Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Completed: The Dream of Perpetual Motion

This book was actually on our 2017 List, buuut... since we're publishing this review in 2018, we're going to give it the 2018 treatment. Which means:
  1. We’re gonna try using that template that we published back in 2016 but never used.
  2. 2017 was our year of Bitmoji Reactions to books. For 2018, we will be GIF-ing it.
Jenny's GIF response to this book:

and Kelly's GIF response:

Soo... that sums it up.  But hey—while we're here, we'll add some words...

Why did you pick this book?

Kelly: I got this book in a White Elephant at my old book group. (Side note about that White Elephant exchange: it was all books. And only books! It was SUPER fun.) (I recommend it to all book groups, in fact.)  It looked good to me—a little weird, a little sci-fi, which I generally like. Plus, his second book, Version Control was in the Tournament of Books last year and it was soooo good (one of the best books we both read of 2017) so we had… high hopes for this one.

Jenny: I then bought this book from Amazon–it’s a former library book (check out the circulation pocket!)
(PS from Kelly: I like the word "Nolichucky!")
I  was also looking forward to this book after Version Control. We’ll get back to that in a bit.

Also, your story reminds me that I always struggle to think of gifts for the White Elephant. An all-book exchange sounds *amazing*! At least then I know I’d get something I like. A few years ago, I started to just give books! It’s the best and so much better than recycling old junk. (I could probably recycle old gifts I get from kids. I have a lot of random picture frames! Lol.) In fact, this year, one of my colleagues told me she fought hard to get that bag of books. Everyone loves free books, Kelly.

What it is like to be in the “world” of this book?

Here's an exchange from when we we first started reading it:
K: I know you hate books with world building, so how about books with none at all? 
J: Yeah. Jesus. I am struggling with this one. There’s just not much for me to grip on to as I tackle this. It’s slippery and I can’t figure out how to make sense of it. So I’m just reading along, but I’m not really getting much out of it. At least that’s been true for the first 50 pages.
Overall, this “world” was super confusing. Not a lot of cues about where and when we were.

How did you feel while reading this book?

K: Confused. Kind of nervous. Like, when Astrid went to the fair and went on the ride—everything was obscured and only told from Harold’s POV. What the hell happened to her in there? And are we going to see her again?

Narrator voice: They would. And holy shit.

J: I loved Version Control so much that I mostly found myself feeling disappointed. I was confused, and I couldn’t figure out how to hang on to anything. This book just felt... slippery. Nothing stuck.

What’s something you thought the book did really well? How was it accomplished?

K: I’m kind of struggling to answer this question, but I guess, if the intent was to cause a sense of confusion/foreboding, the book did that very well? I was nearly physically sick when [big spoiler here]: after Astrid died, one of her artist friends is interviewed and claims that her last words were “Hot buttered spleen! Hot buttered spleen!” but then the pizza delivery guy clarifies. She was saying, “Turn off the machine! Turn off the machine!” Oh, god. She changed her mind and these assholes just stood around and watched her die. I had to put the book down for awhile after that. It was horrific and unpleasant, but… I guess that was well done.

J: Yeah, I mean. I don’t know how to answer this either. I did find myself thinking “what an imagination on this guy!” because there was so much rich, fantastic detail. But... I couldn’t quite figure out what to do with it. The whole idea of “granting wishes people didn’t even know they had” is a pretty interesting idea. I’ve thought about that idea a lot, sort of divorced from the book. Are others every able to accurately predict what we want in our heart of hearts? Do we even know that about ourselves?

What is one thing that needs improvement in the book?


J: Why did he do that? Why did his editor let him do that?! What the hell?!?!

Ahem. Now… for the more serious observation:

J: The thing that strikes me about this book is that I unfairly keep comparing it to Version Control, which I LOVED. And that’s been both good and bad. In some ways, it feels like the prototype for it. I can see flashes of similar themes and that’s interesting. But it’s also bad, because I am maybe judging this too harshly.

K: Yeah. Sometimes a first book can be the author’s “one book” and sometimes… it’s a gearing up for the 2nd [better] book. Turns out, this was a “gearing up" book.

J: Yes. I’m glad I read this one second, because I’m not entirely sure that I ever would have read another book by him after this one.

I was tremendously bothered by the violence towards Astrid and Miranda. My guess is he means this to be symbolic: look at how women are treated by men in society! But it just felt misogynist, profoundly so. And the reason why is because neither of these women are fully formed independent characters of their own. The men tell their stories of how they violated, fucked, manipulated, or failed to save Astrid and Miranda. But those women never get to tell their own stories. Thank God this was not the case in Version Control, where Rebecca is her own character with fully explored thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams.

Hey male authors, you can’t successfully tell a story about toxic masculinity by focusing on the stories of megalomaniacal men! In this way, I think the book fails to convey what I think (I can’t really tell) is its major premise.

Everyone gets to tell their fucking story in this book except Miranda and Astrid. And you know what? Fuck that.

K: Yup.


  1. I'm still so sad about this one. I really wanted it to be better. Sigh.

    ON THE PLUS SIDE: 2018 Gifs are super fun. lol.

    1. Especially since we had two total WTF books right in a row at the end there. So yeah... thank god for the GIFs. ;)