From Publishers Weekly
In Hunt's (The Seas
) overstuffed and uneven novel set in New York, circa 1943, an aging Nikola Tesla lives at the Hotel New Yorker and cares for (and chats with) pigeons while planning what could be his boldest invention yet. He forges an unlikely friendship with Louisa Dewell, a 24-year-old chambermaid at the hotel who also keeps a pigeon coop. The book alternates between Niko's reminisces of turn-of-the century Manhattan and Louisa's current domestic dramas; Niko revisits old grievances concerning the usurpation or dismissal of his many inventions, and Louisa gets ensnared in her zany father's mission to travel back in time and reconnect with his dead wife via a time machine built by his lifelong friend Azor Carter. Assisting in the scheme is Louisa's mysterious beau, Arthur Vaughn, who may or may not be from the future. Although many events are drawn from Tesla's life, he and his peers, including Thomas Edison and John Muir, are cartoonish. Likewise, the city backdrop is drenched in rosy nostalgia (even Hell's Kitchen is a quaint neighborhood). Each individual plot thread has potential, but the cumulative effect is dulled by an unwieldy structure. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In this surreal historical novel, the aged and forgotten scientist Nikola Tesla is eking out his last days at the Hotel New Yorker in 1943, communing with pigeons and the ghost of Mark Twain. His ruminations on his career (he was exploited by Edison, cheated by Marconi) and on an unrealized love intersect with the inchoate aspirations of a chambermaid whose father wants to use a time machine to be reunited with his dead wife. Hunt is adept at entering the mind of a rudderless young woman, but she is less convincing with the brilliant and possibly crazed eighty-six-year-old Tesla. Still, her vision of punch-drunk, teetering-on-modernity Manhattan dazzles in the details: a vast hotel with its own hospital and ice-skating rink; a Poverty Ball attended by millionaires in rags.
Copyright © 2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker