four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
34-May-June-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-The Invention of Everything ElseShortly before Nikola Tesla’s death in 1943, a young chambermaid named Louisa spies on and then befriends the eccentric inventor, who is living at the Hotel New Yorker. Louisa’s father, assisted by a mysterious mechanic who may be from the future, hopes to use a time machine to visit his deceased wife. Woven into Louisa’s story are episodes from the Serbian-born inventor’s life, including his apprenticeship under Edison (later a bitter rival), the world’s inexplicable failure to credit him for the invention of radio, and the Nobel Committee’s decision to withdraw his prize in physics. New York of the 1940s provides a backdrop for what becomes an exploration of the celibate Tesla’s life and an unusual examination of love.
Houghton Mifflin. 272 pages. $24. ISBN: 061880112X

Oregonian 4.5 of 5 Stars
"[Hunt] set[s] the truth spinning in a world of imagination, and in doing so create[s] an electrified, magnetized concoction that pleases, teases and dazzles. … Hunt’s poetic capabilities are enormous, her flight of words up to the task of taking us where she wants us to go." Alice Evans

Rocky Mountain News 4.5 of 5 Stars
"The Invention of Everything Else covers an ambitious new territory that is part science, part biography and part history. At times, Hunt’s writing is experimental, as Tesla’s work was, and her book is a literary invention that succeeds in resurrecting one of the world’s greatest inventors who may have otherwise been left forgotten." Traci J. Macnamara

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Tesla’s story… is crafted with an intensity bordering on love—an intensity that makes the heart beat faster and the blood race and the serotonin find its optimum level. … Hunt reinvents him as a man who might have created a machine that could guarantee love’s immortality, not just the immortality of human beings." Susan Salter Reynolds

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Told in alternating chapters between Louisa’s story—in the third person—and Tesla’s—in the first person—the novel is equal parts Louisa’s awakening and Tesla’s demise. … [The novel] loses some of its force in the second half as Hunt delves into Tesla’s strained, loveless personal life." Linda Burnett

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The story is a Rube Goldberg contraption of history, slapstick, biography and science fiction: a narrative bricolage that looks too precarious to work but is too alluring to resist." Ron Charles

Chicago Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"The facts of Tesla’s life are fascinating, and while there’s a certain unwieldiness to the plot, and places where the language strains too hard, it’s hard not to conclude that Hunt had her heart in the right place with this book, that her highest concerns are with wonder and love, with questions of survival." Beth Kephart

Chicago Sun Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"[T]he story feels less like converging plot threads than neighboring encyclopedia entries. Hunt’s ambition and depth of research is evident on every page, but the novel lacks a compelling story to match." Mark Athitakis

Critical Summary

Hunt’s sophomore novel entranced most critics. Hunt (The Seas, 2006), who received the National Book Foundation’s first "5 under 35" Award for gifted young writers, weaves together the unbelievable facts of Tesla’s life with some unbelievable fictions of her own creation. The result is a gripping, outlandish, and, at times, tragic story. A few critics found the plot clumsy and the language overly precious, but the majority praised Hunt for her articulate, even poetic, portrayal of a fascinating genius and the times in which he lived. Tesla, who invented radio, florescent lighting, X-rays, radar, and much more, is a man to whom the modern world owes a great debt that was not repaid during his lifetime. The Invention of Everything Else does this great man justice.