After On: A Novel of Silicon Valley

Del Rey: Ballantine. Aug. 2017. 576p. ISBN 9781524798055. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781101882719. F
This dystopian novel by the author of Year Zero extrapolates the ultimate consequence of Moore's Law—that machines built to serve us will eventually rule us instead. Kuba, Ellie, and Mitchell are Silicon Valley denizens who enjoy a sniff of success when their start-up is bought by the founder of a highly successful company whose product is Phluter, a social media app wildly popular among the younger set worldwide. The source of its popularity, besides its frequent issuance of free drink coupons to members, remains a mystery, and a sinister one as top executives begin to succumb mysteriously. Kuba, Ellie, and Mitchel suspect the culprit is Phluter "herself" (so referenced when the computer program exhibits traits they find are essentially those of a teenage girl). Their suspicions begin to put them at risk, and the quest, if not quite the chase, is on to save humanity. Reid's novel is less an edgy cyberthriller than a clever exposition of how the cyberworld of social media operates.
VERDICT The story line goes on, if not forever, at least far too long to hold most readers' interest. Lacking a cliff-hanger style or the flair of Isaac Asimov, and punctuated with mostly annoying ex cathedra author/narrator commentary, this is for those with time on their hands who trust their patience will be rewarded at some point.
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