Setting: Boston, in the time after the ending of the American Civil War.
Story: Somebody is terrorizing Boston. First, a magnetic storm brings chaos to the harbor, causing ships to collide and burn and sink. Then, all the glass in the financial district of the city suddenly melts. Four of the students of the newly formed Institute of Technology – the Technologists – need to identify and find the baddie before it’s too late.
Good Stuff: Pearl is a smart guy who knows a lot of things about a lot of subjects and is able to cram many of them into a thriller format. For example, there are chunks of science, history, philosophy, psychology, engineering, and so on, peppering almost every page. He does a very good job (apparently) of recreating the 19th century, and bringing it to life.
Not So Good Stuff: Pearl is a smart guy who knows a lot of things about a lot of subjects and is able to cram many of them into a thriller format. Unfortunately, he forgot the entertainment part of the job. I found this to be one long bore, interrupted – only occasionally – by a flash of interest. The characters are, in the main, the worst form of cartoon like portrayal: rich boy gone bad, poor boy done good, academic wanting to educate those beyond his reach, and so on. The plot does not grab, either. There i a story there, but it is simply not told well.
In summary, this book looked like, and read like, a mountain of research, regurgitated on the page, by someone who cannot tell a story to save himself. If I wanted the facts, I would read a non-fiction book. Stuff like this is a sad, bad, waste of time.
Score: 4/10. [1 for the idea, 1 for the research, 1 for luck, and 1 for getting it published.]