where the writers are
Silicon Valley fiction: addictions and the infinity loop

I've been reading a lot of Silicon Valley literature in preparation for California Studies Association next conference in De Anza College in April 24, 2009. The conference is on Silicon Valley at De Anza College. Before I started I didn't know Silicon Valley had a literature, but then read 11 novels and 3 non-fiction works.

Well, here are short takes on two good  novels about Silicon Valley;

1. Matt Richtel's Hooked, a fun, absorbing murder mystery about addictions to computers. Nat Idle the hero, a S.F. medical journalist, is sitting in a San Francisco Internet cafe when a woman hands him a note in the handwriting of his dead girlfriend Annie telling him to leave immediately. He walks out and then the Internet cafe blows up. Who bombed the computer cafe? Why? Idle uses his journalistic skills to search for who bombed the cafe and to investigate if Annie is really dead. Annie was/is a venture capitalist, daughter of a leading Silicon Valley venture capitalist. So the novel takes us from the mansions of venture capitalists to the down home S.F. bars where Idle hands out with his friends, from encrypted files to geeks who open such files. In a lighthearted way the mystery is really about addiction to love and addiction to computers and how the two are intertwined.

2. Po Bronson's The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest is a fascinating novel about young engineers struggling to escape the treadmill of bad jobs and boring lives in Silicon Valley. The head of research at La Honda Research Center in the Silicon Valley hills assigns new engineer Andy Caspar to La Honda's worst research job: designing the $300 computer. Caspar recruits three other software and hardware guys at La Honda and inspires his team to take their job seriously. After they are all fired, they begin their own startup--the four idealistic young guys trying to make a go it amidst the nasty politics, betrayals, and backstabbing of the older men in the computer industry.

Bronson gets the details right from Caspar's boarding house for penniless Stanford grad students, to all four engineers' romantic problems, to the 'board" meetings the four engineers have in the local fast food joints to the mind games the engineers play such as the infinity loop. Infinity loop is a prank engineers play getting a newbie to go on a wild goose chase ending exactly where they started. The infinity loop in the novel is the model for all the traps or loops or treadmills in society that make people go round and round ending exactly where they started. The engineers are aiming at jolting society out of its infinity loop. Do the 4 engineers escape the infinity loop?

 Well, Silicon Valley does indeed have a literature--a rather fascinating one illuminating our times.

1 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip

sleek, sexy, and fast


Your reviews have been my guide, and I’m very interested in Silicon Valley.  But for some reason, I’ve never searched for Silicon Valley novels.  So I read your reviews twice before I went to Barnes and Noble.  But they had neither of them.  Po Bronson’s was out of print.  I can go to online shops, but I can’t take a look.  I thought most likely I wouldn’t be lured by “$300 Computer” project.  The cheap Computer image fills my head with many ads and my-definition-of-virus tainted built-in software, rather than a sleek, sexy,  fast, and glamorous state of art technology.   

Long ago, I read a Silicon Valley nonfiction book, “Takedown” by Tsutomu Shimomura and John Markoff.  In Amazon, the book gets only two and a half stars, but the book was very satisfying read.