Friday, June 4, 2010

Review by JD: The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer


John’s Thoughts:

A complex and clever story. I was drawn to the book when I read the plot, and thought I was going to really enjoy reading it. However, I found some aspects of the book a little difficult, and it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

The story is set in an alternative present where technology has run riot – only the technological wizardry of the day is mechanical rather than electronic. Machines and mechanical men are taking over more and more aspects of peoples’ lives, and nearly all the technology is created by the genius, Prospero Taligent. Prospero runs his own corporation that produces mechanical marvels, and as the story progresses he becomes ever more reclusive and ever more crazy.

The one true love of his life is his daughter Miranda. He is over-zealous in the way he nurtures and protects her, and she is at one and the same time fabulously privileged and horribly deprived. She has no concept of a normal life. Prospero is horrified as Miranda grows up and starts to lose her childish innocence; this fuels his madness, and his increasingly odd behavior in turn fuels her madness.

Enter Harold Winslow, a “normal” person who narrates the whole story. At the start of the book both he and Miranda are imprisoned on Prospero’s Zeppelin, which is destined to fly around the world forever, powered by a perpetual motion machine. He looks back over the previous twenty years of his life, and the three fateful occasions when his paths crossed with those of the Taligent family.

You have to admire Dexter’s imagination and the strange word that he has created which, despite its strangeness, clearly has many parallels with our own world. The book is full of interesting ideas, lots of details and rich characters. Prospero and Miranda are both complex and deeply damaged characters, while Harold is much easier to relate to. You want things to turn out well for him, though right from the outset you know that they will not.

As you may have guessed by the characters’ names, the central role of an all-powerful reclusive genius, and the focal point of a father-daughter relationship, the story has many links to Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. Throw in the mechanical men and there is also a link to the science fiction movie “Forbidden Planet”, which was also based on the same Shakespeare play.

Does this all sound fascinating? It is, so why did I start out by saying I found it a little difficult? In several places I found the writing style rather too complex and dense, making it a bit of a tough read. Dexter is almost being too clever for his own good, at least in the eyes of this reader. At times I went a bit glassy eyed and had to work to push on through.

On balance, there are lots of great things about the book, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I’d rate it 3.5 stars.

For more information on the novel, the author, steam punk, and of course purchasing options link to Layers of Thought’s preview for The Dream of Perpetual Motion.

Written by John and posted by Shellie, where John/JD will be addressing the comments for this post.

Thank you for reading Layers of Thought!


logankstewart said...

It sounds excellent, despite its dense language. Excellent review.

John D said...

Thanks Logan. This was one of the more difficult reviews I've written. There is so much about the book which is great, yet in the end I struggled a bit with it.

Anonymous said...

Definitely steam punk, and I'm drawn by the cover.

I would read this book based on your review, John, but I hate getting bogged down in techno-babble. Another example of poor editing, where the difficult passages should have been pared down or re-written.

I can appreciate how hard some books are to review. In a couple of instances, I've started a review 10 or 12 times, nothing "worked," and I ended up trashing the whole thing. Good work.

John D said...

Hi Charlie. It is a great cover isn't it.

It's not so much techno-babble as its all mechanical and that part is very interesting.

If I had to "babble" it I'd say that what I stumbled over a bit was more psycho-babble than techno-babble.

Cheryl said...

You did a great review of that book. I gave you an award at:

Unknown said...

Cheryl -
Thank you! I have not gotten an award it months.

I will be right over to pick it up.

I have some here in a file that I have meaning to pass out so expect one from me - not sure when, but its coming up!

ediFanoB said...

Finally I found time to read your review and to leave a comment as I promised.
I want to read the book for the same reasons and of course I have expectations.

It is always difficult to read reviews about book which I want to review on my own.

Of course there is an influence. Your thoughtful review forced me to change my expectations a bit.

Anyway I have to finish two other books first before I will read The Dream of Perpetual Motion.

Your excellent review sets the bar high for other reviews.

John D said...

Hi Edi,
Thanks for the kind words and I hope you that you enjoy reading this book. I'll be very interested to hear what you think and will be looking out for your review. Cheers,

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