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Monthly Book Reads > Microserfs - December 2018

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Darren (dazburns) | 666 comments Mod
In December we will be reading Douglas Coupland's Microserfs in our State Of The Nation category - who's in?

Phil (lanark) | 436 comments Already, I feel this book would benefit from explanatory historical footnotes. :D

Darren (dazburns) | 666 comments Mod
I'm 70% through and finding it really engaging/enjoyable
the short chapters and "snippet" paragraphs make it really easy to pick up and page turn...

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 565 comments I've got it queued up right here on my desk. I'll probably get to it in a day or two

message 5: by Fay (new) - added it

Fay Roberts | 363 comments I'm really enjoying this one. It's so readable and I love the 90's nostalgia.

I was just idly googling and typed in OOP Computer Program. I was fascinated to learn that OOP is an computer term meaning "object-oriented programming". It's a layer of the book I wouldn't have picked up on.......

message 6: by Fay (new) - added it

Fay Roberts | 363 comments Phil wrote: "Already, I feel this book would benefit from explanatory historical footnotes. :D"

I know! I wonder what Microsoft's main aim is now we all do have PC's (that can store more than 3 college text books worth of data ;-) )?

message 7: by Darren (last edited Dec 05, 2018 04:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Darren (dazburns) | 666 comments Mod
the Oop! product in the book sounds eerily/presciently like Minecraft which only came on the scene much more recently (2011 according to wikipedia!)

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 565 comments I got started on this last night--I agree with Darren that it's an easy read with the snippet paragraphs. I was reminded of Chuck Palahniuk's style from Fight Club--enough so that I looked up the publishing data. Coupland was first published in 1995, Palahniuk in 1996--close enough that I almost wonder if this isn't a style that was emerging in the mid 1990s rather than one influencing the other.

The 90s pop culture references are kind of amusing--Coupland was writing as they were happening, so it was current events to him, but I can't help making another comparison--this time to Ready Player One, which was written with nostalgia in mind.

I was thinking--writers like Coupland are kind of the Zola of their day. In a hundred years, Microserfs will probably look as foreign to future readers as Germinal does to us.

message 9: by Darren (last edited Dec 16, 2018 12:04PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Darren (dazburns) | 666 comments Mod
I whizzed through this in 5 days and thoroughly enjoyed it
herewith I reproduce my review:

Fascinating insight into the "tech nerd" lifestyle. Well-drawn/engaging ensemble cast of characters, amiably getting on with their lives - working (coding!) chatting, forming relationships and occasionally even having/relating personal feelings (shock, horror!). Style reads almost like a coffee-table book - you could open the book on any page and get the idea pretty quickly. What I liked most was (view spoiler) - this is almost unheard of in novels and I found it highly refreshing/thought-provoking. 4.5 stars but rounding down.

message 10: by Phil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phil (lanark) | 436 comments Halfway through. I'm really enjoying my re-read of this book. Its point in history is fascinating, and I stand by my position that it already needs explanatory footnotes. Even said that's still about has different names: I had to Google EPROM, to find that it's just replaceable memory sticks (like Crucial make). But it's that time when the old computer giants, Xerox and IBM address on the way out and the new giants haven't taken their place yet - this is pre-Jobs Apple, where its staff are worrying for their jobs (pun intended). It's great.

Jackie | 88 comments I am finishing up this book too. I have enjoyed it enormously, though I think it is running out of puff a bit towards the end. The characters are likeable, and I enjoyed watching them grow. I like the compassionate take the author has towards the characters, and is quite insightful. He is not aiming for cheap laughs at all.

message 12: by Phil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phil (lanark) | 436 comments Finished this morning.
Loved it - far more than I remembered doing when I first read it 20 years ago. Here's my review.

"Todd, fate hands you opportunities for a while, and if you don't take them, fate says to itself 'Oh, I see - This person doesn't LIKE opportunities' and stops giving them to you."
"Ethan said randomness is a useful shorthand for describing a pattern that's bigger than anything we can hold in our minds, letting go of randomness is one of the hardest decisions a person can make."
This book is prime Coupland. It epitomises what he does so well. It's full of nice, likeable characters who discover wonderful wonderful things about themselves - that they're capable of more than they ever believed they were when they give themselves the space and surroundings to so. As one character says - they're just ready to sprout.

Taking a leap into the dark from the sterile corporate corridors of Microsoft, they set up their own software company building a protean version of Minecraft. None of them know if it will succeed, but they know that it's a risk they need to take. And in doing to they unshackle themselves in so many ways.

The era is only 23 years ago, but it really needs extensive footnotes about the early days of the internet, when computing was between stools. The old giants were dying - xerox, IBM - but the new giants were unsure (a between-Jobs Apple were stumbling around without a direction) and the WWW wasn't fully-formed and certainly not the all-encompassing entity it is now.

But it's the characters, not the milieu, that hold you through this book. There's almost no plot - 6 friends (well, acquaintances, they don't really have friends as such in Microsoft, they don't have time) Oop! the lego-brick building game is developed. And that's that. But in that time, these nerds who didn't have lives or any knowledge of how to get one, find that they do have a life, that they have friends - dear friends - and that they have the capacity to love each other, to change, to grow, to surprise each other, and ultimately to cope with sudden changes.

I loved this book FAR more than I remembered doing last time I read it. Perhaps because, like the characters in the book, I have also changed and grown over time.

CODA: I don't know why this book has never been turned into a movie - it would make a fine one with the right cast. I can just imagine the closing scene filmed under Pink Floyd's The Great Gig in the Sky.

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

I've just finished this and I have to disagree with the majority - I really didn't like it. I found the style of writing cheesy & I don't think it's aged that well. I didn't like any of the characters and didn't find any plot worth reading. I am fond of 90s nostalgia but this wasn't enough to keep me interested.

Oh well, some books aren't for everyone.

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