Signal & Noise
by John Griesemer
The Cable Guy
A review by Adrienne Miller
We're still waiting for a great, rollicking novel about the invention of staplers. Or about the history of wicker furniture. But at least, finally, we have an entertaining novel about the laying of the transatlantic cable. It's true: This most unlikely of topics has spawned a wonderful, ambitious book called Signal & Noise, by John Griesemer, who previously wrote the Vonnegut-inspired No One Thinks of Greenland. Signal & Noise tells the tale of Chester Ludlow, an engineer for the Atlantic Telegraph Company whose young daughter has recently died. Ludlow's subsequent obsession with the cable and, by extension, with technology and information becomes a death-defying endeavor: "Maybe death is a form of information we have yet to decode," says a fellow engineer. The adventure begins in 1857 on the muddy Thames with the ill-fated steamship the Great Eastern being christened the Leviathan . . . a bad idea, given that it's unlucky to rename a ship. How crammed with rich, resonant period details is Signal & Noise? Well, you can almost smell the Great Stink of 1850s era London.
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