Review by: Mark Palm
Most historians have come to the conclusion that Nikola Tesla's work with electricity was far better and more important that Edison’s. A lot also believe that Marconi filched a lot of his work from Tesla as well. The consensus on a lot of his other inventions is still out, but one thing is certain; for all of his genius he really never understood public relations. All of that is really inconsequential in reading Tesla's Attic, a young YA novel by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman. Although grounded in a factual basis, this book is really more of a light-hearted romp.
It starts when Nick Slate, his father and younger brother leave Florida after Nick's mother dies in a tragic house fire. They move into Colorado Springs, and after a while it becomes apparent that they have moved into the house that was once owned by Tesla. This discover some of this when they hold a garage sale that ride them of what looks like junk but ends up being inventions with powers that defy the laws of science:( a camera that takes pictures of the future, a tape recorder that records what people mean, not what they say, etc,). These inventions draw the attention of a mysterious and sinister group called the Accelerati, who want the inventions. So the game is afoot, with the Accelerati on one side and Nick and a group of new found friends on the other, both racing to find the devices, and what their purpose might be. This is when the plot starts quickening, and brings one of the book's main strengths to light; the characters.
Nick is fairly basic, but his role is more like that of a straight-man for a group of funny and fully-realized companions. The best of these are two girls, Caitlin, who likes to take a sledge- hammer to found objects photograph it, and calls the resulting carnage Garbart; and Petula, a pig-tailed gadfly who raises the art of self-interest to stunning heights. Also good but not quite up to the same level are Mitch, who is too eager to please, Vince, a wonderful Goth caricature, and Caitlin's moronic off-again-off-again boyfriend, Theo.
Now the plot has parents in prison, secret societies and talking corpses, but it's all meant in fun; how seriously can you take a book that has a baseball glove with so strong a power of attraction that it draws a meteor from space that threatens to destroy all life on earth, and a baseball bat that will shatter it? I also enjoyed the ironic and smart-alack tone of the narrative, full of puns and jokes. The ending even promises that there will be a zombie in book two. You can't beat that.