Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Last Days of Night

Title:  The Last Days of Night
Author:  Graham Moore
Publication Information:  Random House. 2016. 384 pages.
ISBN:  0812988906 / 978-0812988901

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "On the day that he would first meet Thomas Edison, Paul watched a man burn alive in the sky above Broadway."

Favorite Quote:  "Stories reach conclusions, and then they go away. Such is their desperately needed magic ... The properly assembled narrative would guard his mind from the terror or raw memory. Even a true story is a fiction ... It is the comforting tool we use to organize the chaotic world around us into something comprehensible. It is the cognitive machine that separates the wheat of emotion from the chaff of sensation. The real world is overfull with incidents, brimming over with occurrences. In our stories, we disregard most of them until clear reason and motivation emerge. Every story is an invention, a technological device..."

What a fun, roller coaster ride of a book! The Last Days of Night brings to light the history of the race to control the patents and marketing rights to the technology that would bring electricity into common, everyday use. The key players in the race were Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. Nikola Tesla, J P Morgan, and other big names of the times enter this battleground as well. Even name like Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, play a small role in this story. This so called War of the Currents was a charged, epic battle between two scientists; it was also a battle of economics for controlling the patents meant controlling the marketing rights and the resulting profits.

This book tells the story through the perspective of the young attorney, Paul Cravath, George Westinghouse hires to represent his interest. Even today, a law firm bearing Paul Cravath's name exists, and the Cravath system is used to manage law firm operations. In the 1880s though, Paul Cravath is in his twenties and newly graduated from Columbia Law School. He has no experience and no clients of his own, but he is hired by George Westinghouse to represent him is over 300 lawsuits for over one billion dollars in a battle over electricity against Thomas Edison. Why? It makes you wonder.

What follows is a tale of action, adventure, and intrigue. Political and corporate machinations abound as the two sides battle to control technology, information, and people. The book travels the country, from New York City to the Midwest to the back roads of Tennessee. Things get out of hand when actual violence enters this courtroom and board room battle. A love interest rounds out this flamboyant, melodramatic story with a strong female lead character. Fire, abduction, disappearances, the electric chair, good guys, bad guys. Oh my!

Through it all, Paul does his best for his client and pursues the Westinghouse interests wholeheartedly. He really is the center of this story with everyone else playing a supporting role. The book does have a plot twist, but I guess it early on. It really does not impact my enjoyment of the book for I read to follow Paul Cravath's journey to the discovery. I wait to see his reaction and his actions following the discovery. This may not be not how a history book would paint this picture, but it makes for a great story with a young, hardworking protagonist to cheer for.

An interesting note about the author and the book is that the book has already been optioned for a movie. The author Graham Moore is adapting his own book into a screenplay. He has already won an Academy Award for his screenplay for The Imitation Game. I wonder if this movie will live up to the book and if the screenplay will match his previous one. If I can judge a movie by its book (and I always do!), it should be an exciting show. I hope it does the book justice.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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