Signal & Noise is the epic page-turning story of the laying of the trans-Atlantic cable, and the men and women who are caught in its monumental tide. It is also a novel about the collision of worlds seen and unseen: the present and the future; the living and the dead; the real and the imagined.
On a wet London morning in 1857, American engineer Chester Ludlow arrives on the muddy banks of the Isle of Dogs to witness the launch of the largest steamship ever built, the Great Eastern. Also amidst the tumultuous throng is Jack Trace, a lonely bachelor and sketch artist hoping to make his name as an illustrator and journalist in the hurly burly of Fleet Street. Other witnesses include a drunken German by the name of Marx; the child who will christen the massive vessel by the wrong name; and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the ships apoplectic and dwarfish architect who will soon die in ignominy. As chief engineer for the Atlantic Cable Company, the charismatic Chester enters the orbit of business and showmanship embodied by J. Beaumol Spude, the bombastic Western beef magnate who will mastermind the funding of the project; Joachim Lindt, creator of the Phantasmagorium, an animated tableaux vivant; and his beautiful wife, the musician Katerina Lindt. Drawn by the demands and adventure of creating the first transoceanic telegraph, Chester leaves behind his fragile wife, Franny, at the family estate of Willing Mind in Maine.
Abandoned and still mourning the accidental death of their four-year-old daughter, Franny finds solace in the company of Chesters troubled brother, Otis, who introduces her to the mysteries of the world of spiritualism just as séancing is becoming all the rage in the jittery times leading up to the Civil War. As Chester achieves renown as the glamorous engineer of the trans-Atlantic project, Franny, desperate to contact her dead child, becomes the preeminent spirit conjuror of a war-torn America.
The New York Times - Annette Kobak
This is a novel of epic interconnectedness. Like the laying of the trans-Atlantic cable between England and America in the mid-19th century, whose story it reimagines, John Griesemer's Signal & Noise spans continents and oceans. Through a cast of characters who themselves interconnect in ingenious ways -- including cameo appearances by real figures like Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Dickens, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln and Karl Marx -- the action moves from the River Thames and the launching of Brunel's mammoth ship, the Great Eastern, to New York, Maine, Siberia, Malaya, Belgium, Ireland and several American states during the Civil War. Off terra firma, the dramas encompass the Atlantic Ocean and even the spirit world.
Christian Science Monitor - Ren Charles
Griesemer picks up every dot and dash of this fascinating story, conveying the boggling incongruity of the age.
Chicago Tribune - Charles Matthews
Griesemer, whose previous novel was the well-received 'No One Thinks of Greenland', has written a historical novel in which, for once, the characters don't sound like moderns in fancy dress, and the fascinating history doesn't detract from the fiction - or vice versa.
Esquire Magazine, June 2004
How crammed with rich, resonant period details is Signal and Noise? Well you can almost smell the Great Stink of the 1850s-era London
Though Otis, who becomes pivotal in the novel, is somewhat underdeveloped, this is an accomplished, gripping work....This book will be appreciated by the same audience that enjoyed Dava Sobel's Longitude.
Library Journal -David W Henderson
This is a big novel whose historical setting belies its relevance to the modern reader. Highly recommended for both public and academic collections.
Booklist - Joanne Wilkinson
Starred Review. Griesemer effortlessly animates a tumultuous time through one extraordinary family, provocatively pointing up the thin line separating ambition and hubris, visionaries and quacks, signal and noise. An incredibly rich and rewarding read.
Storms, war, explosions, sex, science, tragedy, and deep affection. Worth every minute.
Joanna Scott, author of Arrogance
Ambition, failure, triumph, love, betrayal, farce, and spirit-conjuring—these are some of the subjects powerfully animated in this grand novel. John Griesemer is a masterful writer. In Signal & Noise, he has turned the clamor of history into a beautiful symphony.
Jeffrey Lent, author of In the Fall
Within the broad, epic scope of John Griesemer’s Signal & Noise is a considerable achievement—Griesemer not only entangled me neatly and fully within the lives of his characters, but without fanfare, he sketches a deeply turbulent age, with fascinating similarities to our own. Perhaps his genius lies in his emphasis on story, leaving the reader to ponder the ceaseless energy of human endeavor.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Paul - BookBrowse.com
Good book - riveting, fast-paced read. Very evocative of the era, with lots of detail which brings that part of history to vibrant life.
So why did I mark it so low? It is the mixture of fact and fiction that bothers me. The factual... Read More
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