Rating: +

Douglas Coupland

I just finished reading microserfs yesterday. This book gets a plus from me.

Ostensibly, this book is about programmer culture at Microsoft and in the Silicon Valley. I bought it as a present along with the book The Soul of A New Machine thinking that they were the same genre. And while they are similar, microserfs has more of a focus on the people and personalities in the book. There is more plot.

The book is written as the journal of a Microsoft employee. It starts of showing us life at Microsoft and some of the programmer culture there. But gradually the theme shifts to the reactions of various people at Microsoft to their situation and to the "having no life" syndrome that they all seem to suffer from. There are also some very funny vignettes along the way, such as the quest for flat food to slide under the door of a programmer who has locked himself in his office on a programming spree and the on-line feminist group Chyx that gets created.

As time goes on, the characters try to acquire lives, or determine whether they are happy the way they are. There are questions of whether it is Microsoft that does that to them, the programming culture, or if it is part of today's culture in general.

I thought that this was a really well written book. It was very funny in some places, but I also thought that there was some really interesting characters. The plot was less relevant than the self explorations that happened. A lot of the book was the journal keeper relating conversations that he had. I found myself wishing that I had people like that around to have those conversations with. These were people taking programming breaks to talk about the nature of memory, the mind body connection, and what their goals in life were. It seemed like a great work environment.

In summary, I expected this book to be fun but nothing special and I ended up loving it. There were parts of my life and my thoughts that I saw reflected in the book. And while the writing wasn't inspired, I think that it meshed well with the journal style to really make some of the scenes come alive.


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