Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review: Thunderstruck

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson follows two stories - Marconi's invention of wireless communication and a well known London murder. As you might imagine, these seemingly disparate stories collide in an clever way.

I've got to say, I really enjoyed the book. Larson's style strikes me as fairly unique. On one hand, he gives you a massive amount of detail with respect to characters and setting. He just can't help himself, it seems. The information is just too interesting not to share. On the other hand, he manages to put the reader in the position of putting together the pieces of the puzzle, rather than spoon feeding you every conclusion. Of course, this is a tad bit frustrating, but I do appreciate that he has faith in his readers and this technique definitely makes for a better story. The technique was actually so effective that he got me to actually verbally gasp at surprise at the end of the book - not something a book on CD usually gets me to do.

What makes the story, though, is the characters. And chief among them is Marconi. He's got the social blindness and uber-focus of a true geek, and the information-spinning and big-picture tactics of a dot com CEO. Consider that he not only invented wireless communication as a practical tool, but also dealt with the tricky issue of competition and communication monopolies by inventing the notion of Wireless Service. That is, rather than a company buying his hardware, they sign onto his service.

On the murder side - it really is a brain teaser of a case. Shira's into her share of true crime books and it was fun being able to introduce her to such a classic story.

Overall, the book is an excellent read with plenty of historical, technical and business lessons. Just prepare yourself to get flooded with information — a quick read, this isn't.

1 comment:

  1. Gareth11:37 AM

    I also enjoyed this when I read it a few years ago. If you haven't read one of his others, "Devil in the White City", I would recommend that one even more highly.