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The Technologists: A Novel [Audiobook, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Matthew Pearl , Stephen Hoye
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 21 2012
The first class at M.I.T. The last hope for a city in peril.
The acclaimed author of The Dante Club reinvigorates the historical thriller. Matthew Pearl’s spellbinding new novel transports readers to tumultuous nineteenth-century Boston, where the word “technology” represents a bold and frightening new concept. The fight for the future will hinge on . . .
Boston, 1868. The Civil War may be over but a new war has begun, one between the past and the present, tradition and technology. On a former marshy wasteland, the daring Massachusetts Institute of Technology is rising, its mission to harness science for the benefit of all and to open the doors of opportunity to everyone of merit. But in Boston Harbor a fiery cataclysm throws commerce into chaos, as ships’ instruments spin inexplicably out of control. Soon after, another mysterious catastrophe devastates the heart of the city. Is it sabotage by scientific means or Nature revolting against man’s attempt to control it?
The shocking disasters cast a pall over M.I.T. and provoke assaults from all sides—rival Harvard, labor unions, and a sensationalistic press. With their first graduation and the very survival of their groundbreaking college now in doubt, a band of the Institute’s best and brightest students secretly come together to save innocent lives and track down the truth, armed with ingenuity and their unique scientific training.
Led by “charity scholar” Marcus Mansfield, a quiet Civil War veteran and one-time machinist struggling to find his footing in rarefied Boston society, the group is rounded out by irrepressible Robert Richards, the bluest of Beacon Hill bluebloods; Edwin Hoyt, class genius; and brilliant freshman Ellen Swallow, the Institute’s lone, ostracized female student. Working against their small secret society, from within and without, are the arrayed forces of a stratified culture determined to resist change at all costs and a dark mastermind bent on the utter destruction of the city.
Studded with suspense and soaked in the rich historical atmosphere for which its author is renowned, The Technologists is a dazzling journey into a dangerous world not so very far from our own, as the America we know today begins to shimmer into being.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Praise for The Technologists
The Technologists combines everything I love in a thriller: fascinating history, science, and a frightening mystery that demands to be solved. Matthew Pearl is one of my must-read authors. He never fails to intrigue and thrill!”—Tess Gerritsen, author of The Silent Girl

Fascinating, mesmerizing, and richly atmospheric, The Technologists is the best yet from a true master of the historical thriller. I loved this novel.”—Joseph Finder, New York Times bestselling author of Buried Secrets and Vanished

“Pearl’s signature complex plotting, strewn with red herrings and populated with unlikely villains, leaves readers as shocked and intrigued as the Bostonians. . . . Pearl’s first three novels—The Dante Club, The Poe Shadow, and The Last Dickens—were all New York Times bestsellers. His latest, another literary-historical thriller, seems certain to join the elite club.”—Booklist
Pearl again blends detective fiction with historical characters (such as pioneering feminist and MIT-trained scientist Ellen Swallow), and his cast reads like a who’s who of nineteenth-century Boston. . . . Great fun.”—Publishers Weekly

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Matthew Pearl is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dante Club, The Poe Shadow, and The Last Dickens, and the editor of the Modern Library editions of Dante’s Inferno (translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales. Pearl is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School and has taught literature at Harvard and at Emerson College. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
By Naomi
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you like Matthew Pearl, you won't be disappointed. My first Matthew Pearl read was the Dante Club and I've been hooked ever since. Unlike his earlier books, the content can get a bit bogged down with overly descriptive language, but if you work through that, you'll find an entirely entertaining novel.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  123 reviews
67 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sort-of alternate history for science geeks Oct. 23 2011
By Esther Schindler - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Ordinarily, I am reluctant to read Literature-with-a-capital-L. Books that are (or are apt to be) reviewed by the New York Times tend to have self-conscious (if beautiful) prose, tortured characters, and unhappy endings. So years ago, when Matthew Pearl's The Dante Club was all the rage, I studiously ignored it, until a friend said, "You're coming to town? That night is my book club. Read this before you arrive." ...And I was hooked. Pearl writes beautifully _without_ torturing everybody in sight; he makes you savor each page.

So when I saw his new book among my Amazon Vine options, I reached for the SEND ME THIS BOOK button without hesitation.

This novel is set in Boston in 1868 -- the same era as The Dante Club, but down the street a few miles. Our heroes (including our primarily protagonist) are in the final few months at the newly founded Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose fifteen-member inaugural class is about to graduate. Meanwhile someone is doing dastardly deeds, beginning with a disaster in the Boston Harbor that cannot be explained (such as compasses that go haywire). And there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY anyone would ask the students from that weird Tech school to get involved, when there is the respectable Harvard University down the street whose assistance might be asked instead.

The MIT history is real. The science-based attacks in Boston, not so much. Which is just fine with me, because Pearl's story kept my mind whirring to separate the stuff I know (I've spent a lot of time in Boston) from the fiction. And because I learned so very much about what it meant to be a "technologist" in that era.

Today, we take the march of technology for granted. We may object to its overuse and its excesses and we may worry about automation taking away jobs, but it's part of our lives. In the late 1800s, when Darwinism was considered a cultish belief system that no self-respecting scientist would take seriously, the Institute of Technology was on very shaky ground. "When I was a student at Harvard," says an MIT professor in one scene, "My very interest in chemistry made me an outcast, and later Agassiz refused to allow me to teach it there. The Institute is on the verge of leading the way to a new age of scientific acceptance among the public, and we cannot risk delaying that."

The end result was a book that I didn't want to put down. Pearl drew me into the era completely... though perhaps my familiarity with present-day Boston gave the mental picture more depth. I liked the characters, and I was sometimes startled by the intersection of so many events; in 1868, Boston is still trying to come to terms with the end of the Civil War, for instance.

The Technologists is not absolutely perfect; some of the viewpoint-changing got on my nerves a teeny bit. And I wonder if a reader who is less scientifically-minded will follow some of the experiments.

I heartily recommend this book as a great historical mystery for techies. And probably for others, too (though they may give it 4 stars); Pearl is a good storyteller.
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Beginning of MIT---a novel Oct. 12 2011
By William D. Curnutt - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
The book starts out with a good bit of action in regards to the Boston Harbor and a strange occurrence in a heavy fog that causes many boats to either collide or run into their piers. There is major damage, several boats sink but fortunately not a lot of loss of life. But what caused the magnetic flux that made all of their compasses go haywire?

Then in the downtown section during the day a strange occurrence as the glass in the windows of all the businesses on that street start to melt! That's right the glass windows become liquid. But then as they drain out of their frames they reconstitute into glass and shatter as they hit the ground, or in the case of one unfortunate person they are encased in liquid glass that then becomes a solid cone of death.

What is happening? The police are stumped? Can the Technologist from MIT step in and provide clues or answers as to what is happening? Yes they could, but unfortunately the police and the other universities in the city do not think that they are a valid institution of higher learning and they don't want to enlist their help. As a matter of fact their students are looked down on as being from the lower classes and not as well educated.

Thus the basic battle of higher intellectual pursuits verses 'science.' Not only that but the other institutes were founded on Biblical principles and this new institute has a bunch of people who believe in Darwinism. So they are even more suspect.

The first third of the book flows well and kept my attention. But then I felt that the writing slowed down, the story slowed down and the author takes too much time building a backstory for one of the characters. Or at least the building of this backstory was boring.

The pace will pick up again, but not quick enough. Usually I get through a book pretty quickly. But I will admit that I set this down and went to two other books and read them completely until I pushed myself to go back.

So, while the story is intriguing for whatever reason it didn't keep my interest well.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mystery and adventure as the Modern United States is born Oct. 4 2011
By Joseph Devita - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is a typical Matthew Pearl novel- historical fiction revolving around a strange mystery that involves both real and fictional characters. In this case we are in 1868 Boston where the first graduating class of MIT needs to find out who is harnessing technology to destroy the city. It evokes a time when Darwin was new and very controversial and applied science was looked upon as almost magic, with the potential to upend society and corrupt public morality. And yet it was also the time, right after the Civil War, when the US was about to become a major industrial power because of those same forces, and this tension forms the backdrop for this whole narrative.

As others have noted, the first 150 pages can be slow reading, as the author introduces a wide range of characters and their back stories to substantiate the world he is creating and also to widen the pool of suspects. I thought some of it was unnecessary, but that is the writer's call. I did find myself liking the characters more as I continued, so a purpose was served.

Once the half way mark is passed, the action really increases, as do the twists in revealing the culprit's identity, though I honestly figured it out fairly early- if you read enough mysteries I guess you get good at these sort of things.

Pearl does an excellent job of depicting the times, and being a big fan of Boston I really enjoyed this historical incarnation. Additionally, MIT really is a major, if not THE major, character, and a long time ago I was accepted as a graduate student there, so needless to say I was fascinated in reading about its early years. It will be shocking to some to see how a mere 150 years ago much of what we take for granted was considered almost heretical.

Reading this book, I found it a little Dickensian, which I guess is understandable. However, it also reminded me of Harry Potter - a group of young people in a mysterious school who set out to save their world using their almost magical abilities. Engineering as necromancy- something Arthur C Clarke talked about years ago. I wonder if this was Pearl's intention, or just me subconsciously influenced by Rowling's success?

All in all this was an excellent novel by an author who is getting better with each work. You will find yourself slowly but inexorably drawn into the lives of the Technologists as they deal with both their everyday concerns and interests while at the same time being forced to solve a mystery which threatens the lives of the people of Boston and their school's future. And you will cheer at the climax when all these young people come together to demonstrate the qualities which will lead America into its exceptional future.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enter­tain­ing Read March 2 2012
By Man of La Book - Published on
The Tech­nol­o­gists by Matthew Pearl is a fic­tional book about the early days of the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (MIT). The story takes place in the years after the Amer­i­can Civil War dur­ing a very frag­ile time in our history.

A Civil War vet­eran & POW by the name of Mar­cus Mans­field is attend­ing the first class of the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy as a char­ity stu­dent. Even though he is not as rich as his coun­ter­parts, Mar­cus is smart and a sci­en­tist n heart and mind.

Mans­field and his col­leagues decide to inves­ti­gate recent strange occur­rences which hap­pened in the Boston Har­bor and the city itself. What's at stake is the future of MIT as well as mod­ern sci­ence itself.

The Tech­nol­o­gists by Matthew Pearl is an enter­tain­ing read with won­der­ful his­tor­i­cal detail and a bunch of nerdi­ness thrown in for good mea­sure. While I wasn't sucked into the book as much as I would have liked, I found the char­ac­ters cap­ti­vat­ing and the plot line interesting.

The author does a great job inter­weav­ing real­ity and fic­tion as well as the dia­log which was spo­ken in that time period. The harsh social norms of the time are pre­sented in the form of a lone MIT female stu­dent who is forced to study in isolation.

There were sev­eral intrigu­ing aspects of this book, it is writ­ten almost as a futur­is­tic novel, but of course with tech­nol­ogy most of us con­sider anti­quated. The ones I thought were the most inter­est­ing where the tech­no­log­i­cal aspect, Har­vard's reli­gious aspects, and flash­backs of the pro­tag­o­nist to the Amer­i­can Civil War.

The over­reach­ing tech­nol­ogy which the MIT stu­dents dealt with, old in today's stan­dards but pre­sented in the book as the lat­est inno­va­tions (rem­i­nis­cent of steam­punk) are explained in an inter­est­ing way. Tech­nol­ogy, then as is now, is some­times seen as an evil, espe­cially when it looks as if it might cost a whole class their liv­ing wage.

I have always held Har­vard as a for­ward think­ing uni­ver­sity. This novel, and a quick con­fir­ma­tion on Google, taught me that it wasn't always so. From my pre­vi­ous read­ing on Amer­i­can his­tory it seemed to me that Har­vard has always strove to inno­vate, but it seems that around that time Har­vard upheld its reli­gious stan­dards higher than its sci­en­tific ones. The uni­ver­sity wouldn't admit stu­dents who aren't Chris­tians as well as oppose ideas which do not agree with the Chris­t­ian dogma based on noth­ing but the ridicu­lous idea that reli­gion shouldn't be questioned.

A few of the chap­ters are told in flash­backs to the char­ac­ters' Civil War expe­ri­ence and how that expe­ri­ence came to influ­ence them at the cur­rent time­line. Per­son­ally, I would have loved to read more about that era, chap­ters switch­ing between war expe­ri­ence and how they affect peace time expe­ri­ences. How the war tech­nol­ogy which was meant to destroy can also be used to rebuild.

Over­all, while not a page turner, I found The Tech­nol­o­gists to be a solid, above aver­age mys­tery, which holds itself together well, writ­ten by a gifted author.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't deliver on promises Jan. 17 2013
By Redaurella - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I wanted to enjoy this book as it has many of the features I look for - a historical setting, Victorian technology, feisty women characters and an inexplicable mystery. However despite a good beginning I felt this book was let down by a pedestrian approach to characterisation, plot and pacing.

Marcus Mansfield is a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who iwith his friends attempts to solve recent strange events in Boston which seem to defy the laws of science and threaten its industries. He takes on the challenge using his knowledge of the developing disciplines of applied science and cryptic notes given to him by his professor. In between adolescent rivalry with Harvard students, he and his MIT colleagues conduct their own experiments in secret.

The book is overly complicated with extraneous characters, backstories about the Civil War and various possible villains. The dialogue is cliched and the characters, with the possible exception of Ellen Swallow ( a historical character, the first woman to study at MIT although she could not attend classes) are sketchy and inconsistent. MIT and its students are posed as the underdogs in Boston society. This may have been true initially in a class sense, but the author takes an uncritical attitude to technology, and the very real dangers of boiler explosions, train wrecks, mining disasters, contamination of drinking water etc in the 19th century as new technologies were developed are put down as attacks on technology and industry. The truth is that the unrestrained growth of industry while providing opportunities for a few, created many challenges for the poor and vulnerable; but these are glossed over. The dialogue is in a masculine jolly ho ripping yarns style which does not ring true and sounds cliched. Pearl tries to cram in too much information about 19th century Boston and the Institute and the result is a book which does not flow well and is laborious to read. Perhaps if there had been a few more Ellen Swallows at MIT the future of technology and industry would have been different.
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