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Archive for the ‘social media’ Tag

The Virus   Leave a comment

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Maggie Rider’s self-deprecating humor and sharp intelligence as narrator of The Virus by Janelle Diller elevate this sky-is-falling novel about the increasing threat of diminishing privacy.

Maggie works for a tech company that requires a lot of travel. Her husband, Eddy, is a freelance web designer. He’s actually more tech savvy than his wife, which evolves as a significant characteristic.

The novel begins with a smallpox outbreak in Colorado. Maggie and Eddy live in Colorado Springs; the story settings also include the Bay Area and Nebraska. At first, vaccinations are scarce. The rush to meet demand is fueled by government regulations requiring all who travel, work in the health industry and /or attend school to receive inoculations. Thanks to her job, Maggie is among the first to be vaccinated; something she willingly, almost gratefully, accepts. Suddenly, the immunizations are plentiful. Meanwhile, Eddy isn’t buying. His skeptical nature makes him leery of the outbreak in general and the vaccination itself.

Thus begins a race-against-time as more deadlines surface requiring all U.S. residents to be inoculated within a short time span.

Part thriller, part subtle love story (Maggie and Eddy are happily married) and a lot of intrigue make Diller’s story engaging. There’s an element of Big Brother along with the vulnerability that comes from being active on social media.

In general, the novel maintains a fast-paced tempo. Although not necessarily new, Diller raises important issues for consideration regarding the government and the ease with which we all share information about ourselves.

The Virus
Four Bookmarks
WorldTrek Publishing, 2015
359 pages

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Poetic Justice   Leave a comment

Finacial Lives

Jess Walter takes satire to a new level in The Financial Lives of Poets, a look at marriage, social media, unemployment and breaking the law. Matt Prior is an unemployed financial journalist and a would-be poet. His senile father lives with Matt, his wife and their two young boys. Matt is convinced his wife is having an affair. When he isn’t busy writing poems about the direction of his life, he stalks his wife’s online activities.

Walter instills humor and pathos in his characters. In fact, these elements are so evenly balanced it’s difficult to choose a preference. It’s funny that Matt meets two young hoods late at night at a 7-Eleven; it’s pathetic when he continues the relationship. It’s amusing when Matt comes up with an idea to save his home from foreclosure; but it’s sad to realize the extent of his debt and desperation.

The novel’s title comes from another of Matt’s bad ideas, although this one is completely legal: a website with financial news written in blank verse. Matt left his job at the local paper to pursue this not surprisingly unsuccessful venture. It’s not that the poetry is weak, only that, for better or worse, poetry simply doesn’t appeal to everyone; and as it turns out, particularly not financial types.

The Financial Lives is suggestive of a Breaking Bad Lite. The motivation for making ill-conceived choices is understandable, even if it cannot be condoned. The farther Matt sinks, the less intriguing the story. It wears thin.

The Financial Lives of Poets
Three Bookmarks
HarperCollins, 2009
290 pages

Hashtags and Characters   Leave a comment

I have a Twitter account, but don’t tweet. Reading Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton did nothing to encourage me to embrace this social media leviathan. I was curious about Bilton’s book because I teach an Internet Media class. Undeniably, Twitter has a huge role in how society communicates. Journalists around the world demonstrate its use as a significant tool to report news. I appreciate that. However, it’s disconcerting that stories, whether personal or professional, can be condensed to 140 characters or less.

Nonetheless, Bilton’s book, while not as objective as expected from a New York Times reporter, provides insight into Twitter’s short history. All of the major players and how they became part of the little blue bird’s universe are introduced. Although many others are featured, the focus is on the four identified as Twitter’s co-founders: Evan “Ev” Williams, Jack Dorsey, Christopher “Biz” Stone, and Noah Glass. Bilton is sympathetic in his account of Glass’s involvement, which was short lived. Williams and Stone are profiled in a positive light compared to Dorsey who’s mocked for his Steve Jobs-wanna-be approach and his alone-at-the-end-of-the-day consequences.

The manner in which the story’s told is appealing. Starting in 2010 with Williams about to announce his departure as Twitter’s CEO, Bilton then offers the true beginning in 1997. The account is similar to a mystery without the murder, but plenty of intrigue and backstabbing. The reader knows what’s going to happen, but not necessarily how.

Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal
Almost Four Bookmarks
Portfolio/Penguin, 2013
302 Pages