Since I posted a grump about some stuff early on in David Kaplan’s The Silicon Boys, I should close it out with a few words now that I’ve finished the book.
Maybe one word would be enough.
Read as semi-fiction, it’s OK. Read as insight into Silicon Valley as of 1999…I’m sorry, but even pre-crash (the dotcom crash), I just don’t buy that everybody was Just In It For the Money, that there “is no soul” anymore, that it’s all just big jets and wealthy venture capitalists.
Oh, I buy that these are the people Kaplan chooses to focus on–he’s best buds with the big VCs and has no apparent interest in anybody worth less than eight digits–but taking this view for reality is about as meaningful as his incessant focus on Woodside as the, I don’t know, heart of Silicon Valley.
One thing’s very clear: He may pretend to be hard on SV players…but he’s very much on their side. It’s amusing that Larry Ellison has “tense problems” with the truth. Various other escapades and sabotage are just, you know, boys being boys. But Bill Gates–he’s EVIL! And Microsoft’s Mountain View facility is “near the dump.” (In other words, near Shoreline Park, a beautiful facility that was originally a garbage dump…and Microsoft’s just a little further away than, well, Google.)
Speaking of Google: The book is dated 1999. Of Google, there is not one word mentioned. Yahoo is the last big story, and it’s clearly the Biggest Thing that’s Ever Going to Hit Silicon Valley.
Well, why not? In 1999, Google’s founders weren’t obscenely wealthy…and thus of no real interest to Kaplan’s predetermined storyline.
I would push at stuff like his claim that Silicon Valley had an 80% divorce rate in the late 1990s (I can’t prove that’s false, but I’m 99% certain it’s nonsense), but what’s the point. This is semi-fiction, probably very strong on details of venture capitalism and selective stories of individual excess.
As a meaningful account of Silicon Valley? Meh. Maybe there’s a reason the 2000 edition has a different publisher (one I’ve never heard of) than the 1999 edition I read.
(And I promise: I’m not going to start doing book reviews.)