“Tell me your worst fear,” posited Dadashian, the melodrama unavoidable.
“Nuclear winter, followed by impure drinking water, global starvation, and mass untreated surgical needs, plus permanent damage to the earth’s ability to heal,” said Choy.
“As it pertains to business,” rephrased Dadashian.
–This is Rage, by Ken Goldstein
This is Rage: A Novel of Silicon Valley and Other Madness lives up to its subtitle, delivering all the madness of the Valley and then some. This novel is funny, smart, long (a 530 page thriller), and perhaps the polar opposite of that other recent release making a Silicon statement, The Circle. This is Rage’s plot sounds unbelievable but somehow works: at a party where investors, bankers, and engineers mingle (“Conversation as a conduit for data extraction…”) a pair of well-meaning, success-seeking entrepreneurs kidnap leaders of a powerful company, hoping either for ransom money or some start-up capital (are these two things that different, after all?). A washed-up radio host picks up the story, and the sort of mass hysteria that only today’s social media makes possible ensues.
The story here goes where The Circle didn’t: straight to the money. The book starts with a prospectus, and many of the chapters begin with a stock ticker. Although This is Rage takes place in Silicon Valley, Goldstein doesn’t want us to forget that “the Street” makes the Valley tick. As much as any character in the novel is concerned with the safety of those who have been kidnapped, their company’s precious stock price is always sitting heavily on everyone’s shoulders, acting as the ultimate guidance and true leader.
Author and tech insider Ken Goldstein certainly knows his subject material: previously a VP for Disney Online, he currently advises start-ups and businesses through his company Corporate Intelligence Radio. Whereas David Eggers publicly stated he visited no tech campuses while writing his dark-tech speculative fiction work The Circle, Goldstein has been in the tech biz for years. To be honest, I was sort of worried when I read that a former CEO wrote This is Rage. It just doesn’t seem like the business world and the creative world of writing fiction mesh too often. And I do think the story can get drift too far into investment jargon here and there. As a layperson, I had no idea what a few sentences explaining stock prices meant and I’m not sure it was important for me to understand their meaning.
This is a big book, but a fun one. The characters here range from the traditional tech guys (scruffy and ready to save the world by giving their employees free lunches), to a calculating self-made congresswoman, to a bitter radio announcer lost in today’s evolving media world, to an aging and insecure FBI agent. Part thriller and part satire, what really makes this novel a good read are the observations Goldstein has tossed in that are so right on. He’ll throw in a snippet like, “Fools who wanted something responding to fools who claimed it was not theirs to have, rinse and repeat,” or “Attempted definitive action of any kind could always be touted as leadership,” and it reminds you that Goldstein may be writing a clever book, but he may also be sort of wise. While especially in the last few pages this sort of statement-making could creep toward ranting, I didn’t see it that way. I felt that This is Rage managed to beautifully balance sincere frustration with a raucous laughter at the madness of it all.
This is Rage: A Novel of Silicon Valley and Other Madness on Amazon.com
Ken Goldstein’s This is Rage page (with an excerpt from the book)