Microserfs

by Douglas Coupland

Hardcover, 1995

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : ReganBooks, c1995.

Description

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 danielu@microsoft.com--describes the ups and downs of raising money for a new business. By the author of Generation X.

User reviews

LibraryThing member AuntieClio
This book is dated. That's not usually an issue for me. Not only is this book dated, it gets so many of the local landmarks wrong that it's distracting. (No one I know calls El Camino Real, Camino Real. It's usually El Camino.)

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.
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LibraryThing member Djupstrom
Microserfs was my introduction to Coupland, and what a favorable meeting. His sarcastic, often time caustic, way of writing is perfect for a "Gen-Xer" like me.
LibraryThing member andreiz
Even though it's over 10 years old, this book captures like no other the spirit and the lives of technology people, or geeks, to make it simpler. This is really a book about relationships and feelings, and it is very easy to get caught up in the story, especially for those of us living in Silicon Valley.
LibraryThing member jonbeckett
I'm not sure what I expected, but it's very disjointed and random... even more so than JPod, which I enjoyed far more.I never felt any connection with the characters - despite living and working through the era the book talks about. It's a shame.
LibraryThing member Jacks0n
For a while this was my favorite book. My mother picked it up for me from a library book sale because "I like computers." So it took me a while to read it, but I'm glad I did, for many reasons.

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.

Two complaints:

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.
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LibraryThing member jaygheiser
Group of MSFT employees get bored & move to Silicon Valley to join a startup. First 50 pages of the book are great, then it just gets duller, and duller. Good start, average finish.
LibraryThing member AndrewBlackman
I have to be fair: maybe I would have liked this book more if I'd read it when it first came out. It seems so concerned with capturing the mid-90s Silicon Valley "Zeitgeist" that I'm sure I'm missing out by reading it a decade after the Zeit. But still, it seems like a book I would not have enjoyed even at the time, because the principal pleasure comes from recognition (hey, I watch the Simpsons and eat Kraft singles too! I'm such a nerd!). I don't read books for the pleasure of recognising pop culture references and feeling as if I therefore fit into a group; I read books to learn more about the world and the other people in it. This book tried to provide some of that with its frequent pop-psychology moments, but it wasn't enough. And for me the ending was very contrived. I know it's just a light comedy, and if it was really funny I wouldn't care about any number of plot deficiencies or annoying pop-culture references. But I didn't laugh out loud all the way through; the best it raised for me was a wry smile. I suppose I'm just a miserable sod.… (more)
LibraryThing member Knicke
I enjoyed this much more that I thought I would. Surprisingly relevant to me, although I was a child and not a coder during the 90's. Lots of self-reinvention. More poignant than I expected. The ending felt a little tacked on (but 90% of endings feel this way to me), but otherwise I liked this a lot.
LibraryThing member jcopenha
Well... not so great. If you REALLY like reading blogs you'll like the style of this book. It is written in a diary format. It was written in '95 time frame so blogs weren't what they are today. Nothing too deep and only mildy amusing in parts. I picked it up for $2 at the library so if any wants it let me know. =)
LibraryThing member alandavey
I love this book. I worked in computing for some years and have friends who do so still, and this crazy world is not so far from reality. One of the few books I can read several times with enjoyment.
LibraryThing member Johnny2323
The best Coupland book by far and the one that really captures an era absolutely superbly. Clever, bright and funny.
LibraryThing member megrockstar
I read a great deal of negative reviews of this book but I thought it was hillarious! It was like a diary or stream of consousness but there were so many "weird" facts and theories intertwined that it really made me think. I thought the end was very different from the tone of the rest of the book but it really made me think. I wouldnt exactly give it 5 stars because Im trying to be more conservative with stars, but I really enjoyed it!… (more)
LibraryThing member LizzySiddal
There are dangers working backwards through an author’s catalogue – you may just discover a turkey, and this was one tough bird. The blurb “More one lines than a Woody Allen film” is true and the first half of the novel about computer geeks is quite refreshingly amusing. But the magic fades and the second half of the novel is just plain hard work. I had to reduce myself to 10-page batches to get to the end.

If you want to read a piece of social history concerning vacuity in Silicon Valley during the 90’s, and a prophecy regarding the technocrash of the early naughties, read this. On the other hand, if you want to read a good Coupland novel, read Hey Nostradamus! It’s a masterpiece.
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LibraryThing member mzebra
Required reading for geeks, especially those from a pre Windows 98 era. Also good for lovers of binary, dos, linux ascii, computer programming and geeky snack foods.
LibraryThing member tyroeternal
Microserfs was extremely odd. It's mix of random information (the subconscious file), strange insignificant events, and mixes of satire and seriousness made it hard to become deeply connected to any of the characters.
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
This was the book to win over the geek community. Its characters are pulled straight outta Redwood, and the spirit of the novel is precisely that which lifted Silicon Valley so high.

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.… (more)
LibraryThing member annenoise
Near perfect in form, presentation and emotional drain. A handful of similarly quirky but unqiue characters handle similarly quirky but unique situations through a variety of historical, current and futuristic technologies, all while building a LEGO simulator that will put their new gaming company on the map. Great portrayl of Bill Gates and the Microsoft culture, as well as the campuses and lifestyles of a variety of other tech companies of the time. Fairly unique in presentation, often incorporating a literal reprinting of computer-related topics presented in each chapter, including the main character's computer's "sub-conscious" files acting as barriers between chapters. Taught me many a random factoid - the amounts of chemicals in the human body and the various uses for them, the body as a form of memory, flatland foods - and many a life lesson - why talking to someone through "license plate" speak can be the most heartbreaking and hopeful communication in the world. Touching, honest, hilarious and surprisingly warm look at the computer industry, nerds, and the Silicon Valley.… (more)
LibraryThing member jonwwil
The first time I read this book was for a postmodern fiction class in college. I think I was the only person in the class who liked the book, because I seemed to be the only one who got the humor or identified with the characters. It has been one of my favorites ever since. I wish I could read it again for the first time. I remember laughing out loud so many times on my first reading. It's still funny, of course, but not nearly as much as it was when it was fresh. The ending gets me every time, though. I love the way the whole thing comes together, and all the technological and philosophical discussion ties into the very human, very emotional story.… (more)
LibraryThing member loafhunter13
-With his nose to the zeitgeist, the author of Generation X again examines the angst of the white-collar, under-30 set in this entertaining tale of computer techies who escape the serfdom of Bill Gates's Microsoft to found their own multimedia company. The story is told through the online journal of Danielu@microsoft.com, an affable, insomniac, 26-year-old aspiring code writer. Together with his girlfriend Karla, a mousy shiatsu expert with a penchant for Star Trekky aphorisms, and a tight clique of maladjusted, nose-to-the-grindstone housemates, he relocates to a Lego-adorned office in Palo Alto, Calif., to develop a product called Object Oriented Programming (Oop!), a form of virtual Lego. Much of the story concerns the the Oop! staff's efforts to raise capital and "have a life" amid 18-hour work days. Dan's journal, like much prose on the Internet, abounds in typos, encrypted text, emoticons-:) for happy and :( for sad-and random snippets of information, a format that suits Copland's disjointed, soundbite-heavy fiction. Yet the randomness and non linearity of cyberspace hobble narrative. Amid endless digital chitchat and pop-philosophy, this novel's more serious ruminations about the physical and social alienation of life on the Information Superhighway never achieve any real complexity. Coupland would repeat this formula with JPod but it is what he knows best and so goes the writing. The banter and random life philosophies spouted by the characters is carried throughout the book and it is that more than anything that serves to cripple the narrative even as its purpose is to move it forward.… (more)
LibraryThing member dulcinea14
This was a surprise. I really really loved this novel. A fascinating snapshot of the 1990's tech industry from the POV of an early Gen X software tester and programmer. Doesn't sound like it would be entertaining? It blew me away, it was so fun and hilarious, from the pseudo-deification of Bill Gates (referred to only as "Bill"---said with the gravity of saying "God"), to the Lego decorated office, to the pet hamsters named "Look" and "Feel," to the typical 90's Gen-X conversations--philosophizing over pop culture (cereals, 70's TV shows, childhood toys, etc).

There were more serious themes too, such as finding love, how older generations are lost on the new tides of the technology boom, finding purpose and meaning in life after the success-driven 1980's. So, even though it was a fun book, it wasn't shallow.
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LibraryThing member LDVoorberg
It's a strange time to read a book like this. When it came out it would have been very current regarding technology and computers and even other cultural details like the GAP. Now it's practically retro, almost like an old 80s movie. "How geeky we all were then." And yet it still has a futuristic, almost dystopic feel. Yet read this book in 20 or 30 or more years from now, and it will be an excellent historical fiction depicting this lifestyle in a profound way. It's a great commentary on consumerism, technology, social units...
Bound to be a classic.
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LibraryThing member MillieHennessy
Cute book about 'nerds' who met working for Microsoft and then branch out to start their own company. Set in the early 1990s, so of course many of the computer references are outdated, but that adds to the charm (and also shows how far we've come!) I didn't always understand all the computer and nerdy references, but I did enjoy Dan's perspective of the world as well as his subconscious files. The characters were very unique and fun to read about.… (more)
LibraryThing member Pepperwings
It's not quite five stars, but there are enough good points it's more than 4.

What a weird ride! This covers so much of the tech and attitudes of geek culture in the early 90s, and ideas about the changing landscape of technology and society, it's fascinating.

This is the story of a particular coder working at Microsoft, and his journey into other areas, and exploring the difference between Seattle and Silicon Valley, and even Las Vegas. A big tech convention (CES) meets in Las Vegas. This is a much more realistic look at geeks and nerds of the time, and doesn't exploit them the way they do in Big Bang Theory, which makes sense, a book has a different kind of audience, and can tell a story more on its own terms than a TV show can.

I liked the way things unfolded, and there are some real moments that don't *quite* fit the story, but they feel like life, things happen, and you deal with them, the best you can.
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LibraryThing member jessicariddoch
" At computer Giant Microsoft, Dan, Susan, Abe, Todd and Bug are struggling to get a life. The job may be supercool, the pat may be astronomical, but they're heading nowhere, and however hard they work, however many shares they earn, they're never going to be as rich as Bill. And besides, with all the hours ther're putting in, their best relationships are on e-mail. Something's got to give....."
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
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LibraryThing member yarkan
Vivid depiction of people in high tech doing a start up. Funny idea with virtual lego is not so strange now.

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