Good Reads #17 – The Dream of Perpetual Motion

Title: The Dream of Perpetual Motion

Author: Dexter Palmer

Genre: Literary Fiction, Steam Punk, Dystopia

I found this book while surfing the LA Public Library’s electronic catalog for dystopian fantasy. I’ve read a decent amount of the YA variant and was happy to stumble upon a few tales for adults. And man, you can tell the difference in the intended audience.

There is no plucky hero or heroine here. There is no fight against that what is suppressing the masses. Hell, there isn’t even an obvious Evil Government that needs to be fought. No.

This is a tale of a society where machines have come to the for, where robots are plentiful and have taken the place of humans in many aspects of society. Teachers no longer teacher, they merely feed pages of books into machines that jam the knowledge into the heads of children, bands don’t play at clubs, bands of robots play and so on.

It is a society that feels fundamentally unhappy. The protagonist’s sister commits suicide. A person is horribly crushed to death in a club. The object of the narrator’s love is operated on in ways that can only be described as inhumane and driven mad. The “father” of the love interest is full on insane by the end.

The narrator, a greeting card author, is no hero. He does not have pretensions to it and admits that he fails at it miserably. His heart’s desire is a reflection of what a broken man he is.

This story is a downer. There’s no other way to put it. There is no one to root for and the ending is bleak.

This is how dystopian fantasy probably should end: with a whimper.

I mentioned to a friend how I was struggling with the book and wondered if I should swear off literary fiction. Having finished it, I won’t eschew further literary fiction, I think I just need to read something a bit more…upbeat.

It’s a good book, just a downer, so prepare yourself for that.

Verdict: Borrow it.


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