BN.com Gift Guide

The Dream of Perpetual Motion

( 31 )

Overview

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 ...

See more details below
Paperback
$14.10
BN.com price
(Save 11%)$16.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (31) from $1.99   
  • New (9) from $7.35   
  • Used (22) from $1.99   
The Dream of Perpetual Motion

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price

Overview

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.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Jeff VanderMeer
In his tragicomic first novel, The Dream of Perpetual Motion, Dexter Palmer takes elements from Nabokov, Neal Stephenson, Steven Millhauser and "The Tempest," tosses them into a retro-futuristic blender and hits "purée." The result is a singular riff on steampunk—sophisticated, subversive entertainment that never settles for escapism.
—The New York Times
Elizabeth Hand
…an extravagantly wondrous and admirable first novel inspired by The Tempest…the work it most resembles is Angela Carter's hallucinatory tour de force The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972, released in this country as The War of Dreams), whose protagonist also makes his way through a nightmarish alternate future to confront a perpetual motion machine. Yet Palmer's vision is his own, with its Henry Dargeresque dream sequences and Crystal Palace cityscapes: an elegy for our own century and the passing of the power of the word, written and spoken.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
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.)\
Library Journal
Palmer's debut drops elements from Shakespeare's The Tempest into a steampunk setting. The engines and mechanical men of inventor and industrialist Prospero Taligent have driven miracles from the world with the brute logic of technology. Young Harold Winslow's chance wandering at an amusement park brings him into Prospero's orbit. Invited to the birthday party of Taligent's beloved but objectified daughter Miranda, Harold begins a lifetime connection to a family plunging ever deeper into operatic madness. Palmer conjures unforgettable images—boys and girls carried to a skyscraper party by mechanical demons and angels, a "unicorn" created by pounding an ivory horn into the skull of a horse, for instance. VERDICT 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, but, unfortunately, these elements aren't always blended gracefully. When Palmer learns to meld his strengths and avoid distracting asides, he'll be an exciting author indeed. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/09; library marketing.]—Neil Hollands, Williamsburg Regional. Lib., VA
Kirkus Reviews
An intoxicatingly ambitious debut novel that somehow seems to encapsulate everything the author believes about everything. This reads like a science-fiction update of The Tempest as rewritten by Jonathan Lethem. It takes place in the early years of the 20th century, though this is a past reimagined by a futurist, filled with mechanical men who have brought the age of miracles to an end. It begins aboard a zeppelin called the Chrysalis, where narrator Harold Winslow finds himself flying in perpetuity, along with the disembodied voice of his life's love, Miranda, and the corpse of her adoptive father, the (mad, genius) inventor, Prospero Taligent. With a memoir addressed to his "imaginary reader," for Winslow has no hope that anyone will ever see these pages, the narrator recounts the pivotal incidents in his life, sometimes in the first person, often in the third. The most crucial among them is his Willy Wonka-esque invitation to the tenth birthday of Miranda, isolated from the world in a tower, where her father invents the machines that transform the world and threaten to steal its soul. At the party, Prospero promises each of the 100 children whom he has gathered that all will achieve their heart's desire. Harold wants to become a writer, and in fact becomes a writer of greeting-card verse, but the rest of the novel recounts the unlikely fashion through which he fulfills his higher ambition. Though the narrative propulsion seems to lurch and leap, occasionally lacking cohesion (sometimes even coherence), its provocative meditations on life and love, innocence and knowledge, the essence of ever-changing time and its tension with timeless art, and the limits of language as expressedthrough language, make this a parable worth savoring. It walks the tightrope "between madness and genius, between profoundly difficult truths and pure nonsense," without a safety net for either writer or reader. A novel of ideas that holds together like a dream.
Publishers Weekly
Harold Winslow retells his life story while sitting in a flying prison, explaining how such a ordinary guy like himself got tangled up with the formidable Prospero Taligent and his daughter, Miranda, and how it all went so wrong. With airships and robots, the story is a fantastical jaunt through a magical world elaborately imagined—with help from The Tempest and The Wizard of Oz. Palmer creates a fabulous steampunk pastiche—at one point he, too, appears in the narrative—that breaks all the rules and is marvelous messy fun. William Dufris has some great moments as he keeps up with the shifting narrative and works his tone magnificently during the more ironic moments. He does well with the voice of Harold as a boy, though he has some trouble morphing it into an adult voice, and his female voices are a bit wobbly. A St. Martin's hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 19) (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"This mind-bending alternate history is a veritable showcase for...Palmer's creativity and intellectual ambition." —-Booklist
The Barnes & Noble Review

From Paul Di Filippo's "SPECULTATOR" column on The Barnes & Noble Review


Has steampunk jumped Captain Nemo's clockwork shark yet?

The genre -- succinctly described as a mix of archaic tech (either real or fanciful), the supernatural, and postmodern metafictional tricksterism, set in the consensus historical past or alternate timelines -- was first christened in 1987, a lifetime ago as cultural and literary fads are measured, in a letter to Locus magazine from the writer K. W. Jeter. Of course, the actual roots of the form extend back even further, perhaps as early as 1965, when a certain television show named The Wild, Wild West debuted.

Some literary styles and tropes wane with their cultural moment, but others have proved exceedingly long-lived, with writers continually discovering unexplored narrative possibilities within elastic bounds. Perhaps the best example is the Gothic, still with us today, and flourishing, despite being a couple of centuries old.

But steampunk has exfoliated beyond the merely literary, into the daily lives of its fans. Like Civil War re-enactors or medievalist members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, "steampunks" now include those for whom the novels and stories have been superseded by cosplay, crafting, music, partying, artwork, manga, anime, feature films, and the creation of props or working hardware. For every reader and writer of steampunk fiction, there are probably hundreds or thousands of other activists who gleefully embrace some non-written manifestation of the steampunk ethos.

Generally speaking, by the time a subculture such as steampunk secures the attention of major media, resulting in extensive coverage of the craze, said phenomenon is already on the way out. But despite numerous and growing features about steampunk in the national press, such does not seem to be the case, at least in terms of fiction. The juggernaut that is steampunk, like Dr. Loveless's giant mechanical spider in the 1999 film version of The Wild, Wild West, seems capable of crushing all naysayers.

Yet what of the literature itself -- now transformed into something of an appendage -- that spawned the movement? Has it exhausted all the radium bullets in its Gatling gun, or is fresh work still capable of surprising the reader?

Well, the latter half of 2009 proved to be a fine period for steampunk, and 2010 seems to be starting out likewise, with a new novel that manages to do some uncanny things with the genre. (As well, readers should be alerted to Steampunk Reloaded, a forthcoming anthology compiled by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer.)

For certain readers, a lightbulb of recognition will likely flare during the opening pages of Dexter Palmer's eccentrically fantabulous debut novel, The Dream of Perpetual Motion. Our hero, Harold Winslow (currently imprisoned in an ever-aloft zeppelin), is introduced as a nebbishy writer of greeting-card sentiments whose pre-work anxiety forces him to ride a "shrinkcab" to the office ("Shrinkcab's fleet of drivers are all rigorously trained in clinical psychiatry and licensed to dispense prescriptions…") amidst a landscape rife with mechanical men indistinguishable from humans.

Dexter Palmer has had the brilliant inspiration to meld Philip K. Dick with steampunk.

In a story that moves from one unpredictable moment to another (the author himself even makes a metafictional appearance), Palmer deploys all the trademark Phildickian riffs with wit and grace: the manipulative, demiurgic industrialist (Prospero Taligent); the devouring love interest (Miranda Taligent); the put-upon Everyman accidentally at the center of the storm. But the thrilling novelty is that they occur in a fully realized steampunk milieu (with a refreshing 1930s veneer: take the kludgy teaching machines young Winslow is subjected to, for example) evoking the creations of another off-kilter mind: Terry Gilliam.

The ex-Python gets too little credit as an outlier of the steampunk movement. Films such as Time Bandits and, essentially, Brazil, certainly share affinities with hardcore steampunk, and Palmer echoes Gilliam's method, moving his characters through an insulting, humiliating, and needlessly complex and hostile environment -- in this case, the city of Xeroville. But, as in Gilliam's films, it's also an environment that offers glimpses of magic and wonder: consider the Nickel Empire, a vast amusement park where every astonishing treat and improbable ride costs precisely one five-cent coin, and where young Harold's destiny is first intertwined with that of the capricious Miranda.

Crafting his prose as finely and evocatively as Nicholas Christopher or Mark Helprin, Dexter Palmer conjures up a new flavor of steampunk, showing us that there's a tumble yet in the clanking, hybrid Victorian bawd.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312680534
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 792,930
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet 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).

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

THE DREAM OF PERPECTUAL MOTION


By Dexter Palmer

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2010 Dexter Palmer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-312-55815-4


Chapter One

Hello? Hello.

Hello. My name is Harold Winslow. Yes. I need help.

Yes, I've used your services before.

Don't tell me everything's going to be fine. It's not. You can guess I know better than that.

I need help. This is one of my bad mornings. Some of the dreams I have are worse than others. This one isn't the worst, but it's bad enough for me to need your services.

I need to be taken to the Xeroville Greeting-card Works. I have to get to work.

No-no I still don't have insurance. I'll pay cash.

No-no I don't have a voice of my own.

But if you need a voice I can give one to you. It's the thing that I do best.

Chapter Two

Some of the dreams I have are worse than others, and though the one I had last night wasn't one of those especially vivid ones that keep me riveted to the bed and soaked in sweat for a half hour after I've woken from it, it was bad enough to warrant placing the call for a shrinkcab. It is there waiting for me by the time I hang up the phone, dress for work, and descend to the lobby of my apartment building-except for the light on its roof, white instead of the usual yellow, it is indistinguishable from the hundreds of other cabs that clog the city's downtown streets each rush hour. The drivers of shrinkcabs usually make a gesture toward dressing a bit better than the usual cabbie, and as I slide into the backseat, I see that this one is wearing a starched shirt with silver cuff links-unfortunately, the intended effect is spoiled by a sleeve sporting scattered stains of ketchup and scrambled egg, the remnants of a breakfast sandwich whose foil wrapper lies discarded in the passenger seat.

Without a word the shrinkcabbie starts the meter and pulls off. Then, unconscionably, he turns on the radio, as if he intends to listen to me with one ear and the news of the world with the other. This is not the grade of service I expect. Periodic static interrupts a parade of voices as he twiddles the dial.

-fffffsssssfffff-

"-after fifteen years of marriage you can see her disgust whenever she looks at you. You know her heart's a block of ice."

-fffffsssssfffff-

"-full fadom five thy father lies, of his bones are coral made-"

-fffffsssssfffff-

"Hello out there! I just want you to know that I'm just like you, and, just like you, sometimes I have a little trouble holding things together."

-fffffsssssfffff-

"-but then you give her the greeting card. And she opens it, and she reads it, and the color comes back into her cheeks. And the smile spreads across her face that you haven't seen since both of you were young. And she bakes the casserole that you like. And she enters your bedroom and kneels before you.

"The Xeroville Greeting-card Works. When you need a reliable immediate intense targeted emotional response-"

-ffgfsssssgfff-

"-those are pearls that were his eyes: nothing of him that doth fade-"

-fffffsssssfffff-

"-and I'm just like you. And between a seventy-hour workweek and a romance that's crumbling before my eyes, who can spare an hour to go to a therapist to get the help we all desperately need, every once in a while, to help us hold things together? To stave off the oncoming specter of insanity? Not me, I tell you! Not me. That's why, every once in a while, only when I need it, I pick up the phone and call a Shrinkcab. Shrinkcab's fleet of drivers are all rigorously trained in clinical psychiatry and licensed to dispense prescriptions, and will happily help you combine your necessary psychological therapy with your morning or evening commute for the maximum in twentieth-century convenience. Our cabs are handsomely upholstered in soothing colors and completely soundproofed for the ultimate in comfort. You just sit back, open up your head, and-"

-fffffsssssfffff-

"-our proprietary emotional-provocation technologies. Xeroville Greeting-card Works. The key to the human heart. The best in the business." -fffffsssssfffff-

"-sea nymphs hourly ring his knell. Hark: now I hear them. Dingdong bell."

-fffffsssssfffff-

"-relax. We'll help you hold things together."

I lean forward and tell him to turn off the radio in a tone meant to be peremptory, but the intended note of command in my voice has too much squeak and quiver. Nonetheless, after looking at me for a moment in his rearview mirror, he reluctantly shuts off the radio, leaving us in soundproof silence.

Then I begin.

Chapter Three

This is costing me a lot, isn't it. By the time we make it into downtown Xeroville I will have spent two days' pay in cab fare. So I guess I'd better start talking, and get my money's worth.

My name is Harold Winslow. I'm in the sentiment-development division of the Xeroville Greeting-card Works. Right now we're working on Christmas cards. That's right-even though it's the middle of July, we're working on the Christmas cards for next season. Time is always out of joint in the greeting-card works. Outside the works heat-shimmers rise from concrete; inside the works it's ice-cold, that special kind of ozone-flavored cold that machines make, and we've got Styrofoam snow strewn across the floors and red and green tinsel hanging from the walls. For inspiration. You'd be surprised: it's hard to summon the Christmas spirit in the middle of July. We hired a group of dwarves to dress up in elf outfits and run up and down the hallways, carrying lovingly handcrafted wooden toys and singing high-pitched, cloying songs of holiday cheer.

I've become disillusioned with my job: that's part of my problem, I think. I am a failed writer. I went to a university, hoping to become a successful writer, but I failed. Miranda, back then, tried to tell me that terrible things were in store for me, for all of us. But even though she was wise beyond her years, she was still young, and so was I, and all of our words were drowned out by the noise of our beating hearts, screaming at us that we were, after all, creatures of flesh and blood. So instead of taking our only chance of escape, we went back to her magic island when we had no business there. In a life full of failures, that was yet another.

I'm a failed writer with no voice of my own. What I do at the greeting-card works is this: I try to guess what kind of voice a voiceless person would choose if he could have any voice he wanted, and then I try to speak with that voice. I speak the words of love and affection that people would speak for themselves if they could. If they weren't paralyzed. If their lips didn't lock every time they even thought of expressing their own love for themselves. You have seen them, drifting up and down drugstore aisles like ghosts, their hands shaking, their teeth grinding, their jaws locked as they try to find the words that say the thing they mean to say. They are blind and dumb. I don't know what they'd do if they were confronted with greeting cards that were blank on the inside. Paralyzed. Blind and dumb.

My special talent is greeting cards that are designed to be given by boys between the ages of nine and sixteen, when they are too old for naïve sentiments that tumble clumsily off the tongue, and too young for cookie-cutter blank verses about love that perseveres through ravaging Time. My masterpiece is a greeting card I wrote for the Father's Day season three years ago, a large two-dollar affair that opened out into three panels, illuminated on both sides in brilliant pastels. As far as greeting cards go, it was an epic. The text was in iambic pentameter. The son, the implied speaker and the person presenting the card, details a fantasy in which his father is a monster, and the son is a smaller version of his father, a monster as well. And the father and son do monstrous things together, like throwing around automobiles and knocking down buildings and breathing fire and biting the heads off innocent bystanders. Then on the climactic final panel, the son thanks his father for being a "monster of a dad!" and for making him a "monster of a son!" It was a big seller. It went into several printings.

I know what little boys like. Little boys like monsters.

I have a recurring dream that goes something like this. I am lying naked on my back in the midst of an endless field of poppies, staring up at a blue sky. It is dead quiet, the way it is never quiet in the world anymore, now that machines are everywhere. Even when you think a room is quiet, there's always some damned machine in it, making some kind of noise: plumbing; an air conditioner; a fluorescent lamp. But in this endless field of poppies it's dead quiet, as it must have been when the world was still young.

Then the virgin queen comes. I can tell she's coming because, although I still have my gaze fixed on the sky, I have also shifted it to look at the queen as she leisurely walks across the poppy field with their retinue trailing behind her, in that way in dreams that you can look at two things at once and see them both with crystal clarity. The queen is wearing a crystal crown that glitters in the sunlight, and an intricately embroidered dress shot through with threads of gold and silver. She is accompanied by several small boys. Some are naked; some are clothed. Some are dressed like girls, with long dresses and two pigtails tied with red ribbons. Some have human torsos, but haunches and horns and hooves, like creatures out of myths.

Then the queen stops walking and sits in the midst of the poppies and crosses her legs and smiles and laughs, and the boys assemble in front of her and begin to enact some complex kind of dance, taking slow steps, moving in interlaced circles, swaying their bodies to a rhythm that only they can hear. Then the queen turns to look at me, and it's just before I see her face that I wake up.

Waking up from the dream is the worst part. It always takes a few seconds. It's like ... suppose you were underwater and naked and running out of air, deep down where all the light's gone, and you have to come up for air. And you spend every last precious ounce of your life's energy in the effort to rise to the surface and take that badly needed breath, and just as your head breaks from the water you remember, too late, to your horror, that you are a fish.

Why don't you just let me off here. I'll walk the rest of the way.

Chapter Four

In the morning, when the sun is rising, the building that houses the Xeroville Greeting-card Works is eclipsed by the long, yawning shadow of the Taligent Tower. The Tower is the uncontested dominant piece of architecture in the city, the defining element of its skyline, and it is owned by Prospero Taligent, reclusive genius, the richest person in the known world, the inventor of the mechanical man.

Prospero Taligent's tale is one of the last real entrepreneurial legends of the twentieth century. Not many people that anyone knows have actually been inside the Tower, a forbidding monolithic place with obsidian walls rising straight up to the sky, but it is said that Prospero endlessly walks the darkened corridors inside, that he never sleeps, that he has knowledge and talents that border on wizardry, and that miracles are commonplace within the Tower's walls. That there are manufacturing devices with tolerances so small that they can be used to make gears and pulleys and cranks that are nearly invisible to the naked eye. That Prospero's mechanical servants are so intricately and ingeniously constructed that they can play chess competently with masters of the game. That, at this moment, on the top floor of the Tower, a team of engineers and mechanical men under Prospero's direction are at work on the largest zeppelin ever made, a fantastic flying craft that will have a motor the size of a child's fist, and that this motor will be powered by the world's first and only perpetual motion machine.

And, of course, everyone knows about Prospero and his beautiful daughter, Miranda. How one of Prospero's servants found the toddler crawling about naked and grime-covered in a street in the red-light district and, moved to tears, brought her back to sanctuary in the Tower to sue for Prospero's help. How the never-married, childless Prospero fell in love with the girl on sight, used his considerable legal muscle to rescue her from her biological father, an abusive alcoholic semipsychotic schizophrenic gruel salesman, and adopted her to raise just as surely as if she were his own flesh and blood. How Miranda's playroom takes up an entire floor of the Tower, and that it contains creatures for her playmates of all kinds, both human and animal, both living and automatic, including, as the playroom's centerpiece, a breathing, warm, real, magnificent white unicorn.

I could confirm some of these myths if someone asked me to. When I was a child, I saw that unicorn and rode on its back. But now I am no longer a child, and that unicorn is dead and rotted away.

Chapter Five

Ophelia Flavin was six and a half feet tall, and beautiful. "For the first time in years," she said, "I feel young."

Ophelia and Marion Giddings and I were sitting in the writers' lounge of the greeting-card works. Outside, in the city, it was stifling hot, the immense mirrors of skyscraper walls beaming down the sun's scorching rays on asphalt streets. Inside the greeting-card works Christmas morning hung suspended in glass.

Marlon slouched in a corner next to a watercooler, wearing a poorly tailored brown suit, the top button of his shirt undone, the knot of his faded tie loosened, lighting a new cigarette off the tip of the one he'd just smoked down to the butt. "I'm gonna suck some neck tonight, Harry," he said, "you mark my words. I will be sucking neck before dawn tomorrow."

Sugary Christmas music dripped from tinny overhead speakers. Reclining in her chair, Ophelia reached up with a long arm and absently plucked a long, glittering strand of red tinsel from the festooned Christmas tree behind her, pulling it down and winding it around her neck as if it were a feather boa. Ophelia's specialty was birthdays, especially the arbitrary lines that we've invented to separate youth from old age: thirty, forty, fifty, sixty. Jibes about the loss of eyesight; mean-spirited jokes about gravity's hands clawing at the bodies of once-beautiful women, stretching them like putty, twisting them out of shape, painting stomachs with marbled scars. "I feel young again, for the first time in years," she said sleepily. "This morning I had a dream of what it must have been like before the machines. There was a song that you sang when you were young. But only under specific circumstances. The rules were these: if you spotted a male and female alone in each other's company, frequently and willingly, you were to sing the song, immediately, without hesitation. I cannot exactly remember the lyrics, but the song itself was part accusation, part admonishment, part threat. It began with an insinuation, that the youths had been indulging in certain moderately erotic physical contacts in the false security of arboreal camouflage-"

"I want you to smell my neck," Marlon Giddings said to me. I was lying on a couch, staring at the ceiling with my gaze unfocused, trying not to think about the machine noises: the refrigeration unit in the watercooler; the hum of the air-conditioning units behind the walls that were doing their damnedest to simulate winter in the dog days of July; the hissing white noise submerged beneath the high strings and horns of Christmas music. "Smell my neck!" Marlon said. Suddenly I found that he was huddling over me as if he were about to embrace me, and the tip of my nose was pressed against the underside of his chin. I blinked.

"Do you smell that?" Marion said, standing up and taking a drag off his cigarette with a flourish of his hand. "That, my friend, is Love. That is why I'll be sucking neck tonight. A woman said I looked loveless, and she gave me Love in a bottle.

"This is what happened," Marlon said. "Listen. I was walking through a department store, and this woman behind a perfume counter, with too much makeup and the plumage of a peacock ready to mate, pointed her finger at me and said, 'You look loveless.' I spend a lot of time in department stores because they're good places to meet women. Women are very open to suggestion when they're shopping. Their defenses are down. I have a collection of name tags that I stole off the shirts of different workers in department stores. How I steal them is: I just walk up to a clerk all confused- looking like I need help finding something and the guy says, 'Can I help you?' and then I say, 'I'll take that!" and I rip the tag right off his shirt be- fore he can even blink. And he just looks at me thinking, what the hell, that guy just stole my name tag and now he's running away, what would he want with that, my shirt is ruined, that was a remarkably irrational act, and I am troubled. Meanwhile I'm ollie ollie oxen free.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from THE DREAM OF PERPECTUAL MOTION by Dexter Palmer Copyright © 2010 by Dexter Palmer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Contents

PROLOGUE aboard the good ship chrysalis....................1
ONE nightfall in the greeting-card works....................5
INTERLUDE aboard the good ship chrysalis....................24
TWO lovesongs for a virgin queen....................29
INTERLUDE aboard the good ship chrysalis....................130
THREE music for an automatic bronzing....................135
INTERLUDE aboard the good ship chrysalis....................219
FOUR romance in a mechanical dancehall....................227
INTERLUDE aboard the good ship chrysalis....................261
FIVE the dream of perpetual motion....................263
EPILOGUE aboard the good ship chrysalis....................335
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS....................339
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 31 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(2)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2012

    Excellent post-modern sci fi

    This is a book about a man in a universe a bit different from ours. Much of the technology is 1930's, but these technologies are projected into the 2100's. Much of the world's work is done by mechanical men, not today's robots, really; more like perfected robots from a 1950's sci fi movie.

    The book is the life story of a man flying in a zepplin that is supposed to be a perpetual motion machine, though he knows it isn't. He tells of his interaction with the richest and most powerful man in his world and his love for the man's captive daughter who lives in her father's sky scraper.

    I don't want to say a lot because this is a book that deserves to be discovered, piece by lovely piece. The writing is excellent, though it gets a bit slow in the early second half.

    Who is Dexter Palmer and why have I never heard of him? I hope he has something new coming very soon!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A strange read, but oddly compelling

    This was a strange book.

    None of the characters were particularly appealing; from the unlikable Harold Winslow, to the spoiled and unhappy Miranda, to Harold's unpleasant sister Astrid, to the mad genius Prospero Taligent. All of these were interesting characters, but I couldn't find anyone to root for or care about. Yet despite that, I couldn't stop reading either.

    Harold is the narrator, and he shares his life story with us while trapped aboard the zeppelin. He has no one but Miranda's voice for company, as the ship is staffed with mechanical men. He refuses to speak to Miranda, ignoring her pleas, and despite constant search, Harold cannot locate her hiding place.

    We learn about Harold's childhood and how he first met Miranda. Then fast forward to when they briefly met again as adults. The last part deals with how Harold wound up as a prisoner on the zeppelin. Very strange, but also strangely interesting.

    Gave this a 3/5 rating as while I didn't love it, it was still readable and I wanted to know what happened next. This was my first steampunk novel, but won't be my last. Now I'm curious about the genre, and want to explore it more in depth. Was different than my usual type of book, and different is always good.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Straddling the border between literary and SF

    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.


    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 12, 2010

    Self Indulgent garbage

    I am so sorry that I bought this book, I am on page 389 and i still cant get over how bad it is. The only reason why I am still reading it is because I keep telling my self that it cant possibly be this bad and it HAS TO get better....

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)