Uncanny Valley (Hardcover)
MCD, 9780374278014, 288pp.
Publication Date: January 14, 2020
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.
About the Author
Praise For Uncanny Valley: A Memoir…
"Equal parts bildungsroman and insider report, this book reveals not just excesses of the tech-startup landscape, but also the Faustian bargains and hidden political agendas embedded in the so-called “inspiration culture” underlying a too-powerful industry. A funny, highly informative, and terrifying read." --Kirkus (starred review)
"[An] insider-y debut memoir that sharply critiques start-up culture and the tech industry . . . 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." --Publishers Weekly
"I've never read anything like Uncanny Valley, which is both a searching bird's-eye study of an industry and a generation, as well as an intimate, microscopic portrait of ambition and hope and dread. Anna Wiener writes about the promise and the decay of Silicon Valley with the impossibly pleasurable combination of a precise, razored intellect and a soft, incandescent heart. Her memoir is diagnostic and exhilarating, a definitive document of a world in transition: I won't be alone in returning to it for clarity and consolation for many years to come." —Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
"Uncanny Valley is a generation-defining account of the amoral late-capitalist tech landscape we are fatally enmeshed in. With grace and humor, Anna Wiener shows us the misogyny, avarice, and optimistic self-delusion of our cultural moment, wrapped up in the gripping story of a young woman navigating the blurred boundaries of a seductive world. Insightful, compelling and urgent." —Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter: A Novel
"Like Joan Didion at a startup."—Rebecca Solnit, author of Call Them By Their True Names
“A rare mix of acute, funny, up-to-the-minute social observation, dead-serious contemplation of the tech industry’s annexation of our lives, and a sincere first-person search for meaningful work and connection. How does an unworn pair of plain sneakers ‘become a monument to the end of sensuousness’? Read on.”—William Finnegan, author of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
"Uncanny Valley is an addictive combination of coming-of-age story, journalistic memoir, and brilliant social critique. This is a stunningly good book. I loved it.” —Dani Shapiro, author of Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love
"Uncanny Valley is a sentimental education for our accelerated times, a memoir so good it will make you slow down. Is it too much to say that every sculpted page will be studied by future generations? (No.) Anna Wiener is the Joan Didion of start-up culture and then some." —Ed Park, author of Personal Days
"Alternately outrageous and outraging. What makes Uncanny Valley unforgettable is not just Wiener's unique take on tech, but the fun of being along on the journey with her. Her immense intelligence and facility with language make the pages fly. She's generous, quippy, introspective and always self-deprecating. Technophobes have nothing to fear; she employs jargon mainly for laughs." --Katie Weed, Shelf Awareness