Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
Nothing like a few rainy days and an Erik Larson book to start out summer vacation.  I've read most of this Seattle writer's books, starting with Devil in the White City (combines the story of the Chicago's World Fair and one of the most prolific serial killers in the U.S.), Isaac's Storm (story of the Galveston hurricane, still the greatest loss of American lives to a natural disaster), and In the Garden of the Beast ( story of the American ambassador to Berlin in 1933).  I have loved them all.  Larson is able to combine exacting historical detail as well as build suspense and mystery, creating page-turners as evidenced by finishing this one in just three days.

Thunderstruck is the story of an Italian man named Marconi, who through trial and error, invents the wireless.  Now, I had never really thought of this technology prior to this.  We've all heard of Alexander Graham Bell and his telephone and Thomas Edison and his lightbulb, thinking these were scientific discoveries that changed our world.  While they were, the wireless did something that no one else ever had - it gave ships the ability to connect with one another.  For the first time in history, seamen were no longer isolated.  And when one thinks of the explosion of the information age we have today, wireless seems to have been that first step, although some days I wonder of Facebook is a blessing or a curse.  Regardless, the stories of Marconi and his other rival inventors are reminiscent of the 1980's in Silicon Valley, except that Larson enhances the story with Edwardian England and a good-old fashioned murder mystery, the kind that Alfred Hitchcock ultimately used as inspiration for Rear Window.  If you like historical trivia and suspense, you will definitely love this book.

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