has me reaching for nineteenth-century circus poster adjectives: stupendous, extraordinary, death-defying! This novel is a pleasure to dive into, although it's difficult to know where to place it on the literary spectrum - not exactly a historical novel and not exactly a fantasy, not quite a thriller (as advertised) nor a crime story. Finally it dawned on me - Matthew Pearl's 1868 Boston comes to us through the idealism of a comic book. The villain is dastardly, and the heroes have hearts of gold. Both sides of good and evil draw on new discoveries in science and innovations in engineering to give themselves what seem like superpowers. A portion of the comic-book quality of Pearl's Boston may come from the past itself, from his research into the real-life idealists who founded and inaugurated the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1860s. Part of...
Beyond the Book
Furnaces, circuits, and laboratory paraphernalia; "gasometers, gauges, air pumps, and troughs of... galvanic fluid"; clocks and submersibles - these are the trappings of nineteenth-century science at work throughout The Technologists
. These are also the elements that make up the aesthetic side of the "Steampunk" movement - Victorian design plus scientific invention, natural materials plus cutting-edge technology. The creative synthesis of the historical and the innovative has spawned a wide range of fantastically appealing visual creations.
This review was originally published in March 2012, and has been updated for the
November 2012 paperback release.
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