cover image Tesla


Tad Wise. Turner Publishing, Inc., $21.95 (381pp) ISBN 978-1-878685-36-0

Wise's engrossing and moving biographical novel of Croatian-born American inventor Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) restores the luster to a visionary genius considered by many to be the true father of the electrical age. The son of a Serbian Orthodox priest who saw the dandified prodigy as a nihilistic blasphemer, Tesla went to work in 1884 in Thomas Edison's Manhattan factory, entrusting his brainchildren to his employer. But eventually he struck out on his own and, with George Westinghouse's backing, proved his alternating-current dynamo (upon which modern electricity is based) superior to Edison's direct-current system. Radio, X-rays, arc lighting, robotics, a particle-beam ``death ray'' and other inventions and blueprints poured from the fertile brain of this driven, grandiose, difficult eccentric who gave himself electrical ``infusions'' to boost energy and induce euphoria. In his first novel, Wise limns a marvelously evocative picture of trolley car-era New York City and of the dawn of the modern age as he charts Tesla's friendship with Mark Twain and his dealings with J. P. Morgan. When Tesla died, a penurious hermit in a seedy NYC hotel, the federal government--in Wise's telling--confiscated his personal effects. In an epilogue, the author calls on the FBI, CIA, KGB and other agencies to open their files so the world can determine the true extent of Tesla's scientific contributions. 25,000 first printing. (July)