Tony's Reviews > The Technologists

The Technologists by Matthew Pearl
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's review
Feb 25, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: thrillers
Read in February, 2012

THE TECHNOLOGISTS. (2012). Matthew Pearl. **.
I admit right up front that this latest novel from Mr. Pearl did not pass my one-hundred-page sniff test – which in a novel of almost five-hundred pages is likely a minimal sniff. It’s a novel that is hard to classify: historical fiction (?), science fiction (?), thriller (?), historical science fiction (?). I made up the last genre, but it seems to fit the best. From what I read, it is the story of the conflict of science, as it was then in 1868 when MIT was being established, and religion, as represented by the forces of Harvard’s staff and pupil enrollment. To bring this conflict to the surface, we are introduced to Boston of the time, where two amazing events occur back-to-back. The first was when a fog, cum miasma, envelopes Boston Harbor, and all of the ships waiting to be led to their berths by harbor pilots find that their navigation gear has gone haywire. The resulting confusion causes a large number of collissions and subsequent wrecks. The second event is also accompanied by a cloud of vapor that leads to all of the glass in a given area – window glass, spectacle glass, lamp glass – to soften and ultimately liquify. The local population is up in arms, and wants to lay the blame against the teachings of the MIT faculty and the practices of their student body. We meet a cast of characters worthy of a deMille epic – a cast of thousands. Students from both institutions, Harvard and MIT, and their respective faculties get involved, along with members of the Boston Police department. The dialog from all involved is truly puerile, in spite of the fact that these are supposed to be people of some intellectual talent. All of this aside, I am sure that this novel will be a best-seller. My record shows that the lower I rate a book, the more copies of the book that will be sold. I had great hopes years ago after reading Mr. Pearl’s first book, “The Dante Club,” that we were in the presence of a new and talented writer, but conclude that Mr. Pearl may be very much like Peter Lorre, who made his first movie his greatest movie. I hope I’m wrong.
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04/14/2016 marked as: read

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