Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It” as Want to Read:
Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It

2.82 of 5 stars 2.82  ·  rating details  ·  121 ratings  ·  38 reviews

In The Middle of the Civil War, inventor and businessman Richard Gatling created the world's first working machine gun. He naively hoped that the overwhelming effectiveness of a multiple-firing weapon would save lives by reducing the number of soldiers needed to fight. (The scientists who would unleash America's atomic arsenal less than a century later would see things muc

MP3 Book, 0 pages
Published August 19th 2008 by Tantor Media, Inc. (first published 2008)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 230)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
J. Bryce
I've got agree with what seems to be the primary criticism of this book -- it's disjointed and although a strict chronological path is not required in "narrative non-fiction," it does help for those not thoroughly acquainted with the period.

Unlike some reviewers, though, I wasn't too perturbed by this -- it's just the author's conversational style. The only thing that really bothered me about how the book was "organized" -- and I use the word loosely -- was the repetition -- she repeated notion
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mike Prochot
If you are interested in the history of the gatling gun, you will find some of it here.

If you are looking for a biography of Richard Gatling, keep looking.

If you wonder how an inventor of farm equipment came to decide to work on a concept gun, you will get no explanation here.

One would think that an inventer of a "machine gun" would have spent hours shooting rifles and examining guns. There is no mention of Mr. Gatling ever touching a gun in this book prior to him coming out with his machine
This is one strange book.

There are plenty of books about nineteenth century inventors and typically they have lots of social history that isn't directly connected with either the inventor or the invention - but here, in a 250 page book, the author doesn't get around to talking in much detail about either Gatling or his gun until 160 pages into it. The impression I had was that the author wasn't much interested in the nominal topics of the book.

In addition, presumably no one picks up a book like
Walt O'Hara
Interesting take on the man who invented (arguably) the first machine gun to be used in war. Surprisingly, for a book touted to be about the man's invention, there's not a great deal of material in this book *about* the actual gatling gun and how it was used in war. Richard Gatling comes across as an affable, hard working and inspired man who had an eventful career-- yet we don't see all that much of him. Instead, the book is a broad sweep through late 19th century history of technology. One poi ...more
Keller, Julia. MR. GATLING’S TERRIBLE MARVEL: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It. (2008). ****. There really wasn’t much to say about Mr. Gatling’s life, so the author talks about the world around him to put some meat on his lean bones. First we learn that Gatling was an inveterate dabbler, and, ultimately an inventor. He started out with inventions in the agricultural field. One of his early inventions was a “wheat drill,” which I have no idea as to wha ...more
Mr. Mike
Richard J. Gatling invented the world’s first successful machine gun hoping its terrible destructive firepower would quickly and humanely end the American Civil War. This particular hope was never truly tested because no Gatling guns were bought by Abraham Lincoln’s Ordnance Office but the Gatling gun’s “hopeful” promise was tested elsewhere on other battlefields around the world. Author Julia Keller argues that Gatling’s hope in war-ending firepower and the military’s resistance to using it cha ...more
Sean O'Hara
I really hate these bait-and-switch history books that promise a detailed look at some obscure but interesting subject, only to use that as a jumping off point for a more general history.

The history of the machine-gun is an expansive enough topic for an entire book, particularly its use as a tool of colonial oppression and slow metamorphosis into a weapon of "civilized" combat. In the Victorian era, machine-guns were seen as dirty pool, which was okay when fighting those pesky natives in Africa,
Oct 31, 2008 Brett rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: insomniacs, disaffected college students
For a book that purports to be about an inventor and his gun, this book has surprisingly little to say about either. To be honest, I gave up about halfway through, because it was just too dull. So maybe the last half is a giddy romp through Mr. Gatlings madcap adventures, but I'll never know. The author seems to be trying to craft a book along the lines of the vastly superior "Devil in the White City," in which a central historical tale is used to motivate a more general discussion of the time p ...more
This book describes the life and times of Richard Gatling. He was born into a slave holding family in North Carolina, but moved west to seek his fortune. Gatling was always a tinkerer and inventor. He had many patents and devices including seed drills and steam plows. He was moved by the carnage of the Civil War to invent his gun in the hopes it would reduce the size of armies. Keller uses his story to frame the times and describe how free spirited American inventors, driven by idealism to impro ...more
Sep 03, 2008 Davis rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 19th Century buffs
Recommended to Davis by: Wired Magazine
I've been duped! This book felt like a seven course meal but you had no idea which one was the main course. Relative to the title, the book mentions little about Mr. Gatling and his most famous invention. This book talks more about the environment and circumstances in which Mr. Gatling invents his machine gun. At times, it feels like the author is repeating herself. What saves this book from a one star rating is that some of the environment and circumstances are mildly interesting. For instance, ...more
I’ve been keen to read this book for a while, as its title and day-glo cover beckoned me each time I walked by the bookstore. And then, glory, I found the hardcover for $9 on a back table at the local discount bookstore (where they were selling the trade paperback for $12 up front). The book is pretty great, but no quite as good as its cover. Keller tells two stories: the biography of Richard Gatling, the amateur inventor who patented a bunch of stuff, the most successful being the Gatling gun, ...more
I was generous giving this book a single star. I love books that are about the people and times but as one person called this book, “it is a bait and switch book”. It had almost nothing about Gatling nor his gun in the first two chapters (as far as I could read). The book is filled with small self righteous sermons and pontifications. It is filled with arterial divergences and reminds me of a fractal, redundant and repetitive. The odd phrasing is meant as art I am sure but NO Yoda is she. I am s ...more
This book is more a love letter to American inventiveness and ingenuity, than an actual biography of Richard Gatling. The first part is all about the U.S. patent system which was fairly interesting. The remainder of the book is about the American can do spirit and the technological revolution of the late 1800's. The parts that are about Richard Gatling are thin and repetitive.

The author sets out to prove that Gatling was a misunderstood inventor who invented his self named gun to stop the horro
Adrian Moran
It appears that Mr Gatling was not a particularly colorful person and his life didn't make for a dramatic narrative on its own. Consequently, this book is about 85% tangent. The tangents are mostly interesting.

I sometimes found the author's attempts to apologize for/explain the 19th century in contrast to the modern day a bit simple-minded. For example, she spends a lot of time talking about how guns "mean" something different today than they did then. I don't think she adequately takes into ac
The book was ok. The thing I liked most about it was eventually the thing that I liked least. I quickly realized that she used Gattling and his gun as an excuse to ramble pleasantly along about the time period. There was very little focus, and using that scatter-gun method she hit a lot of interesting targets. That was ok with me as long as it lasted. I enjoyed it. But then it came time to end, and she didn't seem to know how to stop. So it dragged on a bit after I saw any reason for it to conti ...more
I hated this book. When it was my latest bookclub pic I was excited. I specialized in military and American history in college, so reading a book about a gun that had a big effect on both military technology and the social history was appealing to me. I loved Erik Larson's Thunderstruck.

This book was a huge disappointment. Mr. Gatling sounds like an interesting man. Ms. Kellar has a few good salient points. But she beats them to death with flowery prose. Then 30 pages later she repeats the same
Jennifer Endsley hedden
Didn't start it. I changed my mind.
Interesting book that is part biography of the inventor of the Gatling gun but delves off into sub-subjects that are just as intriguing. Things like the history of the US patent office, the expansion of the American West, various histories of guns and the American gun culture experience, the Civil War...things like that.
Interesting information about Richard Gatling & the Gatling machine gun... but the book is more of a meandering musing about the changes in American life during the 2nd half of the 19th century than it is about Mr. Gatling.

At times, the book is over-written... going for poetic sweep instead of telling the story.
Some good information, and thorough documentation to send you to richer sources. But there's little on Gatling himself (this is really not a biography, despite the title), and lots of florid, overwritten, unsurprising descriptions of nineteenth-century America that seem like filler in this context.
Somewhat educational about the realities of arms creation and the thoughts behind them. The author does have a bias - at least a little bit - and at times that got to me, but I managed to read on through. I love anything about the cultural or social history of something, guns included.
I almost put this book aside. I found it very repetitive, returning to the same ideas again and again and presenting it as if it were new. And it seemed like the book spent relatively little time actually talking about Gatling and the gun. I'd pass on this one.
I have been fascinated by the Gatling gun ever since I saw the real thing in a museum many years ago(but alas, did not see it in action). If you're at all curious about this weapon that looks like a deadly calliope, then you will definitely appreciate Keller's book.
Interesting for its description of the American tinkerer culture.
I would have liked it better if it had stayed on subject. It is more of a breathless and breezy review of 19th Century American culture centered on Richard Gatling than a book just on Richard Gatling.
This book is more of a cultural studies about the times in which Gatling invented his gun than it is a biography about the man. Sometimes, I felt, it was a little overwrought, but I liked it nonetheless.
Jason Tenenbown
One of the greatest disappointments of my year. How could a book about a crazed inventor and his quick-fire killing machine go so wrong. The beautiful cover is the best part of the book.
Good historical reference about this period in history and it does give you pause for thought on the implications inventions like the automatic weapon play in our own destruction.
Started off good then got too caught up in its own analogy of patents as the American dream. I was hopping for a little more historical context and less historical analogy.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Lindbergh Child (A Treasury of XXth Century Murder)
  • History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier
  • Ghost Ship: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste and Her Missing Crew
  • Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution
  • America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union
  • The Autobiography of General Ulysses S Grant: Memoirs of the Civil War
  • An Intimate History of Killing: Face-to-Face Killing in Twentieth Century Warfare
  • Miss Leavitt's Stars: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe
  • Moscow 1941: A City And Its People At War
  • The Training Ground: Grant, Lee, Sherman, and Davis in the Mexican War, 1846-1848
  • Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex
  • The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan
  • Roosevelt's Centurions: FDR & the Commanders He Led to Victory in World War II
  • Daring Young Men: The Heroism and Triumph of The Berlin Airlift-June 1948-May 1949
  • The Wonga Coup: Guns, Thugs and a Ruthless Determination to Create Mayhem in an Oil-Rich Corner of Africa
  • Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism
  • Brothers, Rivals, Victors: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley and the Partnership that Drove the Allied Conquest in Europe
  • The Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson and America's First Military Victory
Julia was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. She graduated from Marshall University, then later earned a doctoral degree in English Literature at Ohio State University.

She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and has taught at Princeton and Ohio State Universities, and the University of Notre Dame. She is an essayist for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. In 2005, she won the Pul
More about Julia Keller...
A Killing in the Hills  (Bell Elkins, #1) Bitter River  (Bell Elkins #2) Summer of the Dead (Bell Elkins, #3) Back Home The Devil's Stepdaughter: A Bell Elkins Story

Share This Book