolved tangentially from the Industrial Revolution. Plagued with his lack of voice (in a world filled with them) he writes greeting cards to be the voice of others. But his is a story bombarded by distractions in which he discovers the many failures of communication and why sometimes what he thinks he wants, isn't what he wants at all.

I probably picked the wrong time to read The Dream of Perpetual Motion. It's definitely not the kind of book you can pick up and constantly put down expecting the read to go smoothly. Dexter Palmer's prose is dense and in many instances, poetic. There were a few times I worried that I hadn't been paying close enough attention and had missed some important narrative musing. Or that something crucial had just happened, but I'd lost the narrative thread by setting the book down. While I do blame my poor timing, I also think what Palmer was attempting with his narrative had something to do with it as well.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion is either one of the most intelligent and innovative books of this year, or it suffers from the weight of its own cleverness.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By B. Capossere TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Dream of Perpetual Motion, by Dexter Palmer, has a great opening. Past a poetic and ominous first few lines, we get the narrator telling us "If my reckoning of time is still accurate . . .the one year anniversary of my incarceration aboard . . . a high altitude zeppelin designed by that most prodigious and talented of twentieth-century inventors, Prospero Taligent. It has also been a year since I last opened my mouth to speak. To anyone. Especially my captor . . . because it is the one thing that she desires, and my silence is the only form of protest that remains to me."
Great image--that zeppelin flying up there. Great hook--why's he imprisoned up there, why's he not speaking, who is "she"? Great voice--formal, solemn. In short, great opening. Does the rest of the book live up to the start? Well, not frequently enough, to be honest, but still, it was often enough that I'd recommend Dream.

Our captive narrator is Harold Winslow, writer of greeting cards, lover of Miranda Taligent, cat's-paw of Prospero Taligent. The book veers between first and third-person narration, though all by Harold, who informs us of when the "he" becomes "I" along the way of his explaining how he first met Miranda and Prospero and how that led to his current predicament. The novel covers Harold's childhood (about 20 yrs. pre-present time), the jumps ahead a decade to his college years, where his sister becomes more of a focal point, then another jump in time closer to the present. The movement is all straightforward and easy to follow. Mixed into Harold's narration are a few other elements: newspaper excerpts, diary entries, a host of dreams, and the like.
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