If you were to enter this book at a random point and begin reading, you might think you were in the midst of a sweeping historic novel of importance. It's ambitious, certainly. And the author knows how to describe, knows how people think, has great sense of irony and clearly appreciates how close history really is to the present.
But he doesn't know how to impose order on all this within the linear boundary of writing. This book has no boundaries, just as one of the main characters has problems with personal ones. Everything — every thought, every chipmunk, every knowing local reference — is painstakingly described and over-described with no regard to relative importance. I was going to say "relative importance to the plot," but there is no plot. There are story lines. As in real life, many of them are dead ends. But this isn't real life. This is a book, and things need to relate in meaningful ways, not just ironic ones or mystically.
I don't normally write reviews but I was so disappointed with this work I couldn't bite my tongue. It's full of promise, I love the ambition, the author is a skilled wordsmith. But I'm not sure he has anything in particular to say here.
One other observation: The reader is excellent, and that makes all the more painful the realization that something huge is missing from the worlds depicted here: There is a nearly complete lack of joy in any of these lives. Just as it's unrealistic to depict life as always happy, so too is it unrealistic to depict it as completely hopeless and full of no good fortune.
That's news-biz terminology for when a reporter just puts everything he knows into a story — is not selective. Ken Auletta is a stellar reporter, but this book is a firehose that is flopping out of control. I feel as though I have re-lived the entire history of Google and modern media in real time. What I had hoped for was something to help me make sense of it.
The audio quality and narration are so poor that this book is unlistenable. It sounds like someone read the book into telephone voice mail -- someone who was bored.
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