The Technologists by Matthew Pearl

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The Technologists by Matthew Pearl

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: Four students and MIT race against time to uncover the identity of the evil scientist threatening the city.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 576 Date: February 2013
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780099512769

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The year is 1868 and Boston is under threat from an evil genius who seems to have the uncanny ability to manipulate matter itself. The city has already experienced two attacks; the chaos in the harbour when the navigation instruments went awry and the eerie spectacle in the commercial quarter when every item of glass, including windows, eyeglasses, clocks and watches spontaneously melted. But are these attacks a prelude to something greater?

Luckily, for Boston, the newly formed Massachusetts Institute of Technology is about to honour its first graduating class. The institute boasts some of brightest young minds in the industrialised world and upon hearing the news of the attacks, a small group of students, calling themselves ‘The Technologists’ are keen to investigate events and unmask the perpetrator.

Matthew Pearl has created a believable world, seamlessly fusing true-life elements of Boston’s history with a lively dose of steampunk sci-fi. Pearl’s fastidious research and intimate knowledge of the area gives an authentic feel to the story, with most of the characters based on real individuals, including Ellen Swallow, the first female graduate in MIT history. Pearl has tried to accurately recreate the language used in this time period, although, to the reader, the dialogue can sound a bit 'Enid Blyton' at times!

I had mixed feelings about the book itself. The premise was intriguing and the story was engaging; one of the best I have read in a long time. Unfortunately, the beginning of the book had far too much superfluous padding, with the result that the actual story seemed to take a long time to start properly. The author was also slow to develop the characters, which was another major flaw. In fact, I didn’t feel like the book 'got going' until about 150 pages in, which would, I imagine, be the point that most readers would give up.

However, I was rewarded for my perseverance, for a book that started with a splutter ended with a bang. After a plodding start, the book gradually cranks up the tension to the maximum, and as the investigations continue, it becomes a real page-turner. Pearl has a brilliant way of leading his readers to the wrong conclusions about the identity of the 'experimenter'. I must confess that at some point during the book, most of the characters came under my suspicious scrutiny! The twists and turns at the end came as a genuine surprise.

The Technologists is an entertaining historical thriller which is a little different from the norm. Fans of Sherlock Holmes will enjoy it immensely. However, at 600 pages, it would have benefitted from some heavy cropping and editing. I would encourage anyone reading the book to persevere with it, as it is well worth reading.

If you enjoyed The Technologists, try Shadowfall: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes by Tracy Revels, a thriller set in the same period.

Buy The Technologists by Matthew Pearl at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Technologists by Matthew Pearl at

Buy The Technologists by Matthew Pearl at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Technologists by Matthew Pearl at


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