In libraries stuffed with yellowed ledgers, in photo albums lined with fading photos, and in newspaper archives stored as microfilm in some obscure room there are always stories to be found. But most people don’t recognize them when they see them, instead seeing only the dusty and decaying remnants of an equally dusty and decaying past. (Or so many people think.) It takes a special person to see through the sepia shades of time and detect the vibrant colors of a tale just waiting to be told, and Matthew Pearl is one of those persons.
With every one of his previous novels gracing the New York Times bestseller list (my personal favorite being The Last Dickens), anticipation has been high for his newest novel, The Technologists. Set in post-Civil War Boston, we are taken through the front doors of the newly established Massachusetts Institute of Technology where young ambitious men (and one ambitious young woman), strive to break the educational mold set by the domineering Harvard as well as convince the country that technology (a relatively new addition to the dictionary and America thought) is not something to be feared but to be embraced. That is until compasses lose their polarization at night in the Boston Harbor causing massive shipwrecks and in the metropolitan heart of the city everything made of glass, from windows to watches and glasses, melts into searing puddles of molten color leaving the population on the verge of panic.
Wanting to protect their city as well as unravel these terrifying scientific mysteries that might be the Institute of Technology’s undoing, a small group of students band together to solve the puzzles and save the day, little realizing what type of evil they have pitched themselves against.
The Technologists shows that once again Matthew Pearl has written a spectacular piece of historical fiction, one of those books that makes me hope that maybe I could also be one of those people who see the colors of plot and character in the fading documents and photographs because someday I’d love to tell a story like this.