Friday, January 3, 2014

This Is Rage by Ken Goldstein

Silicon Valley is a different kind of place, built on brains and money.  There are Investors, the guys with mega-millions who make deals and mergers while attending parties and whose lives are consumed with strategies and one-up-manship.  There are Bankers, who make the connections, supplying the grease to the wheels of commerce.  Finally, there are the Operators, those with the brains and creativity to create new technological ideas that can make millions if they catch on.

All three groups are at a typical Silicon Valley party one afternoon.  It is held at the home of Daniel Steyer, one of the biggest Investors.  He is on the Board of EnvisionInk, one of the industry's success stories, and is involved in brokering a buyout of the company, with or without the approval of the company's founders, Calvin Choy and Stephen Finkelman.  Suddenly, the quiet of the party is interrupted as two guys attempt to kidnap Steyer.  They fail in their attempt, but manage to instead capture Choy and Finkelman and kill a bystander.

Concurrently, shock-jock Kimo Balthazer is losing another job.  One of the last liberal talk radio hosts, his current emphasis is on how companies mistreat their employees.  A good theme, but he goes over the line one day on the air, naming companies that may be sponsors, and then cursing on the air.  He is fired and since this is the last stop on a downward journey of several years, there are no new syndicates waiting for his show, This Is Rage. 

But, suddenly, Baltazer has an idea.  He has a website, and decides to create his own show, one that is on the Internet.  Internet radio doesn't have pesky FCC regulations.  All he needs is a big story, and the kidnappers have just supplied that.  They aren't ordinary criminals, but programmers who agreed to the crime for money to start their own company.  Now there are criminals who Baltazer can make sympathetic, investors who are maneuvering behind the scenes for profit without considering what might be best for the company employees, a pair of mythical techies who started a company from nothing and may well lose it or even lose their lives.  Baltazer starts his show and before he knows it, it has grown like wildfire and is fueled by the bits and pieces of the story that can leak when thousands of people collaborate on a story in the wild world of the Web.

Satire is one of the most difficult feats to pull off in writing.  It can easily tip over into such hostility and mean-spiritedness that it becomes a chore rather than a joy to read.  Ken Goldstein deftly walks the line, skewering the industries he knows well while propelling the reader on a roller-coaster ride of intrigue and providing heroes to cheer for.  Goldstein lives in this world.  He has worked at such industry giants as Disney, SHOP.COM and Broderbund Software.  He knows the ins and outs of technology and the money culture that has grown up around it.  This book is recommended for those interested in a fascinating look at the industry and for those who enjoy an amazing story with suspense and great pacing.

On Friday, January 3rd, This Is Rage is part of a Barnes and Nobles Free Friday promotion, where they provide books either free or at a major discount.  This Is Rage will be sold for $1.99.  Other books in the promotion include:

Love Thy Neighbor by Mark Gilleo (free)
This is Rage by Ken Goldstein ($1.99)
From the Ashes by Jeremy Burns ($1.99)
The Eighth Day by Tom Avitabile ($1.99)
The Fifth Man by James LePore ($1.99)
Back from the Dead by Peter Leonard ($1.99)
The Shepherd by Ethan Cross ($1.99)

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