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The Dream of Perpetual Motion (Playaway Adult Fiction) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 2, 2010
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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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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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Top Customer Reviews
This book is billed as "steam punk", but it is so CLEARLY not. Not even close. Sure, it takes place during some kind of weird 19th-20th century alternate reality, replete with rickety clock-work men and scientists wearing those strange goggles, but that does not make it steam punk.
I would consider this a Roald Dahl book for adults. Very ethereal and strange, filled with characters disconnected from their feelings and their bodies. The book has a lot of charm and atmosphere. It's almost enough to conceal it's lack of story. Really, very little happens. It builds and builds to an ultimate reveal (in fact, the whole book serves as foreshadowing to the very last line, so don't read the last page first, seriously). But personally, I don't think the last sentence really reveals much, nor resolve anything. Alas.
"The thing I miss the most," Allan says, looking over Harold's shoulder again, "is the sound of the voice in my head that used to read the news back to me, when I'd sit silently in the afternoons with the paper, in this rocking chair. You know--that voice that's always in the back of your mind and loudest just before sleep, the one that replays fragments of old conversations or sings verses of popular songs over and over. When I opened the paper and that voice read the news back to me, I knew that I could trust it, that it would always find the meanings of words that were the most true. When the radio would tell me the news of the world, or when someone else reads the paper aloud--those are different things. As if the way you pause between words or change your pitch to say certain things gives the words a meaning they weren't meant to have. I know you can't help it--you have to read things some way. But I can't bring myself to trust your voice the way that I trusted my own."
This book is riddled with little gems of introspect like this. I've never known what it's like to be deprived of such a simple pleasure at that described, and Dexter Palmer manages to pull it together perfectly, making so much sense it's incredible. And this book is riddled with them.
Apart from this, the book is a fairly gritty take on a steampunk-infused almost-futuristic not-sure-what-we-are society. There are a lot of comparisons of the industrial society they live in to the simple, almost nomadic society they could have been and once were, before industry manufactured miracles for them.
Bottom line: If you like reading, I strongly suggest picking up this book. It is absolutely wonderful, and I eagerly anticipate anything that Dexter Palmer comes up with next.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm not kidding when I say that this book changed my life.
The author writes well, very witty and funny at times, sad and serious at...Read more