Nevala-Lee examines Fuller’s life and work in comprehensive detail. He seems to have spoken to everyone living who had a personal or professional association with Fuller; there are 129 pages of endnotes ... The author clearly admires his subject, which makes some aspects of his dispassionate narrative all the more unsettling ... For someone like this reader, who met and was influenced by Fuller, reading these revelations is a chastening experience. In his public appearances, Fuller could come across as a selfless seer, almost a secular saint; in Nevala-Lee’s biography he is all too human ... The strength of this carefully researched and fair-minded biography is that the reader comes away with a greater understanding of a deeply complicated individual who overcame obstacles — many of his own making — to achieve a kind of imperfect greatness.
Alec Nevala-Lee’s new biography, Inventor of the Future, fact-checks Fuller’s legend and then corrects the record ... He resists the hypnotic whirlpool surrounding Fuller ... Whenever possible, Nevala-Lee corrects Fuller as he cites him, the embellished version followed by the correct, less glamorous version. At other times, the reader is left wondering if what’s written on the page really happened ... That the Buckminster Fuller Estate does not agree with Nevala-Lee’s conclusions has to be the book’s most ringing endorsement.
This probing biography of Buckminster Fuller distinguishes man from myth while giving the iconic designer and futurist due credit for influencing generations of big thinkers ... Nevala-Lee diligently emphasizes Fuller’s contradictions: the game-changing builder who never held an architect’s license, the big-picture humanist who trampled the actual humans who surrounded him. But he also persuasively demonstrates that, in the end, none of Fuller’s epic shortcomings would matter. Fuller’s most enduring creation was his own ethos, that of the free-thinking futurist whose design solutions would solve the planet’s problems. Such ideas would take deep root, especially in Silicon Valley, even if the math never quite worked out.