Friday, March 21, 2014

Tesla's Attic

Tesla's Attic
by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman
Hyperion, 2014.  246 pgs. Science Fiction

     When Nick's family moves from Tampa to Colorado Springs after a house fire has killed Nick's mom, it falls to Nick to clean out the attic so he can have his own bedroom there. After getting beaned by a falling toaster, Nick cleans up and cleans out, but notices strange goings-on while he does. The pile of stuff he decides to sell at a yard sale keeps rearranging itself to the center of the room and his bed won't stay where he puts it either.  Even though it's raining during the yard sale, people flock in, forcing exorbitant sums on him for stuff that looks like junk. Soon the pieces of "junk" begin to exhibit unusual properties:  an old "See and Say" toy finishes thoughts and dispenses prescient advice; a reel to reel tape recorder records what people are really thinking instead of what they actually say; and an old box camera takes pictures of the future. Turns out all this stuff belonged to, and was invented by Nikola Tesla, the turn of the century genius whose development of alternating current systems revolutionized the world. And apparently he wants all his stuff together and he wants it back. As Nick, his friends Mitchell, Caitlin, and Vincent try to collect all the stuff sold at the yard sale, they are pursued by a creepy collection of people mostly wearing pastel suits--the dreaded Accelerati who will stop at nothing--including posing as a lunch lady (Mrs. Planck, get it?) to get information and to sow discord. Shusterman's books are generally either frighteningly horrific or laugh-out-loud funny, and  Tesla's Attic falls in the latter category: it is clever, witty, and inventive.  The best thing about this first volume in the Accelerati trilogy is that more books will follow; the worst thing is that we will have to wait for them.

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