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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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History of Wolves
Emily Fridlund
Gather the Daughters: A Novel
Jennie Melamed

The Dream of Perpetual Motion

The Dream of Perpetual Motion - Dexter Palmer It's hard to label Dexter Palmer's debut novel The Dream of Perpetual Motion. There are definitely elements of steampunk, but, at the same time, it's not exactly what I think of when I hear the word steampunk. You could just group it in the sci-fi genre--it's an alternative history where robots essentially infest the earth--but that doesn't seem the right place for it either. Inspired by The Tempest, this novel is equally Willy Wonka as it is Shakespeare. Classifying it is hard to do, which leaves the doors of criticism and interpretation wide open.Fans of quality literature should not be scared however. Yes, there's a little steampunk and a lot of sci-fi. But there also is a wide spread of wonderful writing--vibrant language both formal and witty, moving scenes filled with a poeticism missing in too much literature. The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a thoughtful and gripping work.My greatest critique of the book is that it loses it's magic half way through. Now, this is fitting given the subject--a world where everything magical has been explained away and duplicated with technology. The world where we first meet our hero, Harold Winslow, is seen through the eyes of a child. And it is a gorgeous, fascinating landscape. It is easy to become swept up in little Harold's dreams and fantasies. It's fun and it's terrifying, but mostly, it's magical.As Harold grows, however, he begins to see how little magic there really is in the world. So it's only appropriate that the text reflect his. And Palmer does a magnificent job presenting this transition seamlessly. Whatever tiny elements of magic still exists at the end of the novel are explained away by the most tedious monologues. It's appropriate, but that doesn't mean it is as fun. Without the magic, the story begins to move with the mechanical motion of its army of robots.