In 1985, a young Laura Rodriguez goes to Silicon Valley to start a career as a computer programmer. She finds a job at a quirky startup run by a family with secrets.
In 2016, a now middle-aged Laura faces growing professional and family crises and the most divisive presidential election in recent history. She fears losing her job in the wake of a merger, and she distrusts her new millennial boss. Her daughter has cancer, her son quit a lucrative programming job and moved back home, and her marriage is crumbling—especially when an old flame reenters her life.
Laura must seek solutions from a past she wants to forget. She may find them in the computer that changed her life, the Amiga.
I am an award-winning public speaker and writer. My novel Amiga came from my experiences in the computer industry in the 1980s as a technical writer and computer journalist. My awards for writing and public speaking include Distinguished Toastmaster and an Award of Excellence from the International Online Communications Competition. I graduated Summa Cum Laude from California State University, Northridge. My hometown of Reseda, California plays a prominent role in many of my works. I live in Orange County with my wife for over 30 years. I have two children, a granddaughter, and lots of cats.
To learn more about me, please visit www.matthewarnoldstern.com and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok at maswriter.
Laura Rodriguez wants to be a great computer programmer, but after not finding the 'perfect' corporate job with benefits, she stumbles on an ad about a need for a programmer in the oddest of places - in someone's home. She goes for it! She takes a chance. The good news, she discovers her young boss has brilliance and new creative ideas she never saw coming. The bad news, she gets wrapped up in a strange family with some bizarre secrets that haunt her for years.
Amiga is one of those stories that sticks with you. You get enthralled in the excitement of the 80's tech era and then get shaken up by the mystery of human nature and how some mistakes can plague a family for generations.
What a combination! Matthew gives us great writing, a strong plot, and a sweet romance that has you rushing through the pages to see if the love hangs in there through time. You can't pass up this read!
A Wondrous Tale of Female Empowerment in the Tech Age Amiga by Matthew Arnold Stern is stirring and gripping novel about the experiences of the computer programmer Laura Rodriguez in the nascent 1980s and later in millennial charged 2016. The novel deftly alternates between these two periods. The 1980s scenes unfold an inspiring story of software and coding innovation – in this case what sounds like an early version of Photoshop – even as ominous secrets about the family-run start-up are revealed; the 2016 story line features Laura now working for a millennial boss, Tammy – a combination of cluelessness, crassness, and savvy. In both storylines, Laura must summon her patience, intellect, and resourcefulness to navigate situations in constant flux. As Laura’s husband Kevin points out in the 2016 storyline, “Maybe the rules have changed, Laura. Everything has changed.” Indeed, in these parallel turbulent times, Laura’s nimbleness in dealing with being a woman in awkward positions (first as a young computer programmer and later an older figure in an industry currently embracing the shiny and new) becomes one of Amiga’s many pleasures. Another is how well Stern integrates the two stories as the Amiga computer that started it all returns to Laura’s life as does an old flame and a friend from the past. Stern fills the novel with smart, sly remarks like this one describing the dowager Mrs. Posner: “I could see her giving lavishly to worthy causes, possibly to cover up some misdeeds in their past.” Laura’s time as a programmer of the Amiga in the Posner family household, under the guidance of the visionary techie Peter, serves as a powerful grounding for the novel and as a formative experience in our heroine’s development. Ultimately, what really elevates the novel is the satisfying, if disturbing, climax that resurrects the dark legacy and secrets of the Posner family. As Laura explains, in the burgeoning 80’s tech world, “We were pioneers in a pristine, unexplored wilderness before we paved it over with an information superhighway. The Amiga made me feel like anything was possible …” That feeling of possibility is one of the novel’s great redemptive qualities and will make me consider the novel long after I return it to my shelf.
I hardly know the difference between a 32-bit computer or Motorola 68000 assembly language and a package of salami, but I enjoyed this well-written tale about the 1980s tech industry and one woman’s effort to survive her personal and professional career obstacles over the course of 30 years.
The author has a casual and nimble writing style, assisted by fluid dialogue, that should help any reader easily navigate the nerdy world of early floppy drives, clumsy start-up discs and techie buzzwords. The name of the book stems from Commodore’s popular computer of the same name, a mid-eighties best-seller known for its games and creative software.
Told as alternate storylines separated by three decades, “Amiga” follows programmer Laura Rodriguez as she joins an iffy California startup whose eccentric founder is flirting with an innovative software concept that could potentially change the way people take and manipulate photographs. Laura, on the hunt for her first real job in what was then a male-dominated industry, discovers her first opportunity in a sketchy want ad and finds herself working (and living) at a small business owned by a well-heeled and unusual family.
Zoom ahead a few decades, and we now find Laura as a seasoned industry veteran potentially nearing the end of her career and saddled with personal difficulties that include her daughter’s battle with cancer and her own borderline marriage problems. She’s also treading water in her career as she tries to anticipate what’s to come from her new boss, an energetic and clueless millennial with whom she has nothing in common.
For anyone who can remember that pre-internet era, the book also communicates a charming sense of life’s innocent possibilities during the book’s 1985 chapters, and then drives home the reality of aging and world weariness as the story moves towards a final conclusion that includes the appearance of an old boyfriend from the past and an explanation of her first employer’s dubious history.
Stern does a fine job of creating a strong and believable lead female character without resorting to standby cliches or waving convenient social or political flags. The rest of the story unfolds effortlessly to make for a good and entertaining read.
With a master’s degree in computer science, Laura Rodriguez was a whizz in her field. If only she could convince these companies to give her a chance. The story starts off with her interviewing for a job.
“Men like girls who are smart, but not too smart, and certainly not as smart as they are. And men don’t like a girl who tells them they’re wrong.” (13)
Evidently, just being smart wasn’t good enough. What else was she missing? Besides a penis.
I liked that the main character was a Latina. Not only is this story infused with girl power, but it’s Latina power. It’s so hard to get ahead, especially for a Latina. Men certainly don’t have to deal with what we do. The writing was simple and easy to fall into. Of course, the programming language wasn’t as easy.
Judging by the title, Amiga, I thought this to be a New Adult or Coming of Age novel. In actuality, Amiga was the name of the computer program. On the one hand, we see the character grow and develop as we get into the story. Things get more complex when business and politics get in the mix. It might even be confusing for readers, but still, nonetheless, they will definitely root for Laura the entire way. The cover could’ve had a better design though.
Amiga is brilliantly plotted, well-crafted historical novel that follows the life of it's Latina protagonist, Laura Rodriguez, during two separate timelines: 1985-86 and the Fall of 2016.
In 1985, Laura's a computer programmer struggling to break into the booming tech industry in Northern California where both her gender and ethnicity work against her. In 2016, Laura is now a member of the old guard in a recently acquired firm where layoffs are in the wind, and senior management wants to get younger and hipper. Stern balances both timelines perfectly, playing them off against one another, as we do a deep dive into the seminal moment when the younger Laura takes a chance on a risky in-home startup, then segue back to 2016 where career, family and personal crises threaten to tear the older Laura's hard won middle class life apart.
Stern's prose is seamless, and both story lines move at a quick pace, each informing the other. Laura''s intelligence, strength of will, dreams and her very identity are tested against the backdrop of two tumultuous years, two decades apart. A gritty, realistic and sometimes harrowing portrayal of the challenges so many minority women have faced in America, I can't recommend this novel enough. Buy it. Read it. You won't be disappointed.
Honestly, I drunk ordered this book. I was browsing Twitter one day and this book came up. I can't remember how or why it did, but there it was. I ordered it and forgot about it. Several weeks later is showed up in my mailbox and I was excited to have something new to read, about the history of the Amiga! Well, that's not what this book is about, it's the story of a person and her life working on an Amiga, and being an amiga, the trials she faced in the 80s working on this revolutionary machine and the trials she's facing today, how your past can come back to haunt you and at the same time remind you that the past is what made you who you are today.
This book was not what I expected, but I enjoyed it more than I expected. The character development was solid and the timeline flipping was clear and easy to follow. I was left wanting to know what was going to happen to the protagonist chapter after chapter, and the ending of the book was good in that it was able to provide a sense of closure while still leaving me wanting more.
Amiga, voor iedereen ouder dan 35 een begrip. In de jaren '80 van de 20e eeuw was het een van de eerste computers met multi-tasking, het was de eerste computer met 4096 kleuren (PC's hadden er maar 16, en Apple maar 2!), 8 bits geluid en meer. En dat voor een computer die vele malen goedkoper was dan de simpelste PC.
Het verhaal gaat over de jonge Laura Rodriguez die in de jaren '80 een baan als programmeur vindt bij een startup, geleidt door een familie met geheimen. Ook gaat het over de Laura die in 2016 probeert haar leven en werk te combineren.
Hoewel de titel van het boek, 'AMIGA', doet denken dat het over de computer gaat, heeft deze geen echte rol van betekenis. Het team van de Prosners probeert een foto-bewerkingsprogramma te maken, dat op een standaard Amiga 1000(?) werkt. Dit gaat met veel vallen en opstaan. Meer wordt er niet met de Amiga gedaan.
Het verhaal op zich is aardig, maar geen hoogvlieger voor mij.
Matthew Stern has crafted a brilliantly written historical fiction novel that highlights the rise of California tech start-ups and the difficulties associated with the 'political correctness' of breaking into that industry. Stern masterfully navigates crafting his story via parallel timelines in both 1985 and 2016.
We witness both the professional and family struggles of the main protagonist, Laura Rodriguez, as she navigates her tech career challenges including breaking into the new industry and measuring up with the millennials that have inundated the field in 2016. These challenges are further complicated by a sick daughter, a son trying to find himself, a husband trying to keep his family together, and the emergence of a former lover.
Stern does an incredible job stirring nostalgia in this vivid depiction of technological rise, modern-day political unrest, and dynamic, believable characters. Well done!
Amiga was a fast-paced, well-written novel that artfully juxtaposed the protagonist's past with her present. Laura, a young programmer of the 80's must deal with gender and racial inequality when taking a chance on a low-paying programming job working for the darkly mysterious Posnor family. Fast-forward to 2016, and we find Laura working for a millennial boss and grappling with the trauma of her present life and her shadowed past. The story beautifully came together for me, and Stern does a fantastic job creating strong, believable female characters and reveals only enough each chapter to leave readers wanting to know more.
I enjoyed this story because it was easy to see the author had much experience with early days of personal computing. He did a good job of translating that experience, incorporating it into the story and keeping it readable for readers like me.
I liked the jumping back and forth between the two time settings that showed Laura at the beginning of her career and as an established programmer. The earlier setting was downright weird but I have no doubt that it was probably representative of some of the early days in this industry.
Matthew Stern does an amazing job of weaving the past and the present together, never giving away too much too soon. The story is compelling and deals with issues such as suicide, rape, gender inequality, race/ethnicity, and ageism and delves into what it was like in the 80s with startup computer companies and new technology.