From the acclaimed author of Hey Nostradamus! comes a wonderful comic novel with 'more one-liners than a decade of Woody Allen films' (Guardian), ...Show synopsisFrom the acclaimed author of Hey Nostradamus! comes a wonderful comic novel with 'more one-liners than a decade of Woody Allen films' (Guardian), about the scramble for love and success in a brave new world...Bill is wise. Bill is kind. Bill is benevolent. Bill, Be My Friend...Please! At computer giant Microsoft, Dan, Susan, Abe, Todd and Bug are struggling to get a life. The job may be super cool, the pay 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 they're putting in, their best relationships are on e-mail. Something's got to give...Hide synopsis
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I am the first to admit that Douglas Coupland's books are not for everyone. His penchant for using in-jokes and self-referential humor can slow down even the most pop-culture savvy reader. But Microserfs is that rare novel that achieves a perfect balance between the timeliness of its setting (the beginning of the Internet era, early to mid-1990s) and the timelessness of its characters' struggles to create true connections with each other.
In this book, Coupland manages to capture the particular and relentless corporate hive mentality of Microsoft in the early '90s, while never losing sight of the characters' individual longings. In fact, by juxtaposing the inherent isolationism of the industry with the narrator's insatiable desire for intimacy (with family, friends, lovers), Coupland demonstrates that the human soul can never be satisfied by technology alone. Indeed, the search for newer, better technologies IS the search for human intimacy; the sophisticated structures we imagine and invent are bridges that (we hope) will open our lives to the the world around us in ways we may not know how to express.
Finally, Microserfs captures the texture of its times so precisely that I felt literally "present" in the story. Anyone who can recall the heady early days of the dot-com boom, when even e-mail seemed like a little piece of magic, will feel at home here. Coupland's prose renders both Seattle and Silicon Valley in three-dimensional clarity. And his depiction of this motley band of programmers and software engineers is spot-on, in my experience.
There is so much to appreciate in this novel, I feel remiss that I can't mention it all. The book is "light" enough to read on holiday and be endlessly entertained, but I also feel sure that its place in the new canon is assured thanks to its unflinching look at who we were, and who we are.
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