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The Dream of Perpetual Motion (Playaway Adult Fiction) Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 2, 2010

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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.)
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Review

Praise for The Dream of Perpetual Motion:

“Dexter Palmer has given us a novel that's magnificent and strange and maybe a little harrowing too; I don't know quite how he did it, but it seems to have something to do with his figuring out how to let words get out about and mean what they feel like meaning that day and yet at the same time be in a tempest too. Bravo for this beautiful book!”
--Rivka Galchen, critically acclaimed author of Atmospheric Disturbances

"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

“Like the majority of contemporary novelists, I have often fantasized about Jules Verne, Nathanael West, and Thomas Pynchon meeting up in some netherworld saloon and, upon discovering they have absolutely nothing in common save a mutual affection for The Tempest, agreeing to reify their enthusiasm via a three-way collaboration filled with zeppelins, androids, monsters, virtual islands, linguistic felicity, and state-of-the-art weirdness. And now I must thank Dexter Palmer for making my dream come true.”
--James Morrow, author of The Last Witchfinder and The Philosopher's Apprentice

“The Dream of Perpetual Motion is plangent, tender and sui generis: a steampunk The Tempest with the grim and rippling beauty of a fairy tale.  Dexter Palmer is an ambitious writer, with vast reach toward the exploration of big ideas, among them what it means to create, the limits of the human body, and the uses and inadequacies of language. The marvelous kicker being, of course, that he has the moxie to do so in prose that sings.”
--Lauren Groff, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Monsters of Templeton

"Dexter Palmer has written a strange, passionate, enthralling first novel, a novel which 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

“In The Dream of Perpetual Motion, Dexter Palmer brings dignity coupled with an epic sense of fun to steampunk that I haven't seen since Jules Verne. Steampunk comes of age with this book.”
--Jonathan Maberry, author of Patient Zero

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Product Details

  • Series: Playaway Adult Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312558155
  • ASIN: B0048EL84Q
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #479,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 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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15 of 17 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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By T. Distaso VINE VOICE on July 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
WEll I have givin this book 3 tries and have barely made it to page 50..
Much like the plot that involved mechanical men and machines I feel the characters are too mechanical and robotic.
I have yet to feel invested into any one and find myself falling asleep or daydreaming while reading this book.

I do think the writer is very gifted and appreciate his gift of lyrical discriptions..

I just can feel no hook keeping me reading sadly, and have felt no desire to even make myself continue reading.
I may give it another go but for now it has suffered 3 strikes and I feel the need to move on.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Blake Fraina VINE VOICE on November 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a difficult book to review. It's so dense with ideas and I enjoyed it so thoroughly that trying to do it justice in a few hundred words is very intimidating.

It's an intensely intellectual, yet trippy, steampunk take on Shakespeare's The Tempest, but it's also a rumination on the uses and abuses of language - the inescapable power of words over perception and, paradoxically, their impotency.

When young protagonist Harold Winslow wins an invitation to the birthday party of Miranda, the sequestered and mysterious daughter of the city's most powerful man, inventor extraordinaire Prospero Taligent, his father tells him to write about the experience, advising the boy, "Write down what you think happened, or what you believe happened or something like what might have happened...all are true, in their own way." And when discussing true miracles versus contemporary inventions, Harold tells his father that his teacher knows nothing; that instead "...the books know everything for her." His sister, Astrid, is a conceptual/performance artist whose goal is, "...liberating language from the patriarchy." And much later, Prospero tells Harold that, "With faith in God comes faith in language," for God is like a great Author who brings a sense of order to the chaos of existence. Even the monstrous Caliban, a failed experiment of Taligent's, clings to superstitions about the power of words. Here he's depicted as a sort of Frankenstein's monster who spends every waking moment typing on a typewriter [surgically attached to his head], attempting to find a 72 letter name that will unlock the secret of humanity. There is even a neighborhood in the city, Picturetown, whose residents have rejected language entirely, opting instead to communicate by scrawling pictograms onto index cards.
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