Startup, by Doree Shafrir (Little, Brown, and Company, 2017)


Startup grabs you from the very first pages. Like Douglas Coupland, Doree Shafrir socks you with cultural reference after cultural reference. The book is absolutely up to the minute. Her characters don’t take taxis; they use Uber. They don’t send texts or use Messenger; they use Slack and Snapchat. It’s actually quite impressive that she has captured 2017 so well in novel form, with a cast of mostly millennials that seem pretty real and startups developing apps that are plausibly ridiculous.

The novel revolves around a startup whose founder is trying to make it into a billion dollar company and a tech website whose reporters are eager to take him down. As the lives of these characters – who are only vaguely related at the beginning – become more entwined, the women in the novel take it into their hands to destroy the men. As an office romance falls apart, Mack McAllister gets desperate and sends a few drunken messages to his ex, an employee. These are seen – in an almost Thomas Hardy-esque situation – by Katya, a reporter for TechScene.

Startup is in many respects a really good novel, but it is also a clumsy feminist take-down of tech culture wherein all the male characters are archetypal scumbags and the women – who invariably have more depth – are eventually willing to draw upon all their strength to punish the men for their mistakes. It makes the book seem to lack depth, heart, and restraint at points. Towards the end, there is too much half-witted philosophizing and the book falls apart a bit.

Still, politics aside, Shafrir’s book is mostly enjoyable and makes for a solid summer read.