By @SimonCocking review of The Knucklehead of Silicon Valley, available from Amazon here.
Ralph Gibsen isn’t your typical spy. In fact, he may not be a spy at all. He’s lumpy, blundering and abysmal at chatting up the fairer sex. Yet, he is attracting a significant amount of attention from the intelligence community. After all, as a 30-year Silicon Valley mainstay, he can phish your passwords, bust firewalls, and has developed software used by millions to circumvent government censorship. And now, he thinks he has stumbled upon a cabal who is pushing to misuse his own technology for world domination.
Ralph helps create an educational Tool that maps a learner’s neurological processes and pinpoints the exact moment a student learns. But the Tool can also manipulate people’s beliefs. At least, that what several influential people think. Soon, Ralph finds himself the target of increasingly complex attacks on his businesses, reputation, freedom, and life.
Ralph enlists an eclectic group of ‘frenemies’ to thwart this nefarious plot. McKenna may or may not still work for the CIA. Beautiful Eva may work for the Chinese government, who wants the Tool for themselves. Even Ralph’s lovely wife Jen could be involved… Ralph simply isn’t equipped to figure it out. And the world is closing in.
The Knucklehead of Silicon Valley, reviewed
This is a bit of a curate’s egg of a book. Firstly is he a spy or not. Ultimately it’s not completely credible if you, the main character, are not even sure. Similarly if you are not even sure if you have a boss, spy handler, or not, this is not, ultimately credible. Perhaps your mother was a spy, this is a more reasonable proposition, as we can never really know everything about our own parents. Ourselves though, well we do know that better or not.
The opening hundred pages or so do accurately describe the life of a frequently traveling tech VC / bro / investor. You’d imagine the writer of this book is someone who does live a life quite close to that described by the main protagonist, Ralph. You can also imagine other people marvelling and wondering at his life style, and probably often asking him ‘what do you do’ and you must be a spy really. So its easy to see the potential genesis for the idea for the book.
The question then though, is where do you go with this? Is he, ultimately a spy or not? And the book fudges this one, as well as any real story too, yes things happen, but you are not swept up by it. Bad as Dan Brown is, you find yourself turning the pages to see what will (often slightly predictably, but you never know 100% for sure) what happen to its protagonist. With this book you felt like Ralph was never really sure what he was going to do, or where it was going to go.
The Israelis, the Americans, the Brits, the Asians are all captured relatively well, as, to some degree was the startup world too, but, despite flying many times around the world, it was never really clear where the book itself was going.
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