The Dream of Perpetual Motion

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A wonderfully imagined debut novel about a greeting card writer who must come to terms with the madness of a genius inventor and his quest to create the perpetual motion machine.

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 wellheeled 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.

Praise for The Dream of Perpetual Motion

“In his tragicomic first novel […], Dexter Palmer takes elements from Nabokov, Neal Stephenson, Steven Millhauser, and ‘The Tempest,’ tosses them into a retrofuturistic blender and hits ‘purée.’ The result is a singular riff on steampunk—sophisticated, subversive entertainment that never settles for escapism.”

—JEFF VANDERMEER, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“An extravagantly wondrous first novel […] an elegy for our own century and the passing of the power of the word, written and spoken.”

—ELIZABETH HAND, THE WASHINGTON POST

“An intoxicatingly ambitious debut novel that somehow seems to encapsulate everything the author believes about everything…. A novel of ideas that holds together like a dream.”

—KIRKUS REVIEWS (STARRED REVIEW; BEST DEBUT FICTION OF 2010)

“Crafting his prose as finely and evocatively as Nicholas Christopher or Mark Helprin, Dexter Palmer conjures up a new flavor of steampunk.”

—PAUL DI FILIPPO, THE BARNES & NOBLE REVIEW

“Palmer’s dazzling debut explodes with energy and invention on every page.”

—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (STARRED REVIEW)

“[A] gorgeously surreal first novel… part farce, part act of willed convergence—an attempt to blur the lines between our reality and the fantastic imagined world.”

— MATTHEW SHAER, BOOKFORUM

“Like the majority of contemporary novelists, I have often fantasized about Jules Verne, Nathanael West, and Thomas Pynchon meeting up in some netherworld saloon and, upon discovering they have absolutely nothing in common save a mutual affection for The Tempest, agreeing to reify their enthusiasm via a threeway collaboration filled with zeppelins, androids, monsters, virtual islands, linguistic felicity, and state-of-the-art weirdness. And now I must thank Dexter Palmer for making my dream come true.”

—JAMES MORROW, AUTHOR OF THE LAST WITCHFINDER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S APPRENTICE

“Tender and sui generis: a steampunk The Tempest with the grim and rippling beauty of a fairy tale. Dexter Palmer is an ambitious writer, with vast reach toward the exploration of big ideas, among them what it means to create, the limits of the human body, and the uses and inadequacies of language. The marvelous kicker being, of course, that he has the moxie to do so in prose that sings.

—LAUREN GROFF, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON

“A strange, passionate, enthralling first novel, a novel which is itself a kind of perpetual motion machine—constantly turning, giving off more energy than it receives, its movement at once beautiful and counterintuitive.”

—KEVIN BROCKMEIER, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD

“The breadth and depth of Dexter Palmer’s storytelling is exhilarating. He’s written a smart, funny, sad, and beautiful novel, full of magic, mystery, mechanical men, and a delightful amount of mayhem.”

—SCOTT SMITH, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE RUINS

“Dexter Palmer has given us a novel that’s magnificent and strange and maybe a little harrowing too; I don’t know quite how he did it, but it seems to have something to do with his figuring out how to let words get out about and mean what they feel like meaning that day and yet at the same time be in a tempest too. Bravo for this beautiful book!”

—RIVKA GALCHEN, CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED AUTHOR OF ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES

“Steampunk comes of age with this book.”

— JONATHAN MABERRY, AUTHOR OF PATIENT ZERO