Thomas Edison and the Purgatory Equation
by David Church
Ferrisville Publications

"That being the point - to determine the best way forward in the living world, by momentarily taking leave of it."

The imagined story behind a little-known invention that communicates with the dead illuminates Thomas Edison’s more fanciful side. While Congress debates entering WWI, Edison indulges in one of his few pastimes: film. He hires an ex-serviceman, John Dawkins, as his cameraman and director, an aspiring female actress, Emily, and her musician sidekick, young George Gershwin, to make a movie. But the Germans have learned about Edison’s newest invention and want to intercept it for their own nefarious use. They halt film production when they show up at his lab. The crew escapes, but Germans track the machine and its replicas in Florida and Germany. When they order Edison to run his machine for them or die, he’s involved in the war whether he likes it or not.

Edison‘s interest in spiritualism, shown in a séance he attends early in the book, introduces an uplifting, belief-based message against a double-fisted backdrop of war and science. With their colorful dialogue and vibrant scenes, Emily and Gershwin’s theatrics and good cheer enhance the text’s references to hope and curiosity. John adds heroics to the action in hand-to-hand combat with the Germans. The result is a fast-paced, entertaining battle of good versus evil.

Various settings and storylines keep suspense high but to the detriment of in-depth character development. For example, Mark Twain, among other characters, makes a singular appearance with little explanation and no return, while Gaunt, a helper in Edison’s lab, adds Frankenstein-like intrigue but remains a mystery. Still, the Germans’ villainous traits come across as suitably menacing with a comic, burlesque twist in keeping with the time period. The book is comic at its core. A second book is planned in the Thomas Edison series, promising a deepening plot and developing personalities.

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