Rating : 5 out of 5 Stars
This captivating historical fiction relates the battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse to build the electrical system that would light the United States. The outcome of this war between two geniuses would reverberate for generations. This story of inventors and major industry players is a unique, thrilling and fast paced read, set in Gilded Age, a period that fascinates me. Frankly, this book was unputdownable and a great starting point for additional research on the subject!
The story is told from the point of view of Paul Cravath, an ambitious, smart but inexperienced law prodigy, with only one client to his name. He is only 27 years old when he is hired to be the lead litigator representing George Westinghouse in the largest patent suit in U.S. history, related to the incandescent light bulb. This patent was the most valuable ever granted at the time and its holder, Thomas Edison, had accused George Westinghouse of infringing on it.
Paul is caught between two geniuses in the middle of the “war of the currents”. He soon realizes that the battle between Edison’s direct current and Westinghouse’s alternating current is not really about demonstrated product superiority but rather about perceived superiority by the general public.
Paul is in way over his head but knows that understanding the personality of the stakeholders is of the utmost importance to win the war. What makes these scientists tick? Edison and Westinghouse had a totally different vision of the progress. Edison wanted to be the most famous inventor in the world, Westinghouse was a craftsman and wanted to make the best products with the most useful technology.
Paul wants to create the conditions for a level playing field, with fair competition between all players. But the conflict will ultimately result in the creation of a major corporation, General Electric. This process of economic concentration is typical of the period.
Graham Moore has penned a brilliant and clever story focusing on precursors, one of them being Paul Cravath himself, as the inventor of the modern law firm. With this book, the author has demonstrated that technological evolution can be the subject of a page-turner.
An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
About the author
Graham Moore is a New York Times bestselling novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter. His screenplay for THE IMITATION GAME won the Academy Award and WGA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2015 and was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. The film, directed by Morten Tyldum and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, received 8 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.
Graham’s first novel, THE SHERLOCKIAN (2010), was published in 16 countries and translated into 13 languages. It was called “sublime” and “clever” and “delightful” by the New York Times, “savvy” and “entertaining” by the Los Angeles Times, and lots of other nice things as well.