Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Edi's Spotlight: The Dream Of Perpetual Emotion by Dexter Palmer

In June 2010 I wrote a post about how I got the copy of The Dream of Perpetual Motion (2010, 432 p.) [ISBN-13: 978-0312558154] by Dexter Palmer which I read for this review.
Before I plunge in medias res, let me give you some information about the book like a cover and a blurb.
Today I give you the choice either to read the official blurb or my own plot summary.
A zeppelin driven by a perpetual motion machine circles around a world which is affected by steampunk. Aboard and imprisoned are three human beings. The passengers of the high-altitude zeppelin named Chrysalis are the designer and entrepreneur Prospero Taligent, his adopted daughter Miranda and the greeting card designer Harold Winslow. But not all of them are alive.
Harlod Winslow is writing his memoirs. He never meets Miranda Taligent aboard. He only can listen to the disembodied voice of Miranda. And in an unapproachable part of the zeppelin lies the cryogenically frozen body of Prospero Taligent.
The Dream of Perpetual Motion is the story of the mentioned persons, the interweavement of their lifes and the world they are living in.....

Dexter Palmer's debut novel consists of five parts which are separated by four interludes and embraced by a prologue and an epilogue. Each part is divided into numbered chapters. The story told from Harold's point of view and alternates between third-person and first-person.
There are books where I can't read more than 30 pages a day. And The Dream of Perpetual Motion is the perfect example for that. It is a unique, extraordinary read. There is an expression in the book itself which explains nearly what I like to say:
"It is like reading two books, one with each eye, and understanding them both" [p. 113]
Let me specify it a bit more. When I read The Dream of Perpetual Motion, my sense of time slowed down dramatically compared to the time around me. It iwas like sitting in a high-speed train and the landscape whooshed by. I did not have any problem with it. But to read The Dream of Perpetual Motion was like reading three books at the the same time. I got the impression the content of each page had tripled. Reading 30 pages of The Dream of Perpetual Motion has been like reading 90 pages in an other book!! I took me longer to read these 30 pages than usual and to be honest I have been totally filled up in a very beneficial way.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion is far beyond to be an action paced novel. It is something I would classify as Literary Steampunk. My choice of font seize shows the relationship between literature and steampunk. To be honest I was not aware that the book is heavily based on The Tempest by William Shakespeare because I did not read The Tempest so far. But that is not the only reason why The Dream of Perpetual Motion is so much more literary than other steampunk novels.

For a debut author the writing of Dexter Palmer is exceptional. A gorgeous and descriptive prose. I can' t remember when I read the last time such thoughtful philosophical debates on meaningful subjects. Dexter Palmer owns the ability to adapt his writing to each of the different characters. You will fully understand what I mean when you read for example the story of the portraitmaker. And there is also humor, idiosyncratic humor. A humor where sometimes your smile will freeze on your face. The story is as deep as complex and equipped with an unbelievably imagination. During the whole story Dexter Palmer has everything under control like a master puppeteer.

Now you may think this must be my novel of the year. I must disappoint you. As a reader you have to take care not to drown in the immeasurably world of words. at some places the story is a bit too ambitious, too clever and hard to follow.

I think The Dream of Perpetual Motion belongs to the kind of books which you either love or not. There is nothing between.

You should definitely avoid to read The Dream of Perpetual Motion in case you expect a fast driven, action paced steampunk adventure.
But I hope you are open-minded enough to give this extraordinary writer and his debut novel a try.

6 comments:

Sarah said...

Wow, this is a glowing review. Since we mirror our reading tastes quite often, I'll have to give it a try. I'm always up for trying new things. I don't think I've read an official "steampunk" book yet and I'd be happy to give one a try.

ediFanoB said...

Sarah,
The Dream Of Perpetual Motion is really different compared tothe books I read recently.
I would like to know what you think about it.

Shellie - Layers of Thought said...

Edi - Nice review as always. As well as diplomatic. :)

I think that John felt the same way you did regarding the book. He said something about it being very intellectual. So the literary bit which you mentioned sounds right on the mark.

I have personally read one steam punk and it was Soulless which we both loved.

I am not sure I will get around to reading this one, since I have so many books to read and now that I live vicariously through you and John both.

Now to catch up on your other posts.

ediFanoB said...

Shellie,

thank you. I tried to express that THE DREAM OF PERPETUAL MOTION is an extraordinary read but not for everyone.

There are more reviewers who think like John and me about the book.

Simcha said...

I remember hearing about this book a while ago but I didn't really look into it too much. So far I've read a few different steampunk novels, all of which were vastly different, and so I might like to try this one as well to see how it compares. It sounds like a book I might enjoy. Thanks for the review!

ediFanoB said...

Simcha,

I would like to know what you think about this book because it is really different compared to other steampunk books I read.

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