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The Dream of Perpetual Motion

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The Dream of Perpetual Motion Cover

ISBN13: 9780312558154
ISBN10: 0312558155
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Staff Pick

If you haven't yet jumped on the steampunk bandwagon (or maybe I should say the steampunk zeppelin), Dexter Palmer's The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a perfect entry point into the subgenre, mixing period style with a compelling, quirky story — and a generous helping of romance.
Recommended by Hank, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A debut so magical... so extraordinary... it has to be read to be believed....

Imprisoned for life aboard a zeppelin that floats high above a fantastic metropolis, the greeting-card writer Harold Winslow pens his memoirs. His only companions are the disembodied voice of Miranda Taligent, the only woman he has ever loved, and the cryogenically frozen body of her father Prospero, the genius and industrial magnate who drove her insane.

The tale of Harold's life is also one of an alternate reality, a lucid waking dream in which the well-heeled have mechanical men for servants, where the realms of fairy tales can be built from scratch, where replicas of deserted islands exist within skyscrapers.. As Harold's childhood infatuation with Miranda changes over twenty years to love and then to obsession, the visionary inventions of her father also change Harold's entire world, transforming it from a place of music and miracles to one of machines and noise. And as Harold heads toward a last desperate confrontation with Prospero to save Miranda's life, he finds himself an unwitting participant in the creation of the greatest invention of them all: the perpetual motion machine.

Beautifully written, stunningly imagined, and wickedly funny, The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a heartfelt meditation on the place of love in a world dominated by technology.

Review:

"[A] veritable showcase for first-novelist Palmer's creativity and intellectual ambition....Palmer's eloquent prose, vivid scene setting, and wacky tin-men villains, who like to mix it up while spouting ever-more-absurd threats, make for strangely compelling reading." Booklist

Review:

"This clever, creative debut will appeal to readers who like literary and unusual fantasy. The emotional core of the story, metaphysical philosophy, visual splendor, and quirky humor are all strong..." Library Journal

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Synopsis:

A wonderfully imagined debut novel about a greeting card writer who must come to terms with the madness of a genius inventor and his quest to create the perpetual motion machine.

Imprisoned aboard a zeppelin that floats above a city reminiscent of those of the classic films Metropolis and Brazil, the greeting card writer Harold Winslow is composing his memoirs. His companions are the only woman he has ever loved, who has gone insane, and the cryogenically frozen body of her father, the devilish genius who drove her mad. The tale of Harold's decades-long thwarted love is also one in which he watches technology transform his childhood home from a mere burgeoning metropolis to a waking dream, in which the well-heeled have mechanical men for servants, deserted islands can exist within skyscrapers, and the worlds of fairy tales can be built from scratch. And as he heads toward a final, desperate confrontation with the mad inventor, he discovers that he is an unwitting participant in the creation of the greatest invention of them all — the perpetual motion machine.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a memorable debut that will be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Synopsis:

A debut so magical… so extraordinary… it has to be read to be believed….

Imprisoned for life aboard a zeppelin that floats high above a fantastic metropolis, the greeting-card writer Harold Winslow pens his memoirs. His only companions are the disembodied voice of Miranda Taligent, the only woman he has ever loved, and the cryogenically frozen body of her father Prospero, the genius and industrial magnate who drove her insane.

The tale of Harolds life is also one of an alternate reality, a lucid waking dream in which the well-heeled have mechanical men for servants, where the realms of fairy tales can be built from scratch, where replicas of deserted islands exist within skyscrapers.. As Harolds childhood infatuation with Miranda changes over twenty years to love and then to obsession, the visionary inventions of her father also change Harolds entire world, transforming it from a place of music and miracles to one of machines and noise. And as Harold heads toward a last desperate confrontation with Prospero to save Mirandas life, he finds himself an unwitting participant in the creation of the greatest invention of them all: the perpetual motion machine.

Beautifully written, stunningly imagined, and wickedly funny, The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a heartfelt meditation on the place of love in a world dominated by technology.

About the Author

Dexter Palmer lives in Princeton, New Jersey. He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University, where he completed his dissertation on the work of James Joyce, William Gaddis, and Thomas Pynchon (and where he also staged the first academic conference ever held at an Ivy League university on the subject of video games).

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Jvstin, May 8, 2010 (view all comments by Jvstin)
Hello Miranda.

The Tempest is one the most potent of Shakespeare's plays. The idea of the singular genius, living apart from the rest of humanity despite, or perhaps because of his unique gifts. An innocent, sheltered daughter of that genius, kept from the world. Caliban, who believes he is heir to Prospero's holdings and powers. Dark secrets. Hidden abilities. The conflict between the private and the public. The meaning of humanity.

Is it any wonder that it makes for strong meat for subsequent writers to use for their own fodder?

Dexter Palmer takes the story of the Tempest, and brings it into an alternate, steampunk infused early 20th century in The Dream of Perpetual Motion, a novel that lives in the borderland between science fiction and the world of literary fiction.

The world of The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a borderland too, as the gadgets and clockwork men of Prospero Taligent have transformed Xeroville into a wonderland of automation and automata. In this world, we follow the story of Harold Winslow. A chance encounter at a young age brings him forever into the orbit of the mysterious, reclusive Prospero Taligent, who never leaves his fortress and tower like skyscraper, and as importantly, into contact with his adopted daughter, Miranda. Twisted and sculpted by her father's idiosyncratic methods of raising her, the novel is also the story of how these two characters meet, part, grow, change and finally come to terms with each other.


"One world from you is all I want. Just speak one word, and we will begin. Name, rank and serial number, perhaps the misquoted lyrics from a popular song: anything will do. From there we'll move with slow, cautious steps to gentle verbal sparring, twice-told tales, descriptions of the scarred and darkest places of our old and worn-out souls..."

The novel is also the story of magic versus science and miracles versus technology. Again and again, the transformation of the world, through the agency of Prospero, into a world of gears and clockwork men is described as a fundamental change in the world itself. While the agent of Prospero in the Tempest is one of the magician in a world losing magic, In the Dream of Perpetual Motion, like the HBO series Carnivale, Prospero is hastening the end of wonder and the beginning of the age of reason and science.


The novel's virtues and strengths lie in the literary field more than the science fiction (to be specific, steampunk). The novel works as a literary study of Harold Winslow and his relationship with Prospero,Miranda (and briefly, Caliban). The automata, the fantastic gadgets, the amazing Zeppelin upon which Harold is imprisoned are really backdrop, stage, and setting for his story to unfold. The Dream of Perpetual Motion does not take the virtues of science fiction so much as it cloaks, shapes and colors its literary virtues in the trappings of gears and metal.

What this means is that the novel is designed for, and clearly works on the level of contemporary fiction with a steampunk cast to it. Readers not used to science fiction, but eager to read and enjoy literary fiction will have the opportunity to get a taste of the fantastic along with the character studies found in this book. Conversely, readers who prefer science fiction and fantasy who want to peek outside of the great kingdom of fantasy and science fiction literature into the republic of literary fiction might find a steampunk-dressed, Shakespeare-invoking novel such as this a passport to that foreign country.

Palmer clearly had fun writing this book, his first novel. In a tradition more suited to SF than literary fiction, he even tuckerizes himself into the book, a character with his name and profession appearing briefly at a party for the art of Harold's sister Astrid.

In summation, Palmer has created an interesting hybrid novel, one that will reward readers of both genres that it straddles. Perhaps not as a colossus, but certainly as a bridge between two realms of the written world that do not often talk to each other.
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Judy Krueger, March 5, 2010 (view all comments by Judy Krueger)
I was looking forward to this one, even planning to review it at BookBrowse, but it did not please me. I made it all the way through because I wanted to find out what finally happened to Harold and Miranda, but disappointingly, not much happened after all that build up. I think this author has promise. He is obviously highly intelligent and has a good grip on modern life. I hope he gets to publish more books. Just for comparison, I vividly remember reading Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash (which was cyberpunk, not steampunk and admittedly not his very first novel) and it had some of the same problems: too wordy, showing off and boring parts. But man, I was forever after a fan of Neal. He grabbed me and has never let go. I hope that can still happen with Dexter Palmer. I mean, I grew up in Princeton, I dated those kind of brainy, compulsively talking, jokers. I want him to win the game.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312558154
Author:
Palmer, Dexter
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Subject:
Science Fiction - General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Alternative History
Subject:
Science / General
Subject:
Science fiction
Subject:
Prisoners
Subject:
Science Fiction and Fantasy-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Playaway Adult Fiction
Publication Date:
20100302
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
9.21 x 6.57 x 1.17 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z

The Dream of Perpetual Motion Used Hardcover
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$16.50 In Stock
Product details 352 pages St. Martin's Press - English 9780312558154 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

If you haven't yet jumped on the steampunk bandwagon (or maybe I should say the steampunk zeppelin), Dexter Palmer's The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a perfect entry point into the subgenre, mixing period style with a compelling, quirky story — and a generous helping of romance.

"Review" by , "[A] veritable showcase for first-novelist Palmer's creativity and intellectual ambition....Palmer's eloquent prose, vivid scene setting, and wacky tin-men villains, who like to mix it up while spouting ever-more-absurd threats, make for strangely compelling reading."
"Review" by , "This clever, creative debut will appeal to readers who like literary and unusual fantasy. The emotional core of the story, metaphysical philosophy, visual splendor, and quirky humor are all strong..."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Synopsis" by , A wonderfully imagined debut novel about a greeting card writer who must come to terms with the madness of a genius inventor and his quest to create the perpetual motion machine.

Imprisoned aboard a zeppelin that floats above a city reminiscent of those of the classic films Metropolis and Brazil, the greeting card writer Harold Winslow is composing his memoirs. His companions are the only woman he has ever loved, who has gone insane, and the cryogenically frozen body of her father, the devilish genius who drove her mad. The tale of Harold's decades-long thwarted love is also one in which he watches technology transform his childhood home from a mere burgeoning metropolis to a waking dream, in which the well-heeled have mechanical men for servants, deserted islands can exist within skyscrapers, and the worlds of fairy tales can be built from scratch. And as he heads toward a final, desperate confrontation with the mad inventor, he discovers that he is an unwitting participant in the creation of the greatest invention of them all — the perpetual motion machine.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a memorable debut that will be one of the most talked about books of the year.

"Synopsis" by ,

A debut so magical… so extraordinary… it has to be read to be believed….

Imprisoned for life aboard a zeppelin that floats high above a fantastic metropolis, the greeting-card writer Harold Winslow pens his memoirs. His only companions are the disembodied voice of Miranda Taligent, the only woman he has ever loved, and the cryogenically frozen body of her father Prospero, the genius and industrial magnate who drove her insane.

The tale of Harolds life is also one of an alternate reality, a lucid waking dream in which the well-heeled have mechanical men for servants, where the realms of fairy tales can be built from scratch, where replicas of deserted islands exist within skyscrapers.. As Harolds childhood infatuation with Miranda changes over twenty years to love and then to obsession, the visionary inventions of her father also change Harolds entire world, transforming it from a place of music and miracles to one of machines and noise. And as Harold heads toward a last desperate confrontation with Prospero to save Mirandas life, he finds himself an unwitting participant in the creation of the greatest invention of them all: the perpetual motion machine.

Beautifully written, stunningly imagined, and wickedly funny, The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a heartfelt meditation on the place of love in a world dominated by technology.

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