October 24, 2013

Book Review: Perpetual Motion

Author: Bruce Hesselbach
Genre: Steampunk

When it comes to writing book reviews, I sometimes feel like a broken vinyl record... or King Solomon. It seems that every review I write contains something to the effect of "This story wasn't very original," or "This story was just so cliche."
"There is nothing new under the sun!"
Once in a while, though, I'm fortunate enough to come across something that steps out of line and dares to be different... and this was one of those books.
Perpetual Motion is a story with all the classic elements you expect of steampunk fiction--gears and gadgets and intriguing inventions and gorgeous architecture, to name a few--but it shakes them up, gives them a twist, and with a generous splash of sci-fi and time travel thrown in you get a highly original, thoroughly engrossing novel that is unlike anything you've ever read before.
The author starts off with a setting that, as far as I know, is completely unique to the steampunk genre thus far in its short history: Germany, shortly before the dawn of WWI. From there he keeps the originality coming non-stop, but I don't want to say too much lest I give something away. ; )
This is a coming-of-age story, an adventure story, a family story, a love story. But more importantly, it is a story of ideas and worldviews. The author does a brilliant job portraying the progression of what start out simply as different points of view, as they grow in different directions and become much more serious--matters of morality, of destiny, opinions that could change the face and history of an entire planet.
The most fascinating aspect of this is when you, the reader, realize that you're seeing what is probably a very accurate picture of how and what people thought of real issues and events at that time, before they led into what we now know as WWI. With our modern, 20-20 hindsight, it's easy for us to decide what was right and what was wrong in the days before the Great War. But for the people actually living there, it might not have been so easy to tell, and this book offers a stunning hypothetical look into that struggle.
Another interesting aspect of Perpetual Motion was the way in which the author presents the viewpoints of the various characters. As I said, this is a coming-of-age story, and it is written from the first-person perspective of a teenaged girl who has found herself involved in a very complex world filled with many opposing ideas. Everyone she talks to presents their ideas and worldviews as truth, and the author offers no comment on who may or may not be lying or misguided. It is left to the viewpoint character (and, thereby, the reader) to try and determine what really is the truth and what is not.
Needless to say, this isn't a book you can just lightly skim over and still have a good grasp on the story. This is a book that needs careful attention and demands a lot of thought. That isn't to say that it doesn't tell a good story--on the contrary, it tells a fantastic story sure to delight steampunk fans--but it's a story completely saturated with meaning and thought-provoking ideas. I gladly give it a high recommendation--plus bonus points for being unique. ; )

Be sure to stop by tomorrow--I'll be interviewing Perpetual Motion's author, Bruce Hesselbach. He has been gracious enough to share some of his thoughts on steampunk, the historical research behind Perpetual Motion, some interesting facts about the real people who inspired the development of his main character, and more. Don't miss it!

I received a copy of this book free of charge in exchange for my review, but a favorable review was not required. My opinions are my own.


  1. I know where I'm going tomorrow - and if my library doesn't have it, I know what I'm buying. It is hard to find new, interesting Steampunk stories, and this one sounds really good. I'm going to hunt it down.


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