- Expected Jan 14, 2020
A January 2020 IndieNext Pick. One of Vogue's 22 Books to Read This Winter.
"A definitive document of a world in transition: I won't be alone in returning to Uncanny Valley for clarity and consolation for many years to come." —Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
The prescient, page-turning account of a journey in Silicon Valley: a defining memoir of our digital age
In her mid-twenties, at the height of tech industry idealism, Anna Wiener—stuck, broke, and looking for meaning in her work, like any good millennial--left a job in book publishing for the promise of the new digital economy. She moved from New York to San Francisco, where she landed at a big-data startup in the heart of the Silicon Valley bubble: a world of surreal extravagance, dubious success, and fresh-faced entrepreneurs hell-bent on domination, glory, and, of course, progress.
Anna arrived amidst a massive cultural shift, as the tech industry rapidly transformed into a locus of wealth and power rivaling Wall Street. But amid the company ski vacations and in-office speakeasies, boyish camaraderie and ride-or-die corporate fealty, a new Silicon Valley began to emerge: one in far over its head, one that enriched itself at the expense of the idyllic future it claimed to be building.
Part coming-age-story, part portrait of an already-bygone era, Anna Wiener’s memoir is a rare first-person glimpse into high-flying, reckless startup culture at a time of unchecked ambition, unregulated surveillance, wild fortune, and accelerating political power. With wit, candor, and heart, Anna deftly charts the tech industry’s shift from self-appointed world savior to democracy-endangering liability, alongside a personal narrative of aspiration, ambivalence, and disillusionment.
Unsparing and incisive, Uncanny Valley is a cautionary tale, and a revelatory interrogation of a world reckoning with consequences its unwitting designers are only beginning to understand.
Technology journalist Wiener looks at Silicon Valley life in this insider-y debut memoir that sharply critiques start-up culture and the tech industry. In 2013, Wiener left an assistant job at a New York literary agency to work for an e-book start-up run by young men who were uninterested in reading books. That job led to a move to San Francisco, where she worked in customer support at a data analytics start-up, then at a start-up that focused on software development. Wiener humorously describes the employee perks at the office ("a miniature theme park" with a wraparound bar, a roof deck, a speakeasy), though she decided to primarily work from home "in sagging leggings." Wiener writes of how she struggled to be taken seriously in a male-dominated industry that lacked diversity; attended lavish work events at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lake Tahoe while San Francisco's homeless population increased; communicated with coworkers using just emoji; and watched 20-somethings get rich overnight. She eventually became disillusioned with her job ("I was burning out and failing up") and left in 2018 to pursue writing, but not before buying up her vested stock options. Wiener is an entertaining writer, and those interested in a behind-the-scenes look at life in Silicon Valley will want to take a look.