Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Book Review & Giveaway: The Technologists, by Matthew Pearl

The Technologists is and intricately woven mystery, that will entertain the reader with a lush historical setting and surprise you with its twists and turns.

We are in 1868 Boston, and our main characters, Marcus, Edwin, and Bob, are looking forward to being part of the first graduating class from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

When unexplained terrorist events are occurring in Boston, these technologically oriented students want to help figure out what is happening during these strange events. You see, these aren't your normal bombings and shootings. First, the navigational instruments in all the vessels in port go haywire, causing substantial damage to the port and many sailing vessels. I won't tell you about the other events, but they are similarly mysterious in origin, and completely different that the first event.

No one in Boston believes that MIT will survive. They don't believe in their "hands on" type of study. The workers are afraid that new inventions may take away their jobs. They are frightened of technology. The people at Harvard don't like this new method being used. This is also the time of Darwin and his writings, which Harvard administrators are totally against. So controversy surrounds this school and its students. And, to top it all, MIT has allowed a WOMAN to attend.

The students are told that they cannot have anything to do with investigating the strange events, for fear that the school will end up being accused of contributing to them.  But, no one has any confidence in the Boston police or Professor Agassiz from Harvard, who the police have asked to help.

So, behind everyone's back and in secret, The Technologists, made up of our main characters, and eventually Miss Swallow, the very bright female student, begin to do experiments and investigations in the basement of the school to determine how these attacks are being orchestrated.

There were a few unexpected twists during the eventual resolution of this mystery that were enjoyable. I certainly didn't see them coming. The book is a bit long, and at times the plot slowed, especially during the setting up and beginning of the investigation. Once The Technologists started figuring things out, the pace picked up. The amount of scientific description might be a bit much for some, but, personally, I enjoyed those parts.

Marcus has flashbacks of his time of service in the Civil War, and particularly, his time as a war prisoner. These events have, of course, shaped his life. He is the character that we learn the most about, the real main character of the story. I did wonder why we were learning these details of his past; this seemed unnecessary. But, I assumed these events were important to the story, and I was correct, so don't be frustrated. Perhaps these segments could have been shorter and more spread out throughout the story, but this is really nitpicking.

Another somewhat insignificant comment is that towards the beginning of the story, we are taken to the perpetrator's laboratory, and see things just for a couple of pages, through his/her eyes. That was the only time. I wish that part would have been either left out, or that we revisited that scene a couple more times during the story. I just felt it didn't fit--it was out of place.

The best part of my reading experience was the historical setting, and learning about the origin of MIT, and the absolute hatred of this institution by almost everyone else. The treatment of women, laborers, and of course the African Americans during this time is all touched upon. The description of the desolate marshy area where the Institute was built is fascinating, especially to those who are familiar with current day Boston. I enjoyed all of these details.

This isn't a quick, easy read. The vocabulary and sentence construction is more complicated than my usual fare. I guess you call this "literary," and I really enjoyed reading a well-written, complex, literary book for a change. I would, however, hesitate to recommend this to all but my most mature "literary" teens. This one is definitely an adult book.

Published by Random House, February 21, 2012
496 pages
Copy obtained from TLC Book Tours, for review

Rating: 3.5/5

The tour is allowing me to GIVE AWAY one copy of The Technologists! You can enter here.

Matthew's website:
Watch the book trailer:

Matthew Pearl’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, February 13th:  Book Chatter
Monday, February 20th:  Book Club Classics
Wednesday, February 22nd:  A Library of My Own
Thursday, February 23rd:  Unabridged Chick
Friday, February 24th:  Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, February 28th:  Jen’s Book Thoughts
Wednesday, February 29th:  Man of La Book
Thursday, March 1st:  Book Addict Katie
Monday, March 5th:  Calico Critic
Wednesday, March 7th:  Annette’s Book Spot
Monday, March 12th:  S. Krishna’s Books
Wednesday, March 14th:  Wordsmithonia

Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2012 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved


  1. I've seen this author's name around for quite some time, but haven't read anything by him. I do like a good adult read now and then. I just have the hardest time finding them! While this one doesn't seem to catch my interest, he did write a book about Poe which I will check out.

    1. I'm a nut for anything historical, so that's why this one caught my attention. I'm surrounded by engineers in my family, so that's another reason this one had some appeal...

  2. I'm fascinated by the story in this book - the early days of technology and the reaction of the average person to scientific developments really interests me.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour!


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