Prospero Taligent is mad. He is also the richest man in the world, an inventor, industrialist and entrepreneur who can do just about anything he likes. He lives in The Dream of Perpetual Motion
's early 20th century alternate reality, where one can find technology as futuristic as flying mechanical men, and as retro as food automats and Victrolas. In the city of Xeroville, Prospero's madness seems to have tainted everyone, as evidenced by the need for "Shrink Cabs," which offer psychiatric therapy as well as a ride.
The story begins at the end; that is, we first meet Harold when he is already trapped aboard the Zeppelin, Chrysalis, where he can hear the voice of Prospero's daughter, Miranda, speaking to him, but cannot tell where she is. He suspects, but cannot prove, that the perpetual motion engine keeping the ship afloat is gradually running down. Harold...
Beyond the Book
Is Perpetual Motion Just a "Dream?"
In The Dream of Perpetual Motion
, Prospero claims to have created a perpetual motion engine that can run his Zeppelin indefinitely; supposedly, it will never run out of energy, and will never need a new influx of energy. Is that possible in the real world? According to scientists, no. That doesn't mean that mankind hasn't tried to produce such a machine; in fact we have evidence of attempts going back to the Renaissance.
In order for anything to be a "perpetual motion" device, it must be a closed system (one that, once started, does not need to be "fed" any kind of fuel, or acted upon by anything outside of itself).