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The Dream of Perpetual Motion (Playaway Adult Fiction) Hardcover

3.8 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From AudioFile

Palmer's debut novel creates a world of bizarre inventions and complicated relationships. Narrator William Dufris's wondrous acting ability is tested on almost each page as the story is full of flashbacks and flash-forwards. Genius inventor Prospero Taligent and his lovely daughter, Miranda, entrance young Harold Winslow as he pursues a career as a storyteller. Imprisoned aboard the giant zeppelin "Chrysalis," powered by a perpetual-motion machine, Harold tells his story. Dufris narrates with a tinge of melancholy in his voice as characters react to the phantasmagoric world created by the mad inventor. This imaginative tale of love is both heartbreaking and head-twisting. Dufris provides a sure and steady delivery. R.O. © AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.

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

--This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0048EL84Q
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,766,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After buying Boneshaker, I kept getting recommendations for this book, probably because people who buy one steampunk book buy them all. This was a debut novel and it has problems - the protagonist is unlikable, some scenes are too clever by half, some scenes nothing happens at all, the characters do not change, too many dream sequences. The book isn't bad, but I've read so many good books this year that it comes off a bit sour. As an example: There's a scene towards the end where the main character runs into a character from earlier in the book who gets cut off getting a parking space by an old lady. He then keys her car, shoots her dog and then throws a vial of acid on her face. A vial of acid! It is explained in the story later why he has that, but come on! Scenes like this seem to be trying too hard to establish a spectacle without actually adding to the plot or character development. The scene is throwaway. Nothing happens to the main character, the acid wielder doesn't show up again. It is worthless.

The book actually gets legs in the final quarter where you meet some interesting characters but they only live for a scene or two. It could have been a compelling novella if reworked. I'd pass unless you really dig a soup of steampunk, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Tempest.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a science-fiction tale of a dystopian society with influences from Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and also some elements of horror. The story opens near its ending, with Harold trapped on a zeppelin purported to be run by a perpetual motion machine that appears to be failing. He is plagued by the voice of a woman who sounds quite mad, but is unable to find her on board. The story then flashes back in history. A wealthy inventor and industrialist is known as Prospero and he keeps his daughter, Miranda, away from society in a tower. As a child, Harold receives an unusual invitation while visiting a theme park with his sister. He is given a whistle that will allow him to go to Prospero's tower and attend Miranda's birthday party. He promises each child attending the party that they will get their heart's desire. Prospero chooses Harold to be Miranda's friend and he visits her island playground populated by robot players. However, as they grow up, their closeness leads Prospero to banish Harold. As Prospero descends into madness, he is unwilling to accept the maturation of his daughter into a young woman. Horror elements include how he creates a "real" unicorn for his daughter, the dramatic art installation created by Harold's sister, the terrible events and creatures of the tower, to his creation of the perpetual motion machine. The machine is the culmination of Prospero's interpretation of Harold's heart's desire. While intriguing, the story was not what I had expected and was much darker in tone. The ideas and imagination were there, but the characters were difficult to deal with at times.
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