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Microserfs Paperback – May 30, 1996

240 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Microserfs is not about Microsoft--it's about programmers who are searching for lives. A hilarious but frighteningly real look at geek life in the '90's, Coupland's book manifests a peculiar sense of how technology affects the human race and how it will continue to affect all of us. Microserfs is the hilarious journal of Dan, an ex-Microsoft programmer who, with his coder comrades, is on a quest to find purpose in life. This isn't just fodder for techies. The thoughts and fears of the not-so-stereotypical characters are easy for any of us to relate to, and their witty conversations and quirky view of the world make this a surprisingly thought-provoking book.

" ... just think about the way high-tech cultures purposefully protract out the adolescence of their employees well into their late 20s, if not their early 30s," muses one programmer. "I mean, all those Nerf toys and free beverages! And the way tech firms won't even call work 'the office,' but instead, 'the campus.' It's sick and evil."

From Publishers Weekly

With his nose to the zeitgeist, the author of Generation X again examines the angst of the white-collar, under-30 set in this entertaining tale of computer techies who escape the serfdom of Bill Gates's Microsoft to found their own multimedia company. The story is told through the online journal of, an affable, insomniac, 26-year-old aspiring code writer. Together with his girlfriend Karla, a mousy shiatsu expert with a penchant for Star Trekky aphorisms, and a tight clique of maladjusted, nose-to-the-grindstone housemates, he relocates to a Lego-adorned office in Palo Alto, Calif., to develop a product called Object Oriented Programming (Oop!), a form of virtual Lego. Much of the story concerns the the Oop! staff's efforts to raise capital and "have a life" amid 18-hour work days. Dan's journal, like much prose on the Internet, abounds in typos, encrypted text, emoticons-:) for happy and :( for sad-and random snippets of information, a format that suits Copland's disjointed, soundbite-heavy fiction. Yet the randomness and nonlinearity of cyberspace hobble narrative. Amid endless digital chitchat and pop-philosophy, this novel's more serious ruminations about the physical and social alienation of life on the Information Superhighway never achieve any real complexity.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 30, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060987049
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060987046
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (240 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,563,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Whitaker on July 8, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This would easily be a 4 star book for me and in paperback I'd give it that in a heartbeat but the Kindle edition is horrible. It seems like someone ran a hardcopy through a scanner and then OCR'ed it without proofreading it at all. There are letters missing, a few entire words missing and many, many instances of the wrong letter over and over (like a U instead of a V - there's an entire section where it says Silicon Ualley over and over) and places where the wrong word was picked up (ie - Interiority becomes Inferiority, somewhat appropriate in describing this edition).

I've read the book before and enjoyed it but the Kindle edition was a bit of a chore. It looks like the publisher didn't even proofread this book once before uploading it. A shame, really.
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55 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Philip Greenspun on April 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
After reading Tracy Kidder's acclaimed (by the New Yorker crowd) Soul of a New Machine, I thought to myself "here's a guy who spent 12 hours/day with engineers for an entire year and learned nothing about engineering, nothing about what matters to engineers, and nothing about the hearts and minds of engineers. After reading Microserfs, I thought "here's a guy who seems to have spent a week with engineers and effortlessly absorbed everything that is important about engineering culture, everything that matters about working at a big company, and everything that matters about working at a startup." Coupland's writing is better crafted here than in his earlier books, e.g., Generation X.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Eduardo Zarate Gonzalez on January 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Being a spanish-speaking person and spanish-language reader, I don't have much opportunities to read American contemporary authors, unless they're writing computer systems technical books. So I must admit, my first glance at Microserfs was motivated by the curiosity of someone trying to describe how tech-obsessed, workaholic and project-slaved workers (as most people in my carreer) thought, felt and dreamed. I thought it would certainly be a challenge to build a plot with such characters. Copeland proved me wrong.
As I read this book, I got lest interested with the similarities to real geeks and more involved in the real metaphor of Microserfs: the search for personal realization in each of this genious but not so life-wise characters. This process, narrated with humor, tech & tv real-world metaphors, self-inspection and lots of deliciously imaginative - and fantastic- theories in the minds of each character, is what really drives the reader to love this book from beginning to end.
So I would recommend Microserfs twice: 1: to get a good understanding of geeks - which after reading this book will probably be no stranger to the reader than any average football fan, or any other obsessed kind, 2, to read a funny and imaginative novel while learning how this 21st century life is reshaping American's relationships and personal quests. The book's ending, fantastically crafted and at the same time full of new questions, is the best example of how this two ideas live together in Copeland's book.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By BeanThereDoneThat on December 21, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When I spend ten bucks on a digital copy of a book, I assume it's going to be free of sloppy OCR errors and will be proofread. This is not. It is a mess, and chapters near the end are almost unreadable. This is at the quality level of a pirated ebook that some teenager scanned. I want be buying any ebook titles from Harper again, this is just appalling.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Paladino on August 27, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Microserfs is my all time favorite book, so when I received my Kindle, it was the obvious choice for the test drive of my new gadget. I was so disappointed to find the multitude of typos due to OCR scanning (words misspelled, modified, or just plain missing; u's instead of v's, etc.) and seemingly zero proofreading. On top of that, there a several image scanned pages (notably the "subconscious file" pages) where the edges are trimmed and words are clipped. Finally, the book doesn't even have a proper cover, just a clip-art page with the title unceremoniously typed in the center.

Harper Collins should be ashamed of themselves for releasing this e-book in the state that it's in, and doubly ashamed for charging $9.99 for it. If a publisher is just going to OCR scan a book, then they need to proofread it before releasing it, or better yet, just use one of the original electronic manuscripts (if available) and bypass the issues with OCR altogether.

By all means, read the book, but avoid the e-book at all costs and pick up a paperback or hardback instead.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
I first read this novel in 1996 just after it was published. Twelve years later and in a new century, it is disturbing to read how much of this is still relatively realistic. It is almost as though the organisational arrangements and lifestyles described have been adopted both as a management and lifestyle model and transplanted, at least in part, around the world.

This book was funny in 1996 when it seemed in part a satirical comment on the new world of geeks and technology. Now it seems more ironic. Many of those for whom this was an accurate depiction of life in the 1990s are still caught in this time warp. The tragedy is that so many others have joined them.

If you have not already read this novel and wondered about the design of a working world in which human interaction through technology has largely replaced direct human interaction: the time is right. After all, in reading this review you are relying on the technology developed by geeks and nerds.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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