Where the fuck is Nikola Tesla? [yeah it's going to be one of "those" kinds of book reviews] Seriously, how can someone write a book about the discovery's, effects and critical moments of the electric revolution without even mentioning Nikola Tesla once? Not mentioning Tesla is like writing a book about the liberation of African slaves in America and not mentioning George Washington. I was actually stunned when halfway through reading the book I flipped to the index to see where Tesla was going to appear in the narrative, only to be greeted by no such entry amidst the "T" columns. I can't explain it. I am surrounded by machines that run on Tesla's principle of AC electricity. Toasters, kettles, radios, lights... even the machine I am writing this very blog post on is powered by Tesla's version of electrical currant. I can't explain his omisson from the book. I actually wonder if David Bodanis has something personally against Nikola Tesla, as he even bizarrely mentions Tesla's invention, the radio transmitter, but perpetuates the 60 year old well-recognised error of crediting its invention to Marconi.
The style of writing and narrative in the book also makes one question the absense of Tesla. Bodanis prides himself on not making the story of electricity "boring" by spicing it up with all the personal human issues surrounding the events of modern electrical discoveries. He colourfully describes, the arguing, betrayal and back stabbing that went on. War stories about beating the Nazis with their own radio technology stolen out from under their very nose one night. So why no mention of the greatest fight between electrical companies of all time?? The very first case of VHS Vs. BetaMax, BluRay Vs. HD-DVD.... the war between Edison's DC and Tesla's AC technology. This war was vicious, cut throat... even involving the public execution of animals, yet no mention of it in the book. I just don't get it.
Oh well nevermind, the book has lost all it's stars in this review so far because of it, so lets see if we can get any back for it. Well on the plus side, I only pay €2.99 for a hardcover copy of the book. Probably a euro too much, but hey, hardcovers are handy. He does cover a lot of stuff to be fair, even at the expense of omitting the man who invented AC electricity, radio transmitters, wireless power (Jesus, why did he not mention him?!). It was very easy to read book. It actually makes the ideal shitter book, and that is indeed where I read most of it. With the way it was going at times, I figured I could rip out a few of the pages that didn't have Tesla on them and wipe my bum-bum if I ran out of toilet paper. Some of the events he describes are interesting, but I often found his choice of explaining the genesis of their invention a bit odd. Take the part where he described the German invention of a highly improved version of radar. He makes no attempt at explaining how the German scientists developed the technology but rather instead how "Tommy boy stormed into Germany one night, and stole it from the Jerrys before you even had time to say, Hitler has only one ball". That was it, that's how radar was improved by scientists; they just stole it one night. That's probably how AC electricity was invented too. Oh and did I mention, Marconi invented the radio transmitter. He did right a good lot on Alan Turing though, and delved right into how Turing, a national war hero, was persecuted simply because of his homosexuality. Which was nice of Bodanis.
In honor of Nikola Tesla, here's John C Reilly playing the part Tesla in a short feature about his life, as narrated by a drunk man. Very odd, but quite amusing and interesting. (via Andiscandis)