The Last Days of Night: A Novel was certainly out of my comfort zone, revolving around electricity, patent law, and Wall Street.
A fictionalized yet well researched version of events related to the invention and production of electricity, specifically the rivalry and patent lawsuit for the light bulb, Edison vs. Westinghouse, the novel centers on the young and inexperienced attorney representing Westinghouse. A bit of New York society is thrown in, which I enjoyed, and also a dose of intrigue with questionable behaviors from most of the characters.
I learned for example exactly what creates electrical current, the difference between A/C and D/C, and that Tesla is not just the band that opened for Poison when I was in the 8th grade. (For the record I ended up loving Tesla for themselves…I still LOVE the song Love Song!)
And even with all this “information” it was still an entertaining read! Plus when I turn on my reading light at night, I appreciate it a bit more now.
It provided a perspective that new technology does not just rest on invention; after people invent, there need to be other people who produce, and people who sell it. All of these complications mean that it doesn’t always come out right (not saying it didn’t in this case just saying that one can see how it could easily go wrong), and the credit for invention is hard to give to a single person. Everyone is building on what everyone else has done.
Not someone who has ANY experience in law, science, or hard-core business (though I was a business major once upon a time), I found the topics a bit dry, BUT I also think it was good for me.
I particularly enjoyed the business and technology quotes that started each chapter. The quotes were from Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Edison, Alexander Bell, and the like. These quotes set the mood and theme for the upcoming chapter.
Here was my favorite:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, karma, what-ever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. – Steve Jobs
Of course I loved a moment at the end of the book where they are looking at Niagra Falls:
It was nice to be reminded that of all the fantastic things he’d seen in his life, of all the man-made inventions he’d witnessed, none held the power that Niagra did. Or rather that even Westinghouse’s perfect current depended on nature for its power.
The book is to be made into a movie set to release in 2018 with Eddie Redmayne playing the young attorney. I can certainly see him in this role and will look forward to the movie.
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