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Literature / The Dream of Perpetual Motion

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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 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:

  • Acid Attack: One of the children wants to be a professional vitrioler. Harold encounters him as an adult carrying out an acid attack on behalf of a jilted lover. He loves his work.
  • 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.
  • Common Hollywood Sex Traits: 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.
  • Cool Airship: The Chrysalis.
  • Could Say It, But...: 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • Crapsaccharine World: 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.
  • Creator Cameo: Dexter Palmer appears at an art show in the middle of the story. Doubles as Self-Deprecation.
  • Damsel in Distress: Invoked Trope
  • Defiled Forever: Miranda's father can't even stand to touch Miranda once she's lost her virginity. Ironically she'd lost it long before he finds out about her alliance with Harold.