A Disruptive Invention is a science fiction novel by Peter W Shackle.
John Sykes is a young electronics engineer who is always coming up with new inventive methods but the discovery that leads to his greatest invention - as with so many other great inventions, was a complete accident. He has just discovered the fifth force which allows the levitation of objects and flying vehicles without wings or rotors.
He recruits the assistance of two gifted friends and together they create plans on turning their breakthrough into something that could change the world. Ironically the engineering requirements dictate that the flying vehicles (known as Levistars) must be round with bright lights underneath, in other words it must look like a UFO!
The novel follows the 3 scientists as they develop the technology into a business, from testing to production and everything in between. There is a great attention to detail displayed here and it is written in a friendly uncomplicated and easy to read manner. The real star of the show is the idea which is intelligently played out and it's clear that a vast amount of research and thought has gone into deciding exactly how 3 people could turn such a discovery into a world altering device.
This attention to detail really shows and is played out to great effect, sometimes though this is at the expense of the pace. In part I am reminded of Cory Doctorow's novel Makers, there is a similar feel and the books do share a few of the broader ideas, they are also in another way polar opposites though, where Makers is all about open source, here it's all about protecting the secret and fueled by the money each person can ultimately make from the technology.
The story itself is very believable, set in the modern day there are plenty of references to real world events that help to ground the story and everything that happens is wholly believable, and this part of the novel works brilliantly. There are also plenty of plot twists and turns but there is also a lack of tension, and an absence of any real emotion which does leave the book feeling a little flat. It is also clear that this is a debut novel, there is little real characterisation and the dialog is a little lumpy in places, the attention to detail doesn't just stop at the actual creation of the device but continues into the characters lives, their thoughts and even their feelings and this does get in the way.
The descriptions of events are spot on, but it does feel like descriptions rather than emotive scenes, partly due to the lack of characterisation there was no real engagement and it is purely the concept and how it could work that drives the novel forward. I have however seen this style of writing on a number of occasions and part of this is of course due to the fact this is a debut novel, however it's also clear that the author is or was a technical writer, which is an entirely different form of writing that must be clear, descriptive, detailed and this style has crossed over to the novel.
A Disruptive Invention has some incredible ideas, and it is worth reading just to see how these develop, and how a business would in theory grow and mature, technically engaging if not emotionally.
Written on Monday 16th May 2011 by Antony Jones.
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