amsswim's review against another edition

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dark informative mysterious reflective sad medium-paced

5.0

I'm so glad I finally read this, it has been on my TBR for years now.

I am already a big fan of non-fiction literature and historical reads, this combines the best of them both. This non-fiction book read like fiction in my opinion, making it quick to go by. The many intertwining stories were not difficult to keep track of and all interesting. This is for sure one of those reads that leaves you with a greater understanding of the time period (e.g. 1890s) as a whole, and puts into context the overlap of inventions, important figures, and other legendary events.

If you like historical fiction or non-fiction, true crime, or well written books, I recommend this read.

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headachesince03's review against another edition

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adventurous dark informative inspiring mysterious tense slow-paced

4.5


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zakcebulski's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional informative tense slow-paced

4.25


Erik Larson does it again!
This book only goes to reaffirm my love for Erik Larson and his writing.
From my understanding outside of the world of true crime fandom, this is one of the most popular true crime involved books ever. I can absolutely see why.
What Larson does in this book is nothing short of an absolute achievement of research and storytelling. The amount of coherency he commands while weaving these two utterly complex stories is mind boggling, and a feat that few alive could do.

The book tells two stories, one of the World's Fair of 1893, and one of a man who has been called "America's First Urban Serial Killer"- H. H. Holmes.
The World's Fair section was the part that I knew the least about, going in to reading this book. I knew that it occurred and some of the displays that were unveiled at this fair... and that was it!
However, throughout this book Larson expertly crafts all of the work that went in to designing and constructing this Fair.
I fell in love with learning the intricacies of the architecture- as someone who knows cryptically little about architecture, I commend and appreciate Larson's writing, as he describes this foreign concept in an easily digestible way.
There is a sweeping feeling over grandeur which is captured expertly by Larson as he explains the vastness of the hurdles the Fair committee is trying to overcome.
I thought that this was amazingly well done. There were several scenes in which I felt like I was witnessing an impossible task come to fruition- this was absolutely fascinating to read through.
I will say, on the same coin, this portion of the book did at points drag to me. I was very interested in portions of it, but, for some reason I just felt the pacing slowed down a little bit.

The true crime parts of this book regarding Holmes were absolutely fascinating. It was amazing to see the true amount of forethought which Holmes exhibited, and, how he was truly a super-villain. He built a three story monument to death, depravity, and murder. This is absolutely, and I mean this, terrifying. He built this in an age of non-development by comparison. Imagining the damages he could have caused should he have had access to more modern technology is truly terrifying.
Holmes is one of those people who was born in the right time for what he wanted to do, which is ceaselessly unfortunate, as his wants revolved around manipulation, control and murder.
The amount of thought he put into his murders and his cons was is nearly inhuman- he was truly a man alone in his thoughts and actions.

I have to commend Larson's ability to seamlessly weave these two tales together. Each chapter (primarily) alternates between the World's Fair and the deeds of Holmes. I thought that this was a great way to convey the story, as it was not an oversaturation over either story. There was enough discussion about architecture before skipping over to serial murder and back again.
I never found myself becoming totally bored and glazed over while reading each chapter, and, in fact, I found that there was a great amount of benefit to the pacing specifically in the way this book was written.

I was recommended this book when the Last Podcast on the Left covered H. H. Holmes back in 2016 or so? And, I picked it up right away, but, I never got further than page 40. I am glad that I got through this book, as I feel that this book is one of the modern greats. 
The illustrations of the time are exquisitely illustrated by Larson, and he puts the schema around the age so that we are able to visualize what is going on. 
The sense of wonder of the World's Fair was done in an exceptional way to the point where it truly felt like it was a fairy tale. 
I thought that the epilogue wherein all of the people who worked on the fair had their stories come to an end were so poignant. They had worked to create something absolutely amazing- something that defied the limits of human creation, and once it was done the bittersweet feeling of the end came to them all. 
Also? Learning about all of the shit that was at the World's Fair? The Ferris Wheel and its 2,000 TWO FUCKING THOUSAND passengers? Annie Oakley and Bill Cody? Tesla? Edison? TR? Braille? This place was fucking amazing for human achievement. 
I thought that this book was fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone who has even a passing fancy in either true crime or history- I think that both sides of this book are well done to the point where even the most fervent fan of either will learn something new.



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smkelly1997's review against another edition

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dark informative slow-paced

3.5

I thought this book would revolve around H. H. Holmes much more than it did. Instead it was mostly about the creation, construction, and running of the fair. 

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librarymouse's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging dark emotional informative mysterious sad tense medium-paced

3.75

The literary descriptions and firsthand accounts of the fair, and the effort and love put into it's design and creation made me wish I could have attended. The detailed descriptions of Holmes' murders and his disarmingly charming personality made me glad that I was born over a full century after 1893. I like greatly enjoyed The Devil in the White City, the second half was a far easier read than the first. I'm not sure if I've retained as much of the information about the fair's designers and the events that took place while it was open as I wanted to. While interesting, the section about the initial design process and the political lobbying that took place in order to get the fair to occur in Chicago read similarly to a textbook, in stark contrast with the narrative way the rest of the history was told. Overall, an informative and interesting read. I would use enjoyable to describe the writing, but not the content.

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renbot's review against another edition

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adventurous dark emotional funny informative mysterious slow-paced

4.5

An incredible journey where you truly care for the victories and failures of all of the characters

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