The Silicon Lathe
The Silicon Lathe, a story about the passions behind technology start-up companies in the Silicon Valley, was an ambitious debut novel for author Steve Jackowski. The novel covers a huge span of the industry’s history beginning in the year 1983 through present-day. We are introduced to our narrator, Jack, who was working for a company called Skynet before switching jobs to work for a start-up company called CIA headed by charismatic industry professional, Carson Ingles. He and Carson end up forming a friendship over the years, which is a recurring dynamic throughout the novel. We are also introduced to Steve, a hyper-ambitious businessman who is not afraid to be aggressive in obtaining what he wants, Steve’s social-ladder climbing wife Shelly, Jack’s coworker from CIA named Ronn, and his best friend who works in the same industry, Georgette. After investing much of his time into CIA, Jack eventually ventures on to starting his own start-up company providing him a whole new experience of navigating through the passions of the start-up industry. The novel takes us through early development in Silicon Valley when ideas about where the Internet would take society and what technologies would sell were mere predictions, through to the booming technological age we are in currently.
Jackowski goes into detail about how tech companies are managed, including everything from administrative support to stock options and outside company acquisitions. The novel highlights the glamour of the tech start-up industry: the wealth, the freedoms, the fine dining, the ambition, and innovation. But it also explores the consequences of being overzealous, of too much wealth, and the legality of tough competition. I also liked how Jackowski juxtaposed the development of his companies in the Silicon Valley alongside other world events, such as the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, Chernobyl, the Iran-Contra affair, Tiananmen Square, Y2K, and the rise of the Internet, for example. I think it helped to add depth to a developing industry by including other important events in the same timeline.
Initially, I felt as though this novel may only relate to a niche-market, but by the end, I found that it’s a story that could appeal to a wide range of audiences. It is dense in content, and some sections that tangent off the linear plot are dry, but it is well-written and provides an interesting look into the tech industry. I thought the story only got stronger as it progressed and it’s clear that Jackowski put his personality and passions into this novel.
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