Young people working for Microsoft decide to make a bid for freedom by founding their own software company. The novel--narrated as an online journal by email@example.com the ups and downs of raising money for a new business. By the author of Generation X.
This is the fictional diary of a guy who once worked at Microsoft and left it to follow a friend into the land of start-ups, Silicon Valley. Having lived in Silicon Valley since 1984, and having been a part of the tech boom (and subsequent) bust, I know what that world was/is like. And this book rings false in so many ways.
Yes, the broad strokes are there. They all wind up working in the narrator's parents' home while scrambling for venture capital money. They say and do all the techie buzzwords and write code until their fingers fall off. If the intent was to portray life from a programmer's point of view in the frenetic, crazed world of high tech and the geekiness that is Silicon Valley, this book failed.
It's a world I know and love, but Douglas Coupland fails to convince me that he actually knows anything about it. More to the point, he's convinced me that he read some maps, followed the news and, maybe, talked to a few geeks. Then he wrote a book impersonating a geek.
Two stars because I didn't actually throw it across any room I was in while reading it.
Quote: "I stared at an entire screen full of these words and they dissolved and lost meaning, the way words do when you repeat them over and over — the way anything loses meaning when context is removed — the way we can quickly enter the world of the immaterial using the simplest of devices, like multiplication."
For one thing, it seems to have captured the early- to mid-nineties nerd zeitgeist well. As someone who missed out on it (a bit before my time), I'm jealous of those who got to experience computing just as it became popular and before it became old hat.
As the title indicates, this book follows a group of characters who work at Microsoft. They're all very quirky, but they all speak exactly the same way (Ok, all of Coupland's characters talk in the same way).
It's a very light and funny book and I've read it a few times. It was also my gateway to Coupland's other work, most of which I think is superior to this. It's also a very touching book (I thought) that manages to stay entertaining throughout. If you haven't read Coupland before, he manages to pack in a lot of very interesting little anecdotes and musings that you'll think about for a while after you read the book. So although its light reading on par with most pop books, it also has some enduring value.
1. Dialogue is homogenous. (See above)
2. Every chapter has a page of "stream of consciousness" text. It's fun the first one or two chapters you see it, but it gets old and kind of pretentious quickly.
Nonetheless, neither complaint is sufficient to bring down the rating.
Highly recommended for those looking for an easy read or computer geeks, but I think everyone would enjoy this.
The first half is better than the second; with Coupland it often feels like more fun getting to know a character than actually living with one, and this is certainly the case with "Microserfs." Still, it is one of the better books I've read on the subject, and has earned its geek credentials well.
Coupland's computer-geeks turn out, slightly disappointingly, to be rather normal young people who find themselves confronted with the usual hazards of growing up: deciding what to wear, finding a partner, dealing with parents, finding somewhere to live, coping with illness, etc. If they are changing the world, then they are doing it in a somewhat absurd and peripheral way (developing a computer game involving Lego blocks). So, in the end, it turns out to be just a perfectly normal Bildungsroman with a bit of fancy computer language thrown in to make it look experimental.
While it was a fun look at the geek culture of the 90s, it just felt empty. The approach to storytelling was interesting, but probably not worth another read. Significant not so much for it's story, but for its subject.
when this was first published in 1994 this would have been a new and fresh approch, now it just seems a little dated. Back then I would have been enthralled by the sytle of this book, with its constant reference to the way that Geeks minds work - the lists of things that are used to describe the differences in personalities. but now it just sems a little flat.
The cover also says that it is a funny book - guess the humor simply missed me or did not translate into my non geek head.
Giving this book to a 16yold as this might be a better fit
Bound to be a classic.
Anyway, the characters (and there were a lot of them) were generally well-developed, there was a lot of pop culture references, but I got them all. Not sure if someone younger would - but that's the hazard of pop culture references right? The book was funny, thought-provoking, touching. I get why my wife likes Coupland, I kind of do now too.