“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.”
novel by Dexter Palmer, which extolls the virtues of Not Knowing against the pragmatism of Knowing Everything.
It takes place in 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 Those Two Guys
This novel provides examples of:
- Armchair Psychology - In this world, there are shrinkcabs, which are taxicabs driven by professionally licensed (but still unqualified) psychologists.
- Big Lipped Alligator Moment - Oh, you want just one?
- Classical Antihero - Harold Winslow is a stubborn form of this, to such a point that he's become a jaded shell.
- Coitus Ensues - Deconstructed with Harold and Miranda. It's not very sexy.
- For Science! - Why Prospero Taligent has filled the world with machines.
- Humanoid Abomination - Like his Tempest namesake, Caliban Taligent. He's made up of the various body parts of people who were masters in their fields.
- Ingesting Knowledge - An inventive example. Caliban and his typewriter. Prospero Taligent claims it doesn't actually work; it was just done to Caliban to make him feel special.
- Keeper of Forbidden Knowledge - Caliban fancies himself as this.
- Knowledge Broker - Prospero Taligent, to a ridiculous degree.
- Living Macguffin - Miranda Taligent, much to her chagrin. She ends up becoming the Perpetual Motion Machine
- Mind Screw - A common theme of the story is the Joy of the Unknowable vs the Tedium of the Knowable, so it's kind of expected.
- Shout Out - Caliban Taligent is made up of the body parts of various people, just like in Frankenstein
- Science Marches On - Invoked by Harold's father and others with much pathos.
- Sophisticated as Hell - 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.
- Unfazed Everyman - A rare example where all of humanity has become this in the face of scientific progress.
- Wetware CPU: It's revealed at the end that Miranda is the Perpetual Motion Machine