Wednesday, October 12, 2011

ARCHIVED REVIEW: The Dream of Perpetual Motion (8/9/10)

The Dream of Perpetual Motion
by Dexter Palmer

This was a very well-written book. It was very hard for me to get into at first because I had just gotten off the brutal, visceral and surgically precise style of Joe Abercrombie, so I had little patience for Palmer's dreamlike writing.

In this book, you often do not know who the narrator is. You think it's the main character, who says at the beginning that he is writing his journal, but then it switches to third person. It often goes back and forth in time, and uses the writings of other characters to augment the main character's point of view. Its one of those books where you know how it will end, and you read to figure out how it gets that way.

The story takes place at the turn of a century, at the beginning of an industrial revolution. It seems like a steampunk book, but you are never really sure what world you are in. All you know is that it is a world changing from an age of miracles to an age of machines, a metaphor for the transformation from childhood to adulthood, from wonder to apathy, that carries throughout the book.

The main character is Harold Winslow, whose made a choice early in life to have his destiny irrevocably tied to the famous and elusive inventor Prospero, and his secluded adopted daughter Miranda. At first, you think it is a retelling of the Tempest, but it turns out that Prospero chose his name and that of his daughter to mirror the characters in the play. He has tried to shape his life to emulate them.

At times the book is a bit disturbing, b/c the main character is very detached from life. Horrific things start happening, and they are made all the more horrific because we see them through the lens of someone who has no emotional response to them.

Recommended for those who like steampunk, Shakespeare, and books like The Book Thief (though I don't believe it is as good).

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