Us Conductors is the imagined story of Lev Sergeyvich Termen, inventor of the theremin - one of the first electric musical instruments - and his unrequited love for Clara Rockmore, its greatest player. A tale of espionage and electricity, it takes listeners from the gardens of St. Petersburg to the Jazz Age nightclubs of New York, through concert halls, speakeasies, and the Siberian wastes.
Sean Michaels' debut novel is based on the true events of Termen's life: his invention of the theremin in Russia shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution; his decade as a Manhattan celebrity and secret spy, jostling with Gershwin and building weapon detectors for Alcatraz; and his eventual return to Stalin's USSR.
As the novel reaches its devastating climax, Termen is sent out into the gulag - first to a forced labor camp and then to a prison for scientists - and bears witness to some of the Cold War's deepest atrocities. But like the theremin, Us Conductors is also an eerie and magical invention. Subtle, thrilling, and melancholy, it is a story of secrets, of human ingenuity, of the lengths one goes to survive, and ultimately of the undiminishing hope for love that keeps us alive.
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Art, Science, Espionage, and Love
This is a gripping kaleidoscope of genres that doesn't let up. Invention and espionage; immigration and love; the opera house and the Gulag. Daring writing form a first time novelist who jumped in with both feet.
Steve Coulter brought a sure voice to the book that solidified the vivid, brilliant, flawed and pathetic characters. His gravitas brought depth to the plot.