Book Review – A Ticket for Perpetual Locomotion by Geoffrey Gates
A Ticket for Perpetual Locomotion isn’t my kind of novel. I might as well mention that straight up, because this review will probably be unfairly lukewarm toward Geoffrey Gates’ IP Picks Award-winning novel. My kind of novel, I’ve decided, has a strong, even monolithic narrative. It is between 200 and 400 pages in length, and there is plenty of action (but not of the Bruce Willis kind). The actual subject of the novel isn’t as important to me as the way that the writer invites us into the mind of someone interesting and/or different. Andrew McGahan’s Praise is the perfect example of this, and Deane’s Another hovers in the same territory, even if it does use multiple narrators. I’m not against multiple narrators per se, but what really appeals to me is narrative drive. I also tend to favour dark and gloomy themes to light and breezy ones.
A Ticket for Perpetual Locomotion, then, isn’t my kind of book. It is light, zany even, and it is full of different viewpoint characters. The central premise of the novel is one that will be familiar to readers of Calvino or other metafictioneers. Perpetual Locomotion is a concept in which travellers renounce their routine lives in favour of eternal travel, for which they will never have to pay a cent. The catch is they can never re-trace their footsteps. We are introduced to a young man called Carlos who is about to begin his adventure in Perpetual Locomotion, which we soon discover is also the name of a novel by Eduardo Maranda.
A Ticket for Perpetual Locomotion takes place, for the most part, in Australia and Mexico. There is a substantial cast of characters, from the beautiful Manon to the wily Eduardo. Gates employs a technique in which sections (very short chapters for the most part) are told often out of chronological order. Presumably this is supposed to be weaving a rich tapestry, but I found it confusing. Worse, the characters began to blur together by around the mid-point of the novel, which left me bemused. It’s my own fault, of course, for not paying sufficient attention, but if I have a real criticism of this novel it is that the characters feel very same-y. There isn’t often much to differentiate them, except for Eduardo himself, who is well realised. Gates also employs a slippery shifting from past to present tense and back again. What this is supposed to achieve, I can’t quite say.
What I can say about Gates’ novel is that it is technically well written, and features an excellent cover. I suspect that others might enjoy this a fair bit more than I did. There wasn’t anything wrong with A Ticket for Perpetual Locomotion, but it simply wasn’t to my tastes. By my grand old age (27) I know my likes and dislikes, and to a large extent the pattern for future reading is set. I would be willing to give Gates a second go, however, because he is certainly a talented writer.