Something strange happened…
The novel After On was part of Amazon’s Vine Review program. I know this because along with other Vine reviewers, I reviewed a pre-publication of copy of After On on February 28, 2017. Yet I don’t see any review, including mine, on the Amazon page for the book.
Apparently the book has been relisted on Amazon. The original page, with the Vine reviews, can be found here (note the 2035 publication date):
Forever On: A Novel of Silicon Valley [Rob Reid] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. The definitive…www.amazon.com
The reviews were not terribly favorable, as you can see on this page. You can read the excerpts on Medium and decide whether you agree or not.
Here’s what I wrote:
Review title: Even for a denizen of Silicon Valley, this novel is difficult to finish
The novel Forever On opens with
“Some people think all great books should start with a dare. And those folks can’t be big readers — because really, when was the last time you read a book that began with a dare? Well, this one does. And that’s not some ham-fisted gambit to position it as “great” because we just established that only half literates conflate opening dares with greatness. So it’s, truly, just a simple dare. And it’s this: I dare you to finish this …
And let’s be real — you probably won’t. It’s 543 pages printed, after all.”
Often authors will revise their books many times, reading the book again and again as they refine it. I have to wonder if Rob Reid, the author of “Forever On”, had a moment of clarity at some point and said to himself “No one is ever going to read this book.” Hence the dare.
“Forever On” is set in Silicon Valley (or at least the San Francisco part of it). There are a few inside jokes. Justine Sacco is the head of PR for the gargantuan start-up Phluttr which is central to the plot (such as it is). An account of Justine Sacco and her poorly thought out tweet can be found in the New York Times.
Even if “Forever On” had no other issues, the insider nature of the novel would probably limit it’s audience. I’m the founder of nderground, a social network. My co-founder and I have applied to Y-Combinator, the startup incubator. So I have some limited Silicon Valley “cred”. Even for me the novel doesn’t work.
At best the novel has points where it’s mildly amusing. There is an account of a “serial entrepreneur” Tony Jepson ripping off the venture capitalists who funded his company just before the dot-com crash. Jepson goes on to become the CEO of Phluttr (where he’s referred to as the Phoundr). Phluttr is a start-up with an ascent that puts Facebook to shame.
I found “Forever On” more or less unreadable. What’s wrong with the novel? The characters are wooden caricatures, the plot meanders around without any suspense. Unlike Umberto Eco (who has written some meandering plots) there is nothing particularly interesting along the way.
There’s an emerging artificial intelligence (AI) and a reference to the “singularity” when the AI will ascend to God-like power. There’s a shadowy military related government entity. There’s a really stupid “secret agent” Brock Horgan who works for said shadowy agency. Interspersed in the text are various blog posts by an imaginary blogger NETGrrrl and various imaginary Amazon reviews. All of this in a plot that moves at a glacial pace. At some point, I couldn’t take it any more. I have to confess that I made it a meer 28.73 percent through the novel (I finally bailed at page 156).
I have a mild twinge of guilt writing an unfavorable review. But books are expensive. Even Kindle books. Reviews help us buy products that we are more likely to be happy with.
I’m sure that Rob poured a huge amount of effort into this book. But this doesn’t change the fact that it is a book that I can’t recommend.