Book review: Microserfs

In Microserfs by Douglas Coupland, a bunch of geeks working at Microsoft (hence the title of the book), decide to change their predictable, stable, profitable yet somehow unfulfilling lives in Seattle for a leap into the unknown, starting their own company in California.

Some things remain the same: They still work way too much. They’re still geeks. They still obsess about small things, as geeks do. But something starts to change. They get lives. The fundamental isolation made possible by the corporate lifestyle at Microsoft is replaced by confusion, frustration, identity crisis, dating disasters, jealousy – but also by friendship, community, loyalty, trust and most of all love.

Re-reading this novel right before finishing Richard Sennetts book The Corrosion of Character made me see, that Microserfs can be read as a practical application of the themes in Sennets book, which deals with some of the same issues:How stable, long-term, predictable careers are being replaced with something much scarier. Here’s a group of people, so lovingly and accurately depicted that you feel you know each and every one of them and all their talents, faults and idiosyncracies, each reacting to the changes in their own unique way.

I have read Microserfs countless times, and I till think it’s brilliant. It is one of the most romantic books I’ve ever read, showing some of the countless ways love can appear between people. It also has the best ending of any book I’ve read – and while I’m not much of a romantic, I don’t mind saying, that the last couple of pages brings a tear to my eye every time I read them.

The book has extra resonance for me, because I used to be a geek myself. I’ve gone through a journey very much like the ones taken by the characters in this book, and I can vouch for the accuracy of the description of the geek lifestyle and way if thinking. Yes, we can be that obsessed. Yes, we can be that dull. Yes, we can focus our lives around one thing (typically work) almost to the point where we don?t have lives. Yes, we can change. Yes, it’s worth it.

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