Jeremy Childs's Reviews > The Dream of Perpetual Motion

The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer
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Jun 06, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: adolescence, adventure, dystopian, myths-allusions-and-allegories, philosophical, romance
Read from June 06 to 23, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** Every now and then, one encounters a novel that revives their inner
romantic. The Dream of Perpetual Motion, Dexter Palmer’s debut novel, does
so with a twist. It’s a fantasy-laced saga of Shakespeare meets steampunk,
brilliantly executed and profoundly intellectual.

Harold Winslow is the protagonist of The Dream of Perpetual Motion. The
novel constitutes of his memoirs of life in a century dominated by
mechanics and steam power. He retells his life story while he remains
trapped on a blimp with the dying world-famous inventor Prospero Taligent
and his insane daughter, Miranda Taligent. As the pieces of his memories
come together, Harold ends up playing a key role in the creation of
Prospero’s magnum opus: a perpetual motion machine.

At its most basic level, the novel is a retelling of Shakespeare’s final
play, The Tempest; even the book itself mentions the similarities between
Shakespeare’s Prospero and Prospero Taligent. Of course, there are many
other layers to the novel: it’s a Bildungsroman, tracking the maturation of
Harold; it satirizes the condition modern art through Harold’s tragic
sister, Astrid; and it deals with the interplay between the poles of the
diametric spectrum of knowledge (faith vs. fact). Palmer crosses genres
without spreading his work too thin, a testament to his adept storytelling.

On that note, one of the greatest strengths of The Dream of Perpetual
Motion is its rhetoric. Dexter Palmer has written some of the most
beautiful prose I have ever encountered. His diction is consistently
precise and vivid; it often masquerades as verse. The book is dense with
wisdom and insight, as one finds just within the first few pages: “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” (3). Palmer is not afraid to take bold risks
and break writing conventions, such as using italics to emphasize words,
including illustrations, and frequently utilizing onomatopoeia. While some
works would fall apart when such risks are taken, The Dream of Perpetual
Motion soars.

A point of contention arises from another risk that Palmer takes with the
unconventional structure of the book. Its chapters are incredibly short and
can appear to be fragmented and scatter-brained. Also, the heavy use of
flashback makes the plot confusing at times. However, these qualms are
miniscule and should not prevent anyone from reading this book.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a triumphant work. It validates those who
still believe there is beauty and originality in our technology- driven
world. Dexter Palmer has created a masterpiece, and I cannot wait to see
what he produces for the world in the future.
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