“Tremendously likeable” – Uncanny Valley by Anna Weiner

What you have here is a memoir, more or less in the vein of My Salinger Year, in that Weiner is a former publishing employee who takes a job in Silicon Valley (or rather a series of jobs) and then shares with us, in a witty and acerbic way, her thoughts on the kinds of people who prosper in a tech environment, that also functions as a sort of geo-political examination of the way that the tech industry has affected San Francisco and the world at large.

Whilst you might want to take the cover quotes with a healthy heapful of sugar (it’s neither “explosive” nor “extraordinary” unless you’re likely to be surprised by tech sorts tending to be somewhat self-obsessed and not all that good at interacting with, you know, people), Weiner herself is the draw here. She’s sharp. She’s funny. She has a winning way with both self-deprecating observations and acidic character put downs. There is also a tremendously likeable ducking of naming conventions throughout Uncanny Valley (she talks of the social media platform everyone hates, among others) that recalls George Saunders’ short stories, and a wise-cracking Peppermint Pattie quality to the snap and crackle of her language.

Whilst you can’t get away from the fact that what you have here for the most part is office politics and dirty laundry aired for all to see, the main draw is in seeing how a place (San Francisco) has been changed by start-ups and entrepreneurs in a mostly detrimental way. You could, in many ways, read Uncanny Valley as a kind of sequel to Douglas Rushkoff’s Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus. Or you could read it as a defiant call to arms to the tech community to take a long overdue look at themselves.

Any Cop?: It’s certainly a pleasurable read and that is down to the character of Weiner herself. You want to spend time in her company. She’s the cool kid in school. We all want to be her. And we’re certainly looing forward to whatever it is she comes up with next.

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