Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), the brilliant and eccentric Serbian-American scientist, is best known for his pioneering experiments and inventions involving electricity. But he’s also remembered for some wilder ideas that never came to fruition, including a “teleforce” weapon that journalists of the day characterized as a “death ray.” This fantastic aspect of the Tesla legend continues to inspire novelists who like to weave a bit of historical sci-fi into their tales.
A few recent novels, reviewed by Kirkus Indie, place the late inventor at the hearts of their plots. Ray Deeg’s debut sci-fi thriller, Edwin’s Reflection, for example, revolves around an investigation into, among other things, an unusual medal that Tesla once received and a notebook containing references to a strange machine called Project Skyring. Various parties, including U.S. government operatives, try to track the device down in a book that Kirkus’ reviewer called “shrouded in mystery and conspiracy, with a big reveal that’s well worth the wait.” Kirkus Indie also reviewed Stormglass: The Tesla Threat, a YA thriller by Andy Deemer that uses Tesla tech as its MacGuffin.
Mary Ann Domanska’s middle-grade adventure Emic Rizzle, Tinkerer, however, offers a more personal take on the formula. Its offbeat protagonist, 12-year-old Emily Michael “Emic” Rizzle, loves taking apart gadgets—much like her late grandfather did. He gave her a journal for safekeeping four years ago, inscribed with the name “Nikola Tesla,” which he said could “change the world.” (The text inside mentions something called “free energy.”) She later looks into her grandfather’s colorful past and soon finds herself being followed by mysterious men. Kirkus’ glowing review noted that “Emic the inventor is a very appealing invention herself.”
David Rapp is a Senior Indie editor.