Friday, September 16, 2016

BOOK: Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Last Days of Night by Graham Moore, 357 pages (review copy from Randomhouse Canada)

Legal thriller, inventors/scientists, Nikola Tesla, historical fiction, quotes and chapter titles for all the chapters.

This book is ticking all my boxes and was a wonderful, easy read. The narrative style reminded me of Erik Larson's books like Devil in the White City and Dead Wake. Larson's books are nonfiction and this is technically a fiction accounting, but the basic characters and plot line are true. Moore includes an afterward and specifies where he changed from order of events to make the story flow better.

I've mentioned here and here my interest in Nikola Tesla, so a book with Tesla as a main character? Emphasis on the character part. In the notes after, Moore mentions that in today's world, Tesla would probably be diagnosed as schizophrenic. He was inventing wireless telephones! in the 1880s!

Graham Moore is the young guy who won the Oscar for screenwriting The Imitation Game and gave a heartfelt speech. He's written a great book here and now I want to watch The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch plays Sherlock Holmes, and Moore has also written The Sherlockian. Woo, I'm going in circles here. Quality circles.

Plot Summary: (from randomhouse website)
New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history—and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

While I read this book from the science perspective, enjoying the development of the electrical system and the debate between alternating current and direct current, it turns out Cravath the lawyer is famous in law circles for the design of modern law firm, which it is posited he based on the scientific firms of the day. Cool. As if I wasn't enjoying this enough, at one point Cravath takes a trip to talk to a scientist who has actually beaten Edison, and he goes to Cape Breton! to visit Alexander Graham Bell! Bell moved to Cape Breton after inventing the telephone, and his home, as all good Maritimers know, is in Baddeck, Cape Breton. (Now a Canadian National Historic Site)

I hoped it would be a little more suspenseful, but overall, I really enjoyed this book. It read very quickly and even included a little bit of a romance. Since all the characters are based on real people, there are no stereotypical characters and while my review makes it sound like it does too much, it flows nicely and relies on 'truth is stranger than fiction.'