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.
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