x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The Technologists: a mystery for the science set

Nineteenth-century MIT students set out to investigate strange phenomena after an electrical storm.

The Technologists
Matthew Pearl
Harvill Secker
The Technologists Matthew Pearl Harvill Secker Dh85

In the year 1868, the city of Boston is besieged by an air of catastrophe, beginning with an electrical storm at its central port that causes ships’ compasses to go off kilter and sets vessels on collision courses.

A few days later in the town’s financial district, every single piece of glass melts into thin air. Whipped into a panic, citizens cast blame on the only source they believe capable of such sorcery: the steady evolution of science.

In the style of his previous bestseller The Dante Club, Matthew Pearl courts conspiracy through those who set out to investigate these strange phenomena. Together, MIT students Marcus Manfield, Edwin Hoyt, Bob Richards and Ellen Swallow form the technologists, a secret society bent on preserving all that their noble institute stands for: namely the pursuit of knowledge, innovation, adventure and besting their rivals at Harvard.

Those with a head for calculus and chemicals will take joy in the meticulous research Pearl integrates into his pages. However, while the attention to detail makes for an immersive experience, it is sometimes at the expense of the narrative, which often wears thin.