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The Dream of Perpetual Motion

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  1,659 Ratings  ·  318 Reviews
Imprisoned for life aboard a zeppelin that floats high above a fantastic metropolis, 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. As Harold heads towa ...more
Paperback, 356 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Picador (first published February 27th 2010)
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Jonathan Hawpe
For fans of the literary fantastic, I can't recommend this book highly enough. Just beware: it is both VERY literary and VERY fantastical. By that, I mean the writing and structure of the story is subtle and complex, sometimes with a dreamy feeling and bits that the reader has to think about to fully figure out. And the story is a full-on explosion of strange landscapes, odd technologies and futuristic social customs that fully immerse the reader in a world that is most definitely not our own. P ...more
Daniella
Aug 20, 2011 Daniella rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A hypocritical, boring, and deeply misogynistic critique of post-modernism, this dreamy novel has poorly developed characters, a shallow plot, and unimaginative setting. If I could un-read this book, I would.

BEWARE! There are spoilers in this review, because I cannot express how wrong this book is without revealing critical details.

1. Hypocrisy:
Palmer weaves elements of Shakespeare's _The Tempest_ into the book, but in a nonsensical, non-meaningful way. Prospero, Miranda, and Ferdinand all show
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Lizz
Aug 23, 2011 Lizz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: one with time to spare
The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer
It can’t be un-read. Dexter Palmer’s _The Dream of Perpetual Motion_ promised, on the back cover, to be “beautifully written, stunningly imagined, and wickedly funny… a heartfelt meditation on the place of love in a world dominated by technology,” not to mention “gorgeously surreal… exhilarating, passionate, enthralling… constantly turning, giving off more energy than it receives, its movement at once beautiful and counterintuitive.”

I should have known that was too many adjectives. It turned ou
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Jason Pettus
Jan 27, 2010 Jason Pettus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

As I've mentioned here before, one of my favorites of all the new subgenres to emerge in the arts in the early 2000s is the so-called "New Weird," perhaps made most famous by Jeff VanderMeer in his now legendary anthology on the subject; it's essentially a catch-all term for the growing amount of post-9/1
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Debut Authors Blog
I’ve been putting off reviewing The Dream of Perpetual Motion for a few days. Honestly, it is because I don’t know if I can do Dexter Palmer’s work of art justice. But, since the really nice marketing people over at St. Martin’s Press sent me a copy of this book, I feel that I probably should give it a whirl.

This steam-punk novel is narrated by Harold Winslow, a writer for a greeting-card company. The story alternates between the first and third person as Harold writes to his imaginary reader in
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Laurie
May 15, 2011 Laurie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book five days ago and still cannot quite figure out how I feel about it. I’ve written and deleted things three times now.

It’s not what I expected- the cover promised an airship (which was provided, sure enough), mechanical men (ditto) and an alternate, Steampunk-ish history (once again, provided). I expected adventure from this, but this was not provided.

It’s not an adventure novel at all; it’s part reworking of ‘The Tempest’, part philosophy, and part sociology all with a thi
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Sarah Anne
I have to say that I didn't care for this book but I really admire the writing. It was a complicated book and the author has to have put a lot of work in it. Amazing writing.

The story itself is really odd. It starts with a 30 year old guy named Harold who is stuck on a zeppelin with someone named Miranda. He decides to write his story and it slips back and forth in time to the ages of 10, 20, and 30. There's no linear reason for the jumping around. Each time we get some information about his exp
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Matt
May 14, 2010 Matt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In some cases, a spiffy cover can make me read it and be very impressed. Case in point: Cherie Priest's "Boneshaker," which I was drawn to from awesome cover art alone. In other cases, a great jacket design can make me read it, and feel like I wasted several hours of my life. "The Dream of Perpetual Motion" is one of these cases.

Although it is not the worst book that I ever read, Palmer's debut novel fails on so many levels. It manages to try to do too much, while managing to accomplish nothing.
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Emily Park
Sep 09, 2011 Emily Park rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
http://em-and-emm.blogspot.com/2011/0...

If you were to get a giant literary blender, combine equal parts from Shakespeare's The Tempest with the steampunk genre, add in a little Jules Verne, a little Franz Kafka, and the tiniest dash of Ovid, you'd get something that roughly approximates this novel. Probably one of the more unusual books I have ever read, The Dream of Perpetual Motion is probably also one of the most lyrically elegiac novels I have ever read.

The story primarily focuses on three
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Alan Chen
Harold Winslow is imprisoned on a zeppelin that is powered by a perpetual motion device, his only company are the automatons that service the ship and Miranda, his paramour, whom he hears from the speakers calling to him but however he searches cannot locate. With nothing else to do he decides to write his memoir and the crime he committed to land him in his current position. This is a clockworks novel with gears and sprockets powering all kinds of fantastic devices and at the helm is Prospero, ...more
Neil
Dec 09, 2009 Neil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book with some serious flaws that shouldn't stop you from giving it a whirl.

The story is told from the point of view of Harold Winslow, a greeting card writer who narrates the story while trapped with only the company of himself, a voice, and his memories while floating through the sky in a perpetual motion flying machine that may or may not be working. From this vantage he tells the story of his family (a mildly inventive, but largely inneffectual toy-making father and his angr
...more
Alan
May 21, 2010 Alan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Punks unafraid of a little introspection
Recommended to Alan by: F&SF - The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
"Silly boy {...} You were trying to rescue the monster." (p. 119)
The Dream of Perpetual Motion is stylish, full of lush imagery and ornate phrases, and—yes—it does partake of that most currently modish of styles, its peculiarly backward and timeless sidewise milieu bearing the unmistakable whiff of leather and brass, of zeppelins and pneumatic tubes and the occasional Camera Obscura... yes, the very stench of Steam-Punk. But for all that it's still at heart a boy's own adventure story, told with
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jordan
Feb 09, 2010 jordan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Other reviewers have already offered excellent overviews of this novel, so I won’t be redundant by repeating their efforts. In Dexter Palmer’s debut novel an alternate 20th century rises beneath the shadow of the singular genius, Prospero Taligent, whose “metal men” serve as servants as workers. Yet it is not from Prospero’s perspective that we hear the tale, but largely from Harold Winslow who as a child was fortunate enough to be among the 100 lucky kids invited to the birthday party of Talige ...more
Roxane
I'm giving up on this one. Besides, I was mostly reading it for work (note that it's in the agency-author shelf, yes this is a newly created shelf for those books I'm reading because/thanks to work! These will be advance reading copies or manuscript mostly).

The book in and of it self is not bad really, it's just in terrible need of some serious editing which, my understanding is, it's not going to get...

I will only say that this book will probably appeal more to mainstream readers. If you're a
...more
Richard Thomas
Jul 24, 2010 Richard Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was somewhat inconsistent. At times I found my mind wandering, in fact, almost gave up on it about 40 pages in, but it finally hooked me. Then, other times, it was riveting, brilliant prose, and really emotional. I liked it a lot, but can't say I LOVED it, and wish I could. There is a lot in here to be fascinated with, it does go a bit dark, Willy Wonka if he'd done crack, a nice child's POV early on, and in the end it is really rather devastating and hits you hard, but in a good way. ...more
edifanob
Jun 01, 2010 edifanob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books, 2010-reads
Some people will love it and other will find it annoying.

For me it is like three books in one. A bit too ambitious. I could not read more than 30 pages per day.

Read my full review
Paul Eckert
May 01, 2010 Paul Eckert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A friend posted something about this book in an internet forum. The cover alone almost sold me on the book, and then when I read the premise, I knew that I would be moving this book straight to the top of my reading queue (which I did). There are books on that queue that have been waiting for years to be read, so they were a bit upset, but I promised I would get to them one day.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion is the story of Harold Winslow and how his life intersected with the mad genius Prospero
...more
Blake Fraina
Jul 15, 2011 Blake Fraina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 seq
...more
Katy
Jun 03, 2011 Katy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vine-book
Please Note: I read and reviewed this book in February 2010 from a copy received from the Amazon Vine program. This review has been slightly altered to fit into my current formatting.

My Initial Thoughts: Dexter Palmer has written down a dream, full of strange cuts from one scene to another, past to present to future all intertwined, bits and pieces winding around each other until it all slowly comes to focus ... almost ... and then suddenly you're awake and the book is finished.

My Reading Experi
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Jared
Dec 05, 2012 Jared rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am admittedly smack in the middle of the target audience for a book such as this. I like steampunk and science fiction and dystopian stories, and a combination of those three genres forms the backdrop of Palmer's novel. That said, this a really remarkable effort, and it has a lot to say about what it means to be a human being in a time of modern scientific knowledge and communications technologies that seem to impede true communication as much as they improve its speed.

That said, this is a str
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Heidi
May 05, 2010 Heidi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't often give up on books, but I had to put this down when I encountered the word "obsidian" for the *seventh* time on page 132. The prose is (imho) stilted, hollow and overwritten. It reads like a manuscript accidentally published prior to any editing whatsoever (but in reality it was written by an English doctorate - and it shows).

I am a huge fan of steampunk and speculative history, but there really isn't anything new here. Dirigibles, mechanical men, Shakespearean undertones - it's all
...more
Phil James
Feb 15, 2010 Phil James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways, firstreads
I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book, which I would have been interested enough to seek out anyway.

It suffers slightly by comparison to another steampunk sci-fi favourite of mine, Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/82...
but it is well worth the tour of this debut writer's dark imagination.

Even though I felt it was, at first, a gothic horror version of Charlie and the Chocolate factory crossed with Angela Carter's "Nights at the circus" [leaving aside t
...more
Eli Brooke
Aug 01, 2010 Eli Brooke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The steampunky cover made me expect escapist entertainment, but this is a richly layered novel full of surprisingly sharp critiques of contemporary society, including the most scathing send-up of the art world I've ever read. The language is tight and lyrical, there's a lot going on under the surface, it's dark and sad and funny and horrifying with so much truth and such a tiny kernel of hope. It kept me riveted, and though I'm not sure the ending lived up to the build-up, it's still very much w ...more
Marcus
Mar 10, 2011 Marcus rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of all the Steampunk novels I have read until now, The Dream of Perpetual Motion is the strangest and most bizarre tale. If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be this:
Shakespeare’s The Tempest set in a Steampunk world while Shakespeare was on a bad trip.

Mr. Palmer draws heavily on The Tempest in his novel, I also recommend everyone to get themselves at least somewhat acquainted with the plot of The Tempest and the protagonists and their role. Knowledge about this play adds a lot to the
...more
Samantha
Feb 08, 2017 Samantha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The Dream of Perpetual Motion is an interesting, unusual novel. Dexter Palmer's debut is a rich and innovative work. It draws inspiration from The Tempest, which I haven't read, so I can attest that you can enjoy this novel if you're not familiar with the play.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion is the tale of Harold Winslow. He's writing his memoirs as the prisoner of a zeppelin that is supposed to be aloft forever, as it's powered by a perpetual motion machine. The mad inventor, Prospero Taligent, w
...more
Miriam
Jul 04, 2017 Miriam is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Paul Weimer
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 wr
...more
Adrienne Crezo
Apr 21, 2010 Adrienne Crezo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The premise: our hero, Harold Winslow, is trapped aboard the good ship Chrysalis, a zeppelin powered by a deteriorating perpetual motion machine. He does not speak, instead writing his life story in silence and wandering the ship as his long-lost love, Miranda Taligent, tries to goad him into talking. She is hidden somewhere aboard the ship, but he can’t find her. How did they get here? Why, through the evil machinations of Miranda’s father, the brilliant-but-contemptible inventor Prospero Talig ...more
MB Taylor
Feb 17, 2011 MB Taylor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished reading The Dream of Perpetual Motion last night before going to bed. It’s an amazing book.

I was wandering around Barnes and Noble earlier this month, and ran across the trade paperback in the fiction department. It looked interesting, so I picked it up. When I got home I set in on my desk and a couple of days later went to add it to my book database only to discover that I already had a copy. Unfortunately this is not all that uncommon an occurrence. So I went down to the library an
...more
Mongrel
Oct 09, 2011 Mongrel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pseudo-intellectuals, misogynists, ....steampunk fans? maybe?
Recommended to Mongrel by: random store buy
When I first picked up The Dream of Perpetual Motion, I desperately wanted to enjoy it; there are some fascinating concepts represented within its pages--anachronism, secret worlds, fantastic Jules Verne-esque machines capable of intricate movement and delicate creation. It has a quite a few of the trappings that makes steampunk such an engaging genre for so many readers.

These little reminders of bigger and better fantasy novels are the beginning and end of The Dream's charm, however. The main c
...more
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Dexter Palmer lives in Princeton, New Jersey. His first novel, The Dream of Perpetual Motion, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2010, and was selected as one of the best debuts of that year by Kirkus Reviews. His second, Version Control, was published by Pantheon Books in February 2016.

He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University, where he completed his dissertation on the
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More about Dexter Palmer...

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“There are no new stories in the world anymore, and no more storytellers. There is nothing left but fragments of phrases that signaled their telling: once upon a time; why; and then; the end. But these phrases have lost their meanings through endless repetition, like everything else in this modern, mechanical age. And this machine age has no room for stories. These days we seek our pleasures out in single moments cast in amber, as if we have no desire to connect the future to the past. Stories? We have no time for them; we have no patience.” 14 likes
“A number of terrible things about falling in love make it not worth the time and the effort. But the worst of these is that we can never truly fall in love with a person, but only what we think that person is - more precisely, we fall in love with an image of a person that we create in our minds based on a few inconsequential traits: hair color; bloodline; timbre of voice; preference in music or literature. We are so quick to make a judgment on first sight, and it is so easy for us to decide that the object of our love is unquestionably perfect. And while people can only be human at best, these same fallible humans are more than capable of imagining each other to be infallible gods.
Any relationship we have with another human being is an ongoing process of error correction, altering this image that we see in our mind's eye whenever we lay love-blinded eyes on our beloved. It changes bit by bit until it matches the beloved herself, who is invariably less than perfect, often unworthy of love, and often incapable of giving love. This is why any extended interpersonal relationship other than the most superficial, be it a friendship, a romance, or a tie between father and daughter, must by necessity involve disappointment and pain. When the woman you worship behaves as a human being eventually will, she does not merely disappoint; she commits sacrilege, as if the God we worship were to somehow damn Himself.”
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