The Dream of Perpetual Motion

The Dream of Perpetual Motion

by Dexter Palmer

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Overview

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 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, Dexter Palmer's The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a heartfelt meditation on the place of love in a world dominated by technology.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312680534
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 02/01/2011
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

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).

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.

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

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The Dream of Perpetual Motion 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
alexia561 More than 1 year ago
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.
Jvstin More than 1 year ago
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.
ChrisRiesbeck on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Literary steampunk. Which means it's really interested in steampunk only as a backdrop. It's really about entropy, both personal and social. The world is not ours, nor even an alternate history. Once there were angels, now there are steam-driven robots and dirigibles. Things are not as good as they were and seem to be heading downhill. I don't regret the time spent reading this novel, but I found it lacking on a number of levels. I thought the author took on few challenges in his setting, in the situations in which he placed his hero, in the themes he explored. My personal reaction as things changed and developed was always "kind of what I would imagine." The hero developed very little. His worldview as a child was much like his worldview as an adult, just less knowledgable. Hence there was no sense of tragedy, or struggle, despite all the running around. So this comes down to an "eh, OK" for me.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With characters named Prospero, his daughter Miranda and his son Caliban, The Dream of Perpetual Motion is clearly intended to evoke William Shakespeare¿s The Tempest. Dream takes place in a fantasy version of 20th-century America, as The Tempest takes place on a magical island, but in Dream the Age of Miracles is over and magic has been replaced by machines, particularly the mechanical men that Prospero Taligent invented. Yet the novel retains a surreal, dreamlike quality more conducive to a time of miracles, and Prospero Taligent is more like a magician than scientist in his constant manipulation of the lives, minds and even bodies of the other characters.The novel opens at the end of the story, with the main character, Harry Winslow, trapped aboard a zeppelin with the unseen Miranda and Prospero¿s corpse, perpetually circling the Earth. Harry reveals that he murdered Prospero and then proceeds to tell the story leading up to the murder, which takes place in three parts, or acts.In the first part, Harry is 10 years old and, as the result of a series of bizarre episodes, he is invited to Miranda¿s 10th birthday party, where he meets Miranda for the first time. At the party, Prospero promises the 100 randomly chosen guests that he will grant their hearts¿ desires at some time during their lives. Afterward, Harry becomes Miranda¿s playmate; they meet in a playroom in the Tower where she lives and Prospero runs his business, a playroom designed like an enchanted island. However, when Harry kisses Miranda, Prospero banishes him, and he doesn¿t see Miranda again for 10 years.When he is 20, Harry is kidnapped for no clear reason and must rescue Miranda, who was also kidnapped. Harry soon figures out that the scheme was engineered by Prospero as part of granting Harry his heart¿s desire. After making love to Miranda in her playroom, Harry doesn¿t see either her or Prospero for another 10 years, during which time he lives a dull, lonely life as a writer of greeting cards. Then more scheming on Prospero¿s part brings Harry back to the Tower for a final confrontation.This is a coming-of-age story not only for Harry, but also for the entire human species, which has entered adulthood in the modern mechanical age, ushered in by Prospero¿s inventions. Like mankind itself, Harry has abandoned the dreams and possibilities of childhood ¿ his Age of Miracles ¿ and has become cynical and disillusioned. The future has been lost to him, and restoring that moment when everything is possible is what Prospero correctly identifies as Harry¿s ¿ and everyone¿s ¿ true heart¿s desire.Palmer has built a disturbing, surreal world in Xeroville, the major city in his alternate America. His writing is evocative; his images linger. One memorable early scene is of young Harry in his bed in the dark, listening on the radio to the news of a terrible airship crash that echoes the Hindenburg disaster while his father and sister argue in the next room. Another is of young Miranda emotionlessly turning a crank to control a full mechanical orchestra, the entertainment at her own birthday party. As the novel progresses, the images become increasingly stranger and more horrific, culminating in Harry¿s final nightmarish journey through the Tower.Yet it was difficult to connect with these characters and their desires. Harry is anything but a hero, and he knows it; he is bitter, reluctant to act, unsure whether he believes in anything enough to get involved. Prospero is clearly deranged. And Miranda is so idealized by all the men around her that she hardly has a character, until at the end she becomes nothing more than a disembodied voice. This disconnect is heightened by the ambiguities of the story, which though they seem intentional, don¿t really satisfy the reader. Despite these flaws, The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a haunting novel and a unique addition to the growing alternate history, steampunk genre.
kkisser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First and foremost, I could not read the last third of this book. Beware, this is not an adventure, such as most Steampunk novels follow. I tried in earnest to complete the book, but had no motivation to find out what happens to the characters and was not given a singular reason to do so. The story revolves around Shakespeare's play the Tempest, but does not have the impact in it's own story. The story is fragmented in it's telling without a conflict to peak your interest. The telling is physically fragmented into short chapters between sections with large chapter headings, sometimes between the same scene, pulling you sharply out of the world. I will say there are some nice moments in the story, with Harold, the protagonist, contemplating his life and the story his weaving. Unfortunately, they are few and in between scenes of lackluster descriptions.
thejohnsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The pace is slow, the characters not particularly engaging and it took me quite a while to finish. So, not a 'page-turner'but I did finish it and I'm glad I did. Its an interesting if not exciting read.
RandyStafford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Locked in an airship slowly descending to Earth, our narrator Harold Winslow tells us a story - his first despite years of writing verse for the "sentiment development division of the Xeroville Greeting-card Works". And quite a tale it is, an explanation of why his lifelong love Miranda is also aboard , never to be seen or touched by him, and why her adopted father, the mad genius Prospero Taligent, builder of the airship, is also aboard in suspended animation. It seems the dream of perpetual motion in the sky, tended by mechanical men, is not to be.It's a story full of literary concerns with language and sounds and storytelling. Several characters quite deliberately set out to shape the narratives of their lives and others. And, of course, there are the frequent allusions to Shakespeare's Tempest. The plotting is definitely along the literary genre lines. In the crucial finale of the novel, we have to stop to hear not one but four characters' stories.Science fiction and steampunk fans should not expect something truly novel. Genre images and icons are appropriated, but there is not a great deal of speculative rigor here, the working out of an idea's implications no matter how inherently absurd that idea is. We have a dash of cyberpunk in a world run by corporations and with no nation states though we never go beyond the confines of Xeroville or hear of any other cities. This is an alternate history of the vaguest sort. We only know this world diverged from our timeline sometime after Shakespeare. It is only in the last two parts of the novel that we are introduced to anything approaching an inherently interesting speculation and that involves the nature of Prospero's imprisoned son Caliban. There are mechanical men and steampowered "demons" and other interesting machines, but they are mostly there for drama and color and not deeply pondered as technology. Despite Prospero's aestheticism, we don't revel in their beauty with long descriptions.And yet it works. I'm not a fan of the modern literary novel, but I liked this amalgam. Palmer welds the literary clockwork assembly to the chassis of steampunk and retro science fiction imagery. The solder he uses is interesting dialogue and humor. I think I detected Philip K. Dick's influence on some of Prospero's wackier machines - particularly the shrinkcab. Prospero's frequently appearing henchmen Gideon and Martin are funny and sinister. There is a literal wielder of acid. And the section involving Harold's suicidally creative sister Astrid and the spouting of a great deal of litcrit jargon was funny and seemed to be Palmer's poke at a modern aesthetic that values discomfort over beauty.
Big_Bang_Gorilla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In which greeting-card poet Harry is imprisoned in a perpetually airborne zeppelin by mad scientist-cum-magician Prospero and his children Miranda and Caliban--and if that's not enough Shakespearean namechecks for you, yes, there are plenty of Ferdinands and Ophelias in the supporting cast as well. This is an imaginative book by a talented author who has the gift of telling you fascinating insights about yourself and the way you view the world in phrases far more creative than you could think up yourself. He makes clear that the magical world he builds is set in the twentieth-century, but it's a different twentieth-century, one in which Flash Gordon-era technology took off and created a world run by mechanical men (never "robots") with funnel-shaped heads and steam coming out their ears who operate from their helicopters, zeppelins, and flying cars. It's a world redolent of that masterful novelist Steven Millhauser, a world of involuted, layered reality. Now the bad news: the book is too long by half, and although I appreciated it throughout, I didn't always enjoy the ride and it eventually became a joyless slog. There are plenty of episodes devoted entirely to ego trips such as ridiculing litcrit jargon, and pointless post-modernist exercises such as the author introducing himself as a character. A background annoyance is the publisher's relentless insistence in promoting this as 'steampunk', a word which has attained escape velocity into total meaninglessness.
jasonpettus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(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-9/11 speculative novels that don't really fit the narrow definitions of such existing genres as science-fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, supernatural and more. (And indeed, this is a particularly appropriate term for such books, being directly based as it is on the old "Weird" category of fiction from the 1800s, what the Victorians essentially called any speculative novel until the split into contemporary genres during the Modernist decades of the 1930s, '40s and '50s.) As can be expected, the quality of New Weird books in general can be real hit-and-miss; but definitely one of the "hits" right now is Dexter Palmer's stunning but literally unclassifiable literary debut earlier this year, The Dream of Perpetual Motion, which I just got a chance to read myself this weekend. Because when I say "unclassifiable," I really mean it; just going through my notes after finishing, for example, I found references to Willy Wonka, Frankenstein and other mad-scientist tales, steampunk, 21st Century alt-history, the Grimm Brothers, and even the complex verbal poetry we usually associate with more academic writers. (In fact, I think it no coincidence that Palmer received a PhD from Princeton in English Lit, and that his dissertation was on no less than comparing the work of James Joyce and Thomas Pynchon, which makes my head hurt just thinking about it; and I also think it no coincidence that this was published by the intellectual's friend St. Martin's Press, not exactly known for their sci-fi actioners.)But of course, this leads us to the very first thing you absolutely must know about this book in order to have even a chance of enjoying it -- that despite the cover and all its marketing material, it's not a steampunk story, at least not in the way we conventionally define the genre, but is rather set in an alt-history version of our own times in the late 20th century, a speculative Earth that didn't see the Industrial Revolution catch on until long after it took place in reality, and with its innovations mostly being the work of a single individual, the brilliant but mysterious Prospero Taligent who's the very definition of crazed scientist (including living alone in a mammoth obsidian skyscraper in the middle of the New-York-like "Xeroville" metropolis where our story takes place). This then makes the development of technology progress in a profoundly different way in this alt-Earth, which like Terry Gilliam's Brazil actually creates a mix of steampunkish elements with contemporary touchstones -- it's a world where people now take for granted the ornate mechanical servants that dot the city, but where the idea of a machine that can do math by itself is still a miraculous wonder, a world where people still have telephone answering machines but where the messages are literally etched onto wax cylinders, and with the owner having to hand-crank it when they get home to hear what it says.Knowing, then, that the book is deliberately supposed to be a cross-genre fairytale, deliberately told in a highly stylized way (think Steven Spielberg's AI: Artificial Intelligence...in fact, your reaction to that will largely inform what you think of this novel as well), it's easier to get into the spirit of the actual story being told -- the story of sad-sack greeting-card writer Harold Winslow, that is, who as the book opens is imprisoned on a cutting-edge zeppelin perpetually orbiting Xeroville (powered by the fabled perpetual-motion engine of
Jvstin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 d
figre on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In trying to sum up this novel, the phrase that sprang to mind was Steampunk Fantasy. (At the same time, that may ¿ as with any attempt to try and summary a novel with two words ¿ trivialize what is going on here.) As expected from the blurbs and cover art, there are Steampunk concepts and images ¿ a Zeppelin powered by a perpetual motion engine, metal men, flying cars. But there are also images and episodes which have a Fantasy element ¿ flying to the princess¿ tower (with the help of the mechanical men), a flesh and blood unicorn, the rescuing of damsels in distress, even the story of Rapunzel (although not expressively stated as such.) And there are deeper themes than might first be observed ¿ machines replacing nature, the meaning of family, the dichotomy of love and madness.These ideas and images all come together into the story of Harold Wilson. He tells his story of how he wound up riding the greatest invention of time. This starts with him, as a boy, getting the opportunity to meet Miranda ¿ the adopted daughter of the greatest genius of all time, Prospero. The story of how Harold gets this opportunity is an amazing blend of boyhood innocence, amusement parks, science, and family pathos. Harold meets Miranda at her birthday party and they eventually become friends. In this way, we start to learn about the private life that makes up Miranda¿s existence. Harold commits an unpardonable sin and is banished from their Eden. Finally, the world begins to fall apart (with great help from Prospero) and Harold has to make his charge onto the Zeppelin.I was not immediately entranced with this book. And I must take some of the blame because I expected more wit and humor related to the absurdity of the Steampunk motifs. But once I got up to speed with the author, a good and interesting story emerged. There is a lot here and it threatens to run away with the story. The author almost dips too deeply into his themes, leaving the story to occasionally flounder. And his allusions come close to running amuck ¿ I haven¿t even mentioned the Frankenstein and Shakespeare touch points. Yet, to have minor flaws for over-ambition is never a bad thing. No, the book is not a home run. But it has much going for it and much to offer. And every reader should be able to leave with something worthwhile.
Laurenbdavis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A steam-punk Tempest, a meditation on technology and love and the power of words, with a grand dollop of metaphysics thrown in. This is a unique book from a writer of enormous imagination and wit. At times I laughed out loud -- the Critic-o-matic, for example -- at others the prose just took my breath away. The riff on sounds contained within a particularly lethal symphony is worth the price of the book. So original! What a mind, what a mind, what a mind!!
alaskabookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Borrowing from both Shakespeare¿s ¿The Tempest¿ and contemporary science fiction, Dexter Palmer¿s new novel ¿The Dream of Perpetual Motion¿ is a fairy tale-like romp; an alternate-history future/past in which there are no computers but lots of flying cars.In a world where meaningful communication has become archaic, the hero of the story, Harold Winslow, finds moderate success as a greeting card writer. Through his couplets and poems, the rest of humanity can deliver to loved ones the words that they are incapable of finding on their own.At age 10, Harry¿s life is forever changed when he meets Miranda Taligent, socially-awkward adopted daughter of reclusive corporate scion, Prospero Taligent. The Taligents live in Taligent Tower, by far the tallest building in Xeroville. There they enshrine themselves in creations of Prospero¿s thwarted mechanical and technological genius, living in a false reality. Taligent is the inventor of the mechanical man, and is hugely wealthy and powerful. At every turn, Prospero is capable of delivering your heart¿s desire, but is incapable of deep meaningful human connection. Love floats at the periphery of the story. Palmer¿s emotionally stunted characters are incapable of not only of not expressing love, but perhaps of even feeling it. At various turns in the story, in the midst of crisis, Harold is barely responsive. He suggests he is turning from human to one of Taligent¿s tin men. The only character who understands love ¿ and the mystery that is love ¿ is Harold¿s father, a man who can remember when ¿angels walked the streets¿: a time when faith and mystery still existed. He is a truly gentle, loving man, but in the mechanical world in which he inhabits his latter years, enigmatic to his children.Palmer¿s story is ambitious. Though it bounces around chronologically and is jam-packed full of symbols and iconography, he manages to the keep the reader focused. This densely written book evidences laborious and careful treatment; Palmer¿s writes beautifully. But because it¿s so clear that he is an accomplished writer, I found myself feeling like parts of the book were unnecessary ¿ such as characters who are introduced as seemingly important, then vanish forever a page later. There are also emotional gaps. Granted, the setting is meant to be stark and emotionless, but this occurs to an extent that it is difficult to believe they feel anything at all, even when they say they do; or to feel much sympathy for any of them.In the end, for me, the story didn¿t live up to its initial promise; as if it tries a bit too hard. At times, I did find myself getting lost in Palmer¿s invented alternate reality, and for that, I liked it. His prose is downright lovely at times. In any case, this is a book readers will probably either love or hate. Hopefully my comments and the comments of other readers will steer readers in the right direction.
Philotera on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a child, Harold Winslow, a greeting card writer, meets Miranda Taligent, daughter of inventor Prospero Taligent. A bond is formed that changes Harold's life forever, and not particularly for the better. Harold's world is populated by Taligent's mechanical men developed by Prospero. These mechanical men do most of the work, making the "Dream of Perpetual Motion" appear to be a steampunk novel, although I found the worldbuilding to be lacking compared to other works in the genre. While many of the character names in the books are derived from Shakespeare, I failed to see any thematic resemblance, inverted or otherwise. I wondered briefly if Palmer derived Taligent's name from Apple's early 1990's OS, then decided I was thinking too hard.While the prose is very elegant,and the book was crammed with interesting ideas, they were not developed and more often than not served to derail the main plot line. Unfortunately, the plot could never find its feet and the characters were never developed into more than one dimensional figures designed to spout ideologies supporting the author's themes which appeared run along the lines of the lack of communication between people, how love is impossible, and what you want and what you get are not always the same.This is a shame. There were moments in the book that were genuinely good.
psybre on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Harold Wilson recounts his earlier life as a second child, an anti-romantic greeting-card writer, a self-proclaimed coward, a character played with by fate to remain, always, mediocre. "The Dream of Perpetual Motion" was a satisfying read with plenty of surprises. The world building of this alternate reality formed at a pleasant pace and was thorough and immersible.To enjoy this book it's possible that one needs to have strong empathy with Harold Wilson, for his character is the only character fully developed in the novel, and is not your usual hero or lover or friend.The darkness and technology and skulduggery usually inherent in the steampunk genre, was in this book put on a low burner and gradually turned up to reach a scalding boil. I professed midway through to friends that it was a refreshing twist that gore and horror and torture were notably subdued, only to find that as the story fully unravels the author is supremely true to steampunk.Through (relatively) minor characters, the author indulges in some philosophy of art, and some philosophy of feminism, which was interesting; I like that Palmer's world contains technological zealots and third-wave feminists and had not seen that in other works.Howard is such a complex yet unsuccessful person that it is likely impossible to identify with him fully. Bullies will not like this book. I give this book at least four stars for I was able to identify with Harold on several levels, the writing was good and courageous, and everywhere were wonderful, creative gadgets (and dolls).
princemuchao on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Harold writes his tale of how a chance decision made when he was 10 years old led to his imprisonment (or realization of his heart's desire?) in an ever-floating Zeppelin high above the world 20 years later.Although The Tempest is clearly the Shakespearean touch-point for the Prospero character, who names himself and his children after characters from the play, displays technological wizardry, and maroons himself in his Tower in the middle of the city, I think the philosophy of the book may have more in common with Hamlet.I can't help but notice that Palmer has, perhaps intentionally, refused to supply his characters with proper motivations for their actions. The dream-like quality of the novel adds to this perception. The Stoppardesque, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-like Martin and Gideon are the most obvious parallel, but the protagonist Harold is extremely indecisive and repeatedly "finds himself" doing things for no reasons he can articulate. The sad, and inscrutable Miranda is like an Ophelia-by-way-of-Helena-Bonham-Carter (although in a sense, Miranda only shares 2/3 of her fate).I imagine that if I read this novel when I was younger I would have liked it much more. In my early twenties I enjoyed the vagaries that can be found here more than I do now... I have to say, the novel turned out to be a bit of an unsatisfying muddle.I can't put my finger on what it was that made me stop caring how it ended, but I suspect it was a combination of the lack of character motivation, a clearly-forecast ending, and the feeling I had that the Steampunk aspect of the story was all surface dressing - the notes are all hit, but they are hollow. This same story could have been told in other genres with few changes, and the atmosphere seems forced.What I did like was the narrative voice of Harold, and it was certainly no chore to finish the book. Maybe if he decides to change genre, I'll give Palmer another shot. It seems that he was trying to say something profound, and through a lacking in either my comprehension or his clarity, we did not fully connect. I think that without the steampunk gear-and-steam diversions, his ideas would be forced to stand up, take center stage, and take hold of the reader on their own and not take the back seat to doo-hickies and whats-its.
karieh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So many of the odd aspects of modern life are addressed in "The Dream of Perpetual Motion". How amazing innovations are occurring all the time but people are so jaded that they barely notice. How life moves faster and faster but people seem to stay in the same place. How people seem to be able to communicate more - but less is said."Any story told in this machine age must be a story of fragments, for fragments are all the world has left: interrupted threads of talk at crowded cocktail parties; snatches of poems heard as a radio dial spins through its arc; incomplete commandments reclaimed from shattered stones.""Ever story need a voice to tell it though, or it goes unheard. So I have to try. I still have enough faith left in language to believe that if I place enough words next to each other on the page, they will start to speak with sounds of their own."The story that is told in this book is an odd one, to be sure. It's a mix of the modern day and the early twentieth century. Of bygone eras and future dystopias. The Tempest is at the core of it, but since I haven't read that for decades...only the character names ring any bells with me. The whole book has a fairy tale quality to it¿but a fairy tale of sepia tones with a warped soundtrack with scratches across the flickering images ¿ not one of bright colors and a fanciful score.Or maybe it¿s more like a dream¿ ¿It is this way in dreams; when decisions are being made, they have already been made.¿ This is the story of Prospero Taligent ¿ a character whose strongest role is either an evil genius or an obsessed father. While he may not be considered the main character, he is the puppet master behind the other major characters. Miranda Taligent, the daughter he either adopted or created, depending on how you look at it. Caliban Taligent, his son, owes his existence to father as well, but not in the usual way. And Harold Winslow, the main character whose life is shaped by the Taligent family.There are mechanical men, but no Internet. There are flying cars, but automats are still popular. Noise is still recorded on wax cylinders but there is such a think as a ¿shrinkcabbie¿. The reader is unable to settle on a time period for this story ¿ but the important thing is that it is in the machine age. A different age than humans had ever been seen before.¿It may have been as simple as that Miranda¿s message to me was unique. It wasn¿t written by a committee; it wasn¿t one of ten million machine-made copies; it wasn¿t blaring out the speaker of every radio in the city; it wasn¿t printed on the inside of a greeting card in a script choking on its own flourishes and curlicues. It was composed by a single person, for the express purpose of communicating an original message to another, specific person. It was composed with that person, me, in mind. And so few messages like that were left in the world.¿To some, this is the age of dreams, when almost anything is possible. But if everything is possible¿then what is left to dream of? When all of the answers have been found then what is left to discover? ¿To us common men it wasn¿t worth the pleasure of looking at a woman and knowing that we found her beautiful because of the distance between the tip of her nose and her top lip and the size of her eyes, if it meant losing the equally wonderful pleasure of looking at that same woman and finding her beautiful without knowing why.¿Ignorance is bliss, then.There are so many more answers in the modern world¿and yet the characters in this book are diminished by that. This book suggests that the miracle is in the dreaming, not the ultimate result.Magic vs. science¿dreams vs. reality.I have a feeling that when I look back on this book¿this is how I shall feel:¿¿write down everything you can remember. You¿ll want to have it written down to look back on later, when your mind sands all the sharp edges off your memory and makes it into a dream that it will have you believe is true.¿
blakefraina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 sequestered and mysterious daughter of the city¿s most powerful man, inventor extraordinaire Prospero Taligent, his father tells him to write about the experience, advising the boy, "Write down what you think happened, or what you believe happened or something like what might have happened¿all are true, in their own way." And when discussing true miracles versus contemporary inventions, Harold tells his father that his teacher knows nothing; that instead "¿the books know everything for her." His sister, Astrid, is a conceptual/performance artist whose goal is, "¿liberating language from the patriarchy." And much later, Prospero tells Harold that, "With faith in God comes faith in language," for God is like a great Author who brings a sense of order to the chaos of existence. Even the monstrous Caliban, a failed experiment of Taligent¿s, clings to superstitions about the power of words. Here he¿s depicted as a sort of Frankenstein¿s monster who spends every waking moment typing on a typewriter [surgically attached to his head], attempting to find a 72 letter name that will unlock the secret of humanity. There is even a neighborhood in the city, Picturetown, whose residents have rejected language entirely, opting instead to communicate by scrawling pictograms onto index cards. Dexter Palmer, the author himself, even makes a cameo appearance as a novelist, and a bit of a windbag, at a party attended by Harold and Astrid¿s artistic set. Over time, Harold becomes more and more obsessed with Miranda and, as an adult, attempts to rescue her from the monolithic skyscraper where her father holds her prisoner. His harrowing quest ultimately leads him to discover the ghoulish truth about her existence and leaves him forever stranded, floating above the city in a dirigible, writing the memoir we are reading with no one but the frozen body of Prospero and the disembodied voice of his beloved for company.This is a wonderful, wonderful book. It¿s filled with arresting imagery, it¿s kooky, weird, elaborate, thrilling, chilling, disturbing and thought-provoking. If you¿re looking for a challenging read, this is the one.
booksmitten on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Shakespeare's Tempest collides with Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the result is an imaginative steampunk romp unlike any other book I've ever read. It's weird, it's a little grotesque, and its mechanical wonderland is not so unlike the one we find ourselves living in today.I don't often dabble in scifi or fantasy, but I certainly enjoyed this book.
kanadani on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting book. In the beginning, it felt a little disjointed, which was what I'm sure was intended. As the story unfolded though, you are swept up in following an anti-hero of Harold who finds his life entangled with the almost magical, and somewhat maniacal Prospero Taligent's machinations. I enjoyed the book though wasn't sold until the last third. In particular, I liked how this interesting and detailed world worked not as the focus of the story but as an intriguing backdrop to the character development. While it seemed like the setting was created at some form of ideal it was tarnished as any world should be when people are living in it.
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