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Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman – review
Tesla’s Attic is the first book in a brilliantly imagined and hilariously written trilogy that combines science, magic, intrigue, and just plain weirdness, about four kids who are caught up in a dangerous plan concocted by the eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla.
After their home burns down, fourteen-year-old Nick, his younger brother, and their father move into a ramshackle Victorian house they’ve inherited. When Nick opens the door to his attic room, he’s hit in the head by a toaster. That’s just the beginning of his weird experiences with the old junk stored up there. After getting rid of the odd antiques in a garage sale, Nick befriends some local kids – Mitch, Caitlin, and Vincent – and they discover that all of the objects have extraordinary properties. What’s more, Nick figures out that the attic is a strange magnetic vortex, which attracts all sorts of trouble. It’s as if the attic itself has an intelligence . . . and a purpose.
What I expected: I expected a teenage fantasy romp with funny and strange happenings with decent characterizations and little to no romance.
What I got: I definitely got a teenage fantasy with strange happenings and little to no romance. However, this book was nowhere near as humorous as the description makes it sound. I think the toaster incident is the closest to funny it gets. The characters were very well put together, but the story was much darker than I expected, and the adults play only the smallest of cardboard roles, which makes the book seem oddly skewed.
What I liked: I really liked the characters; as mentioned above, they were well rounded with real personalities and not a lot of wanton use of teenager clichés. I liked the premise of Tesla’s attic being full of interesting equipment and odds and ends. And hey, I love Nikola Tesla’s story, even though it is rather a sad one, so plots based loosely on his life are attractive to me for that alone.
What I did not: I really was not terribly fond of the Accelerati portion of the storyline. The members didn’t feel real to me, and the logic and plausibility of their portion of the plot struck me as extremely weak. I think they could have been favorably replaced with a random madman genius.
Cover Talk: The cover is striking, and I like the use of the vertical text for interest. I don’t find it all that aesthetically pleasing, but attracting new readers is its job, and it does it quite well.
Recommendation: I think my reaction to the Accelerati may be unusual, and really the rest of the story was very well done, even though it was much darker than I expected. I’ve placed this one as a “middle of the road” story, not terrific and not horrible, worth the read at the very least. I may or may not check out the next in the series, and if I do it would be mostly because I genuinely liked the four main characters.