Monday, March 17, 2008
monday book review: the invention of everything else, by samantha hunt
"God said, 'Let Tesla be,' and all was light."
- B. A. Behrend

Nikola Tesla is arguably one of the most important inventors to have ever lived, yet one of the most unsung. To him, we can credit the efficient alternating electrical current system, the remote control, and the radio (although Marconi stole the patent for that last one). He harnessed Niagara Falls' energy potential, is credited with giving birth to robotics, and his "Tesla Coil" gave us neon and fluorescent lighting and x-ray photography. Wildly imaginative, Tesla was also rumored to have experimented with wireless energy transmission, extraterrestrial communication, invisibility, antigravity, time travel, and a "Death Beam" which, as a life-long pacifist, he hoped would make war impossible due to its fearful capability of mass destruction. But thanks to a far better sense of imagination than a head for business, Tesla died penniless, living alone but for his pigeons in the Hotel New Yorker, his legacy largely obscured.

Needless to say, Samantha Hunt - who spent four years researching the life and work of Nikola Tesla, weaving this meticulous research into her sophomore novel - already had some fascinating source material at her disposal.

The Invention of Everything Else blends fact with fiction so well that it often becomes difficult to discern between the two. Taking a non-linear approach to storytelling, Hunt bounces around through Tesla's biography, revealing his life through stories of his childhood up to the story of his death; however, the bulk of the novel focuses on Tesla's final days in the Hotel New Yorker and his brief encounters with the fictional Louisa, a curious chambermaid who - fascinated by the myriad curiosities she uncovers in his hotel room and encouraged by a shared affinity for pigeons - is determined to befriend the reclusive scientist. Hunt's novel is a history lesson wrapped in a pretty story, and the extent to which you are interested in Tesla, science, and history is probably the extent to which you will enjoy The Invention of Everything Else. Seeing how I am fascinated with all of these things, I firmly loved it.

The Invention of Everything Else
Samantha Hunt
2008, 251 pages

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Blogger JMW said...

I really wanted to acquire this novel in my old job. Loved it. Glad you found it and enjoyed it...

Blogger Mary said...

OK, I'm a little scattered lately... I saw you had reviewed this book and I don't remember reading your review. Weird, I know. But after your random post of pretty I thought I should come back and re-read it. The fact that I didn't leave a comment is also suspect. I'm sorry I had such a brain fart.
I will most definitely be putting this on my list of books for the husband to get for me from the library while I'm recovering!

I love that you do book reviews. Especially because I agree with you on so many of them. Although the Oscar Wao book was hard for me because I don't know any Spanish, but the longer it's been since I read it, and the more I let it sink in, the more I like it. I think it was a little disturbing for me, especially being that I'm all sheltered in the land of Stepford wives here. :)

Blogger Mrs. White said...

Thanks for the feedback, Mary. I'm never really sure whether or not doing these reviews is worth everyone's time, but like pretty much everything else I do here, I've just been writing about what's interesting to me and hoping it's interesting to someone else too. It's nice to hear I'm not entirely wasting my time :)

As for Oscar Wao, I agree that it was hard to immediately get into, especially in the beginning with all the footnotes, but when I reached the chapter told from the sister's point of view I was sold. I also loved learning the history of the DR, but I am a bit of a history nerd when all is said and done.

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