Intellectual readers of important books with no time for condescending to sci-fi or lesser genres beware: Dexter Palmer’s debut novel is worth your attention. Palmer has a Ph.D. in English Lit from Princeton, and he puts it to good use in crafting a seriously innovative inquiry into the moral perplexities of modern technology. It is a kind of Danielewski’s House of Leaves for the ear. Told in fragments of journals entries, company memos, newspaper headlines, and a collage of other bits and pieces, this patchwork frame is voiced with gravitas and gusto by a modern narrative master. With 200 audiobooks to his credit, as well as 15 Golden Earphones Awards under his belt, William Dufris offers up a stunningly poetic and slow-burning set of characters to the arts and sciences that doom them.
Imagine the city of films like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Imagine this city presided over by an evil genius who is something like the love child of Steve Jobs and Willy Wonka. Imagine this man, Prospero Taligent, has two children: (you guessed it, Shakespeare lovers) Miranda and Caliban. Imagine how easily a man like Prospero could fall from beloved inventor to psychotic madman, from formidable mechanical magician to someone who is more like the love child of Shelley’s Ozymandias and Baum’s Wizard of Oz. Now coat the entire beast with Dufris, doing one part steampunk, one part Spock, and one part whiskey.
You still have no idea what’s in store for you! Enter Harold Winslow, our generic everyman, who is repeatedly plucked from the noise of his spineless and downtrodden humdrum existence every 10 years or so to be the “lucky” dreamer participating in the Taligent family drama. At 10 years of age, Harold loses a bag of nickels; at 20, he loses his virginity; at 30, he loses his mind. Dufris positively dances through Harold’s reconstruction of this remarkable life story, from his wrong turn at the amusement park to his captivity aboard the good ship Chrysalis. Palmer smartly weaves a tale that is no less than a treatise on the psychological expenses for any artist or scientist or ordinary person who would seek to meaningfully engage the technology of their time. Such a timely, weighty exposition demands the likes of William Dufris, who proves once again that he is up to any narrative task, no matter how insane. Megan Volpert
Imprisoned aboard a zeppelin that floats above a city reminiscent of those of the classic films Metropolis and Brazil, the greeting-card writer Harold Winslow is composing his memoirs. His companions are the only woman he has ever loved, who has gone insane, and the cryogenically frozen body of her father, the devilish genius who drove her mad. The tale of Harold's decades-long thwarted love is also one in which he watches technology transform his childhood home from a mere burgeoning metropolis to a waking dream, in which the well-heeled have mechanical men for servants, deserted islands can exist within skyscrapers, and the worlds of fairy tales can be built from scratch. And as he heads toward a final, desperate confrontation with the mad inventor, he discovers that he is an unwitting participant in the creation of the greatest invention of them all: the perpetual-motion machine.
The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a memorable debut that will be one of the most talked-about books of the year.
©2010 Dexter Palmer (P)2010 Tantor
“Palmer's dazzling debut explodes with energy and invention....This book will immediately connect with fans of Neal Stephenson and Alfred Bester, and will surely win over readers who'd ordinarily pass on anything remotely sci-fi.” (Publishers Weekly)
The inventiveness, extent, and detail of this novel, coupled with the total immersion provided by the narrator, have made this experience the best of my 10 years with Audible. Every chapter emerged like a well-planned gift. I eagerly await more from Dexter Palmer, and my next reads will include many narrations by William Dufris.
This is the first audiobook I haven't finished. I don't write books, so I won't comment on whether it is "good" or not, but I will say it was too slow for me. It appears to be more intended as "literature" and focuses on description over action.
That being said, when I heard "I have this recurring dream..." for the 12th time, I had to shut it off.
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