The Dante Club and the Sins of War Monday, Oct 12 2015 

Prior to reading The Dante Club, I had read Matthew Pearl’s The Technologists and because I’d read that book and loved it so much that, I decided to go Pearl’s beginnings and read The Dante Club.  As The Dante Club included so many of the poets I’d studied in my Lit classes, it was a refreshing jaunt through history.  With Longfellow, Holmes, and Lowell, I attempted to uncover the plot of a murderous fiend, who killed in the name of Dante.

It was interesting to see how much of these poets rich histories Pearl included in his novel.  It wasn’t just a murder mystery to be solved, it was an education into our past.  With the Dante Club, we got a peek into the different personalities of these writers, and what they may have been like.  Of course, since it’s historical fiction, we cannot presume that was how they might have really felt, but it was nice to see these figures as real people and not just names in a history book.  It was interesting to see the passionate Lowell, and the demure Holmes with differing opinions on how things should be handled.  

These men who were compatriots, and friends, at times had many disagreements, and the characters’ various traits is what makes Pearl’s characters so relatable.  They didn’t just solve a murder, but they also delved into the complexities of their relationships.  Holmes and Lowell were at such odds, that it was sweet to see them when they worked together.  Although maybe I’m just a sucker for a love/hate friendship.

Though the novel is a typical murder-mystery, it was also a statement on the casualties of war, even after the battles have long ended, seeing the murderer was a suffering Civil War vet.  Despite the gruesome methods in which the murders were committed, one could not help but feel sorry for the poor vet, who did not know how to survive post war.  In a time where we are seeing more and more veterans unable to cope with life post-combat, this sentiment rang painfully clear, and stays fresh in one’s mind.

Technology is no reason for murder Sunday, Jul 8 2012 

Technology is never a good reason for murder, but Matthew Pearl gives one character a compelling, if not crazy reason, for comitting crimes against humanity in the name of technology in his recent book The Technologists.  I recently had the benefit of reading an advanced copy of The Technologists by Matthew Pearl.  Though it was the first book I’ve read of Pearl’s, I had been really excited to read it.  This was partly because it was an advance copy, and partly because, well it was free, and I get giddy over free stuff, because I’m almost always broke.  And let’s face it, who doesn’t get excited about free stuff,  because aren’t we all broke?

my advanced copy of The Technologists

The Technologists was one of the free books I got from goodreads.com.  It was actually really cool, because it was an advance copy, the cover wasn’t even the actual design, and I received a large notice notifying me I could not actually post a review until after the release date.  Not to worry, Random House, I’m such a procrastinator, I didn’t read the book until January, and I am just now writing a review for it.  Sorry, that’s just how much I suck.  I do promise to do much better in the future.

But it wasn’t just the cover that I really loved about this book, it was the author as well.  I mean, I’m just going to say this as matter of factly as possible: Matthew Pearl knows how to grab a reader.  As a writer, (and I can hear my Eng 312 professor now, “you are all writers, but once you get paid to do it, you’re an author”), I know that grabbing the reader is one of the most difficult things to do.  You can’t just start the reader off with something bland.  They want a reason to start reading, and then they need a reason to continue reading.  For example, with The Alchemist,  my only reason to continue reading that was that it was quick.   In The Technologists, Pearl entices the reader so effortlessly, it must be simply second nature to him.  Honestly?  I couldn’t put the book down.

I do have to admit, it did start a bit rough for me, simply because there was a bit of science in the beginning, and though I love Mythbusters (who doesn’t? They blow stuff up), science was never one of my favorite subjects.  And Pearl does his homework, so there was some science in there (for reals).  And it’s not just science he studies, because I read The Dante Club soon after The Technologists, and I can tell you, the man knows how to do his research.   But really, that’s how you should define a good storyteller.  They should do their research, so they know what they are talking about, and they should possess a keen ability to make you want to continue reading their work, even after you finish it.

And for the record, though I love Sherlock Holmes, I don’t typically like murder mysteries.  So that fact alone should tell you that The Technologists is a must read.  It makes a non murder mystery fan, like a murder mystery book.  I will admit, it’s not your typical murder mystery and that it doesn’t really fit the Dan Patterson profile.  And technically, it can’t be classified a murder mystery.  There really isn’t a murder in this book.  Some people die, but the intention wasn’t murder, it was chaos. And I guess I should actually talk about the plot some, huh?

The Technologists’main plot is that there are these ‘accidents’ happening all around Boston.  And, unfortunately for them, the kids over at MIT are being blamed for them.  Now of course, these ‘kids’ (though I use the term loosely, as some of them had already fought in a war), won’t take this sitting down.  They fight these allegations especially hard, since they could lose their school over it.  And it’s a shame, really, that they get blamed for these accidents, because on top of all that, they have to suffer the pious and their disdain of the school’s Darwinist principles, and the obnoxious snobbery from the Harvard students.

One would think that the answer to who the culprit is would be clear cut, but there are definitely a few twists to this book.  One, for example, is the budding romance that develops.  It was especially surprising because it revolved around nerds.  I mean, no offence.  Afterall, I am one, but one never expects them to get any in a book.  Who wants to read about fingers touching over beakers?  Okay, that didn’t actually happen, and I may have actually died if it did.

Would I recommend this book in general?  Yes, definitely.  I thought it was a really quick, fun and intelligent read.  Like I said I could barely put the book down.  And when I did, it was to look up something (pertaining to the plot) on Wikipedia.  I mean, this book not only keeps you enveloped in the mystery but also makes you want to learn!  Where else can you find that?