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->“Storytelling—that’s not the future. The future, I’m afraid, is flashes and impulses. It’s made up of moments and fragments, and stories won’t survive.”
-->--''Prospero Taligent''

A {{Steampunk}} novel by Dexter Palmer, which extolls the virtues of Not Knowing against the pragmatism of Knowing Everything.

It takes place in [[AlternateHistory the first half of the 20th Century]], where mechanical men and inventive machines dot the landscape. The main characters are Harold Winslow, a (failed) aspiring writer who does greeting cards to pay the bills, Prospero Taligent, the genius inventor of all the machinery that now dominates the world, and his daughter, Miranda, who is a cultural icon. Other characters include Harold's ignorant sister, Astrid, who's an aspiring artist, Caliban Taligent, who's Prospero's secret son, as well as, well ThoseTwoGuys.

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!!This novel provides examples of:
* ArmchairPsychology - In this world, there are shrinkcabs, which are taxicabs ostensibly driven by licensed psychologists (actually professional listeners who've done a one week course).
* BeCarefulWhatYouWishFor
* BigLippedAlligatorMoment - Oh, you want just ''one''?
* ClassicalAntihero - Harold Winslow is a stubborn form of this, to such a point that he's become a jaded shell.
* CoitusEnsues - Deconstructed with Harold and Miranda. It's [[CrowningMomentOfFunny not very sexy]].
* CommonHollywoodSexTraits: Averted; Harold and Miranda argue over which position to use, the first condom breaks, Harold comes too quickly and Miranda has to fake her orgasm while thinking of a previous lover.
* CoolAirship: The ''Chrysalis''.
* CouldSayItBut: The cop to one of the vigilantes, suggesting he take the unguarded fire escape to the roof and kill Prospero who's apparently gone mad and threatening the world with death rays.
* CrapsaccharineWorld: Elements of this with the protagonist's work at the greeting card company, and the employees at the Taligent Tower marching to work singing proletarian songs.
* CreatorCameo - Dexter Palmer appears at an art show in the middle of the story. Doubles as SelfDeprecation.
* DamselInDistress: InvokedTrope
* DefiledForever: Miranda's father can't even stand to touch Miranda once she's lost her virginity.
* ExtremeDoormat: Harold
* FlyingCar
* ForScience - Why Prospero Taligent has filled the world with machines.
* HowWeGotHere: Opens with Howard [[ZeppelinsFromAnotherWorld imprisoned on the airship]] with only Miranda's insane ramblings for company.
* HumanoidAbomination - Like his [[Theatre/TheTempest Tempest]] namesake, Caliban Taligent. [[spoiler:He's made up of the [[MixAndMatchMan various body parts]] of people who were masters in their fields.]]
* IngestingKnowledge - An inventive example. Caliban and his typewriter. [[spoiler:Prospero Taligent claims it doesn't actually work; it was just done to Caliban to make him feel special.]]
* JerkassGenie: Prospero promises the children who attend his daughter's tenth birthday that he will give them what they most desire. Years later Howard meets the boy who sat next to him at the party, now a morphine addict who gets a crystal bottle of morphine delivered to him every day. Prospero also mentions [[IWishedYouWereDead hiring hitmen to fulfill several desires]].
* KeeperOfForbiddenKnowledge - Caliban fancies himself as this. It's likely all his revelations are gibberish.
* KnowledgeBroker - Prospero Taligent, to a ridiculous degree.
* LivingMacguffin - Miranda Taligent, much to her chagrin. [[spoiler:She ends up becoming the Perpetual Motion Machine]].
* LoveMakesYouCrazy
* MadArtist: Astrid [[spoiler:who has herself bronzed]], the sculpter hired by Prospero to make endless images of his daughter [[spoiler:who cuts up Miranda to make the perfect version]], and a literary professor even suggests that Prospero has arranged his entire life in imitation of ''TheTempest''.
* MadonnaWhoreComplex
* MadScientist - Prospero; it's agreed by all concerned that he is mad by the end, yet he also uses the trope deliberately when he threatens to TakeOverTheWorld with his DeathRay-armed zeppelin -- [[spoiler:it's actually just to get Harold moving.]] P.S. a "Mad Scientist" is also a DrinkOrder.
* MadScientistsBeautifulDaughter / GirlInTheTower: Miranda
* TheMagicGoesAway: The Age of Miracles (which had angels and demons walking around) is replaced by one of Science.
* MindScrew - A common theme of the story is the Joy of the Unknowable vs the Tedium of the Knowable, so it's kind of expected.
* LotusEaterMachine: Miranda's playroom; Prospero can't understand why she'd ever want to leave this GildedCage he's made for her.
* OnSecondThought: Prospero and Astrid arrange works of art [[spoiler:that require their deaths.]] They both have last second doubts, but it's too late.
* PerpetualMotionMachine: Prospero claims to have built one to power his airship, but Harold knows it's slowly losing power and the airship will one day crash.
* ShoutOut - Caliban Taligent is [[spoiler:made up of the body parts of various people,]] just like in ''Literature/{{Frankenstein}}''.
** Rebels against the advent of all this technology [[WizardOfOZ paint themselves silver and wear funnels on their heads]]
** As a young boy, Harold gets to travel with [[Literature/CharlieAndTheChocolateFactory a large group of children into the corporate headquarters of a reclusive genius]].
** Not to mention that all of the principal characters get their names from ''Theatre/TheTempest''.
* ScienceMarchesOn - Invoked by Harold's father and others with much pathos.
* SheIsAllGrownUp: Prospero is unable to cope with this, and becomes obsessed with returning Miranda to a "pure" and unchanging state.
* SophisticatedAsHell - Palmer's writing in and of itself. He has a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University, so it's rather hilarious to see how succinctly gutter-mouthed his characters and prose can be.
* TheirFirstTime - Subverted; it's Harold's first time, but Miranda's thoughts show she's already lost her virginity with a coalshoveler down in the boiler room (who was a lot better at sex than the inexperienced Harold).
* TheTower: Taligent Tower
* TrueArtIsIncomprehensible (InUniverse): According to Charmaine Saint Claire, why Astrid shouted "Hot buttered spleen" and not "[[OhCrap Turn off the machine!]]" [[spoiler:while being lowered into a bath of molten bronze for her final work of art.]]
* UnfazedEveryman - A rare example where ''all of humanity'' has become this in the face of scientific progress.
* UnreliableNarrator - Harold's father gives a different version of his mother's death every time.
* TheUnreveal - [[spoiler:What was done to Miranda to turn her into the Perpetual Motion Machine.]]
* WetwareCPU - [[spoiler:It's revealed at the end that Miranda is the Perpetual Motion Machine.]]
* YouNeedToGetLaid - Or as Astrid puts it, "AC:DC".
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