Book discussed is "The Dream Of Perpetual Motion" by Dexter Palmer
The dream of perpetual motion is the useless hope of a better world while evidence of widespread decay of the actual world is all around. “Dream” is apt because the characters seem to be willing themselves not to see how far gone their world is, clinging to ideas or people (in this case, people embody ideas) as salvation when they are clearly not. The dreamers are everyone. The world is collectively trying to dupe itself. Which, one would think would work if everyone is in on the game, but what they want is impossible (happiness) and nobody is really trying anyway. What everyone wants stays a wish and the world crumbles with no effort put into its maintenance.
This story might only work provided the reader is male. The salvation everyone believes in is a girl. Do women also believe salvation comes from women? I’m working under the assumption that this is a man-myth or romanticization (the process of romanticize-ing) or women. Maybe it works because children (majority of the story the female is a child) equal innocence and girls especially so. Sexist? I think it’s a common enough idea for anyone to at least grasp it.
The narrator, Harold Winslow, is detached from humanity, no longer understanding what one does or how one feels as a human. He can recognize where emotions, and which, are appropriate but lacks the will to summon them or the understanding of why he should. He isn’t unique in this regard and apathy runs rampant. A powerful form of nostalgia too, that has older members of society believing that angels and miracles walked their earth. But the present state of the world, as Harold navigates it, is dead. Nothing oppressive or invasive. No pervading darkness. Because even that would be motion and life. Harold’s world is devoid of color and life. The cover of the book does a great job of setting this up. I pictured the whole novel in shades of bronze. Additionally, the current onslaught of new technology so confuses civilization they lose sight of any meaning to their lives, falling back on old stories (in a general sense, not specific ones) to make sense of their life and tell them what to do next.
All hopes of this lost world rest with Prospero Taligent. Genius inventor. Lives in a tower (never leaves). Eccentric. Sounds too close to an archetype character to be interesting but Dream is also commenting on the role of stories in people’s lives. So he’s supposed to instantly be familiar. Actually, Prospero turns out to be the most fun and weird characters of the novel. He is the one building the hope of all people; his daughter Miranda. I love this: Humanity’s only salvation must be built by humanity itself, it won’t come from anywhere else, but humanity rejects any savior that itself makes because it then lacks some mystical property (which nobody can define, if they could it wouldn’t work) essential to it being a savior. Prospero knows this. He tries to create the perfect girl with a mixture of odd tech and force of will. It’s like he’s trying to summon the answer all the while knowing there is no magic. Very desperate world. The conflict, at its core, is the feverish human search for meaning that proves people are special but humanity itself doubts it’s capable of being anything. Like wanting to be a superhero and knowing it’s impossible and that want just eats away at a person until they’re sick. Confusion infiltrates even fundamental understanding so every possible action is tried in desperation, disregarding any moral system or sense of how ridiculous it might be. Great quote from Prospero ,“