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A Ticket for Perpetual Locomotion

Carlos Wildon, Manon Chouan and Sophie Dune are missing. The only clue as to their disappearances is a book called A Ticket For Perpetual Locomotion, by Mexican Eduardo Maranda.

Unbeknownst to Eduardo, his scheming agent and family have turned his book into a reality, leading impressionable young adults into traveling around the world with a ticket for perpetual locomotion. The catch of the ticket is that the holder must only move in a forward direction, and must sever all contact with family and friends.

On the trail of the missing is Allan Bates, alias Detective Sergeant Richard Stone.

Also drawn into the search are the victim’s families who are much more closely related than they originally thought.

ISBN 9781876819286 (PB, 224pp);
152mm x 229mm
AUD $27 USD $24 CAD $26 NZD $29 GBP £16 EUR €19


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.

– Guy Salvidge, WordPress

A Ticket for Perpetual Locomotion is a gem-full of bubbling ideas. It is a remarkable debut. Geoff Gates tells a tale of Mexican novelist Eduardo Maranda whose readers find themselves in possession of a travel pass allowing them unlimited miles on a global journey in a forward direction, only. Wonderful, except his readers vanish from their homeland. Eduardo discovers the truth about his fiction while on a literary trip to Australia.

Gates has combined the fantastic world of storytelling with realistic locations in delightful prose. This book has something for everyone.

Even the most jaded of straggling travellers will rediscover the joy of the elusive road. The reader is coaxed into this amazing extravaganza, and at the end – at least in my case – they can’t stand the thought of the journey coming to an end.

– Terry McDonagh, poet

Gates’ work is driven by the whirling subplots which all stream together neatly for a climatic twist. When an author unleashes an imaginative concept into reality, trans-global adventures conspire, relatives are thrown into tizzies, best friends turn detective, guarded secrets are blown wide open, and lovers’ trails unfurl. This extraordinary read will dazzle the adventure-minded and armchair travellers alike.

– Lauren Daniels, for the judges, IP Picks 2005

Geoffrey Gates

After nine years overseas, Geoffrey Gates returned to Australia in 2003. He spent his time abroad teaching English in England and Germany, also traveling to Mexico, the Middle East and Europe.

In Germany, Geoffrey was also a member of the Hamburg writers’ group ‘Work In Progress’.

Geoffrey teaches at The Hills Grammar School in Sydney, where he runs a creative writing group for students. Although A Ticket for Perpetual Locomotion is his first novel, his short stories have been published in Gangway, Verandah, Dotlit, Skive and UQ Vanguard.

His second novel, The Copyart Murders, was released by IP in 2015.


Judges report on IP Picks 05

eNews Interview with Geoffrey

Turning Travel into Fiction

Geoffrey’s blog

A Ticket on Wikipedia


1. Conjuring Up
Bott Hills, Sydney. Friday, 24 March 1993.

Carlos Wildon has disappeared. If it is a trick, he performs it as quietly as you might shut a book. Time will tell if Carlos is playing the fool, but his last recorded moments go like this:

He returns home from work, where he has spent the late afternoon folding cardboard boxes, empty of their sticky goods. He pauses to stare at the cocoon of a moth, nestled in the brickwork above the entrance.

It is a sultry Friday, hot for March.

Carlos steps inside. The screen door wheezes shut behind him. He takes off his work-boots and places them next to his father’s polished shoes, where they stand like Officer and Private, off duty, on the edge of the new carpet.

He passes his parents, Frank and Isabel, who are watching television in the lounge room, and casually waves his left hand.

‘No dinner,’ he says, when Isabel offers.

‘But Carlos …’ she begins, nudging Frank. They move their heads in unison, watching their son’s back.

At the threshold of his bedroom, he turns to face them. His expression might be a little sad, but it is hard to tell because the light is odd and the television is loud and distracting. Then he slides his door tightly shut, as if he was sealing in the air.

They will only see Carlos once more. His face will appear before them, and he will say these words:

‘I’m nearly finished with this book. The main character is about to become extinct.’

It is just a moment in time, but it is also a hint of things to come.

On the morning of Saturday 25 March, only Carlos’ book remains. It lies precariously on the edge of his bed, where it stays for nearly a week, as if paused in mid sentence.

No one takes much notice of it. They are concerned with other things, like phone calls overheard and missing clothes. This is no time for fiction – not at first anyway.

2. Looking Back (in Anger)

Bott Hills. Saturday, 25 March; Monday, 24 January 1993.

After breakfast when they discover him missing, it is Isabel who tells Frank not to worry. ‘He’s twenty years old,’ she says. She reminds Frank of Carlos’ absconding on consecutive nights earlier in January.

After the night of 23 January, he had returned at midday, looking sheepish.

The next evening he had taken the car while his parents were asleep, and driven off without a licence. Here is Frank, after Carlos had returned home, his secrets exposed:

‘You’ve had us worried sick!’ shouted Frank. ‘When you didn’t return this morning, I called your college. First the secretary told me that students are not due back until next week.

That’s funny, I said, my son told us he had already started. Then she asked for your name. Carlos Wildon? He doesn’t come here now. His name has been taken out of the books. Where the hell have you been?’

But Carlos wouldn’t say.

He stood there looking grief-stricken, like an angel stripped of his wings. Finally he muttered something about reading in Lucky Plaza and his father hit the roof.

Now Frank swears he can sense more trouble. He strides outside and throws open the garage door to check that the car is still in the garage. He wishes he were at work so he could take his mind off things.

The day passes with no sign of Carlos. With nightfall, the heavens open and heavy Sydney rain sloshes against the windows. The gutter outside the house turns to a roaring creek.

There Frank stands, grim in his raincoat, staring down the street.

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