Historical Fiction that is Not Just for History Buffs: Why Us Conductors is a Novel for Every Faculty

Reading Time: 3 minutes

It doesn’t matter if you are enrolled in the Arts, in the Sciences, or in Business – Us Conductors is a work of historical fiction that will interest readers from any faculty.

Sean Michaels’ novel, published back in April of 2014, tells the story of Lev (Leon) Termen, the inventor of the Theremin.

For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s the funny, futuristic sounding instrument featured in Good Vibrations and in the Star Trek theme.

Image courtesy of www.amazon.ca
Image courtesy of www.amazon.ca

But Us Conductors is far from being a dry, tedious chronicle of Termen’s life.
For many people, that tends to be what historical fiction is – just a jazzed up biography with dialogue.

In many cases, this is not so. Philippa Gregory’s accounts of England during the Tudor dynasty such as The Other Boleyn Girl, for example, are nothing short of riveting, and I found that Us Conductors has a similar feel.

In books like this, you get to know some of history’s biggest figures on a personal level. In fact, you get to be extremely up close and personal with Dr. Termen himself, because Michaels has his first person narrative place you in the role of the love of his life, Clara Rockmore. That’s right, you are Clara – in theory.

Of course, it’s possible that Michaels just intended to have Lev be telling this story to Clara, hence him referencing her so often, but it gives the book a more personal feel nonetheless.

“And then I met you. You raised your head, Clara, and a drop of melted snow slipped down the centre of your face, from your brow to your chin.”

His frequent use of “you” makes it feel like you really are Clara Rockmore, no matter what the author’s true intention.

I haven’t read a book that puts the reader in that sort of situation before, so it was an interesting experience.

But maybe you’re looking at this book and thinking, “I’m an Arts/Science/Business student – there’s no reason for me to be interested in a book about the guy who invented the Theremin.”

Well, think again. You couldn’t be more wrong.

If you are an Arts student, then this is the book for you.

Lev has a deep appreciation for the beauty of music, which many Arts students will relate to. He is fascinated by it. It captures him mind, body and soul.

Maybe music isn’t necessarily the thing that does that for you, but the experience is what you will find yourself relating to. Music to Lev Termen is what painting, writing, or reading may be to you.

If you are a Science student, then this is the book for you.

After all, there would be no Theremin without the science behind it and a good portion of the book focuses on the scientific properties of the invention.

Even for a person with a very basic knowledge of physics, it was fascinating – a key indicator that anyone can enjoy Us Conductors.

With detailed descriptions of how the first Theremins were made, this book will have physics fanatics drooling.

If you are a Business student, then this is the book for you. Sure, music and physics are all fine and dandy, but put them together and what do you get? Money.

Chronicling the financial ups and downs of the Theremin and its inventor, Us Conductors takes readers on a journey through the Roaring Twenties and into the Dirty Thirties that Business students will be captivated by.

You do not have to be a history major, or even be particularly fond of history, to enjoy reading Us Conductors. At its core it is a story of dreams, of the ups and downs of love, and of the unpredictability of life.

Lev Termen will worm his way into your heart from the very first pages onward.
Us Conductors is a part of the Lorenzo Reading Series at UNB Saint John and author Sean Michaels visited the campus on March 24.