I have become a fan of near-real-time fiction through books addressing the startup communities. Eliot Peper got me started with his Uncommon Stock series and this book by Josh Riedel showed up in my Goodreads queue from Brad Feld, who incidentally had also turned me onto Eliot.
The book had an incredible start and picked up my interest considerably during the middle. A few pages in I actually had to double check to ensure this was fiction as it read so much like a memoir. The book feels non fiction in its beginning, as true life a story as possible. The life inside a startup, the type of work involved, the food, culture, working environment and more feel all too real. The real streets, restaurants, menu items and residences all reminiscent of a photograph that captures reality and not an abstract painting. This continued all the way past the M&A activity. The drama, intrigue, unresolved sexual tension, pain, sorrow, and desire throughout the middle feel like Ethan is simply telling what is happening to him – the writer and the protagonist.
The last third, however, enters the realm of fantasy and out of sci-fi and the dissonance lost me. Though the transition is somewhat gradual, it still hit me as other-worldly. Once I shifted my own thinking and imagery to science fiction (or fantasy!), I was able to carry on toward the end.
Josh employs a technique to introduce human and (seemingly) inhuman characters and entities differently (I don’t know if this technique has a name – it surely must!). People and companies that are emotionless and irrelevant are simply called Corporation, Funder, Engineer. No soul, just a place in the author’s world. They interact with the humans, affect them and their emotions, control them and dispense with them. Yet, since we are never introduced to their ‘soul’, it is hard to love or hate them. Indifference is all that remains.
I read the final 50 or so pages in-flight, landing at Denver International in a cloak of darkness. An apt metaphor for the way the book itself happens, leaving me thinking as wheels touched ground — was it all just a dream?