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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mega-Money, Technology, and Social Dysfunction
People who have panned this book are mostly missing the point in my judgment. Author Ben Mezrich is raconteur with a story to tell, and he doesn't expect us to accept it as business history or even serious journalism. He offers the necessary disclaimers in his introduction, acknowledging that he did the best he could with fragmentary sources and connected the dots where...
Published on November 6, 2010 by Mark Edward Bachmann

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266 of 306 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tabloid Quality Dramatic Narrative
I read this book because I wanted to understand the history of Facebook--a program (a site, a lifestyle) that is changing society. The book's cover (a picture of a red, lacy bra and a couple of cocktail glasses) and subtitle (A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal) should have tipped me off that it was not going to be serious history. Mezrich writes the book in the...
Published on July 14, 2009 by Tim Challies


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266 of 306 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tabloid Quality Dramatic Narrative, July 14, 2009
By 
I read this book because I wanted to understand the history of Facebook--a program (a site, a lifestyle) that is changing society. The book's cover (a picture of a red, lacy bra and a couple of cocktail glasses) and subtitle (A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal) should have tipped me off that it was not going to be serious history. Mezrich writes the book in the style of dramatic narrative which apparently means "when I don't have facts, I'll just make 'em up and when the story gets slow, I'll fabricate a sex scene." He does provide lots of interesting facts and shares the rather brutal history of Facebook (from Mark Zuckerberg essentially stealing the idea from people who had asked him to create a very similar social media site to the backhanded way that he forced his co-founder out of the company). I suppose it is a tale of money, genius and betrayal, though I don't see how sex really enters into the true tale except as much as it would for any group of college students (except, of course, as a selling feature). So this is Mezrich's take on the story, written in a tabloid fashion where what is true and what could be true blend together. By his own admission, Mezrich did not speak to Zuckerberg at all and relied very heavily on Eduardo Saverin, a valuable though hardly objective source (seeing as he is the very co-founder who was removed from the company). The framework of the facts seems to line up with what I've read elsewhere but the very nature of the book makes it somewhat less than trustworthy. Still, if you want to know how Facebook came to be, how it evolved from a week's worth of work for a college student to a company valued in the billions dollars, this seems to be the only show in town. Even then, read Wikipedia first to see if it offers enough to satisfy your curiosity before plunking down the money for this book. Even at just $16.50 it's hard to believe that it's worth the money.
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162 of 187 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't accidentally buy this book, July 18, 2009
I enjoyed Ben Mezrich's "Bringing down the House" but his latest books have been terrible. First the very boring "Rigged", and now "The Accidental Billionaires", about the history of Facebook.

All of his books follow the same formula: A young, brilliant man suddenly finds fortune and girls by using his skills to make money in interesting ways. Usually he has a mentor. His success causes some friction with his friends, but he eventually wins out, albeit at a price. This formula is so rigid one wonders if Mezrich begins his books with a Word Template... Chapter Five - Hero realizes the idea will make lots of money... Chapter Eight - Hero gets with girl way out of his league...

The characters seem like hand-puppets even though they are allegedly real-life personas. You have the unlucky-in-love nerd, his pushover sidekick, and the jealous jocks. The dialogue is so mundane and contrived you can't imagine anyone talking that way.

As for women, they exist only as status symbols in Mezrich's books.

Now, the story about the founding of a website will not excite most readers, so Mezrich tries to sex it up with stories of lavish parties and groupies. The problem is Mezrich admits to creative storytelling in the Forward-- collapsing time frames, combining characters, even imagining scenarios. So, in effect, everything not publicly documented could be fabricated.

As a history or bigraphy, then, we already know that the book is useless. But it also fails as a compelling drama. In some chapters basically nothing happens. Mezrich will spend pages describing the setting in detail, the characters will make a few remarks, and then the chapter ends. What was it about? Why was it important? Who knows. But these chapters do pad out the book, which is a breezy read anyway. You will finish the thing in a few hours. There's about 10 words per line, 20 lines per page, and very little content. The meat of the book takes us up to 2005, before Facebook's truly phenomenal growth (it was still far behind MySpace at the time), and before anything is resolved. Like many of the chapters, the book just sorta ends. I suspect the movie rights to this book were sold before the book was even in the outline stage, and he was on a tight deadline.

In short, this book gives you no reliable information, and is not even entertaining.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mega-Money, Technology, and Social Dysfunction, November 6, 2010
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This review is from: The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal (Paperback)
People who have panned this book are mostly missing the point in my judgment. Author Ben Mezrich is raconteur with a story to tell, and he doesn't expect us to accept it as business history or even serious journalism. He offers the necessary disclaimers in his introduction, acknowledging that he did the best he could with fragmentary sources and connected the dots where necessary with a fair amount of probabilistic imagining. One senses he captures the gist of this story pretty well, in much the way a talented sketch artist can draw an uncanny portrait despite distortion and a lack of details. Allowing for such limitations, this is quite a good book.

The digital economy has spawned a series of meteoric companies and overnight billionaires over the past three decades. And just when it seemed this phenomenon had passed its zenith, along came Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. Yet another geeky kid with a high IQ and anarchistic tendencies, Zuckerberg created the precursor to Facebook as a hacker's prank during his short stint as a Harvard undergraduate. When the prank "went viral" literally overnight within the Harvard community, Zuckerberg knew he was onto something much bigger than he bargained for.

There were other ideas for online social networks being explored at the time. At Harvard itself, a couple of wealthy six-foot-five crew champions - identical twins - had a similar notion. The Winklevoss brothers knew little about computers, however, and had hired a programmer for the project, who dawdled with it for a while and then quit suddenly. To complete the task, the twins turned to Mark Zuckerberg, who was miles beneath them in social status at Harvard but had become an instant campus celebrity when he hacked the University computers. Everyone at Harvard, including the Winklevosses, knew who he was and recognized his technical prowess. Zuckerman too appeared to doddle with the project, but was in fact moving at lightning speed in secret to build his own social networking site. When he launched the surprise attack, the Winklevosses were stunned and accused him of stealing their idea and their code. In reality, the slow-footed twins had nothing worth stealing, since Zuckerman already had the idea and probably viewed the code as child's play. What he was guilty of was stalling the two brothers long enough for him to gain the first-mover's advantage.

Zuckerberg never looked back afterwards. After "the facebook" pervaded Harvard, he quickly introduced it to one college campus after another as the wild viral phenomenon fed on itself. With thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands of new users flocking to the site, Zuckerberg was building a potential gold mine. However, a true-blue hacker to the core, he seemed to care little about business matters or even money. For this stuff, he partnered with his best friend, Eduardo Saverin. Saverin was also something of an outsider at Harvard, but he was more polished than Zuckerberg and had some business credentials. He had managed a small hedge fund one summer, and his father was a successful businessman. Saverin put his own money into the project and in yeoman-like fashion set about finding advertisers for Facebook.

In the meantime, Zuckerberg had made contact with Sean Parker, the buccaneering and hyperactive young co-founder of Napster. Parker had flamed out with Napster and all of his other business ventures to date, but he still saw himself as a player and had ties to serious venture capital money. He introduced Zuckerberg to Peter Theil, a man with very deep pockets, who opened them up to set Facebook on its way as big business. Glibly jettisoning his Harvard career, Zuckerberg moved to California, while Eduardo Saverin chose to continue plodding along back in Cambridge. Sensing correctly that he had become superfluous to the operation and was being phased out, Saverin in a fit of pique tried to short-circuit the young business by closing its bank accounts, which he still controlled. Zuckerberg and his new partners struck back mercilessly by conspiring to drive Saverin out of the company. Zuckerman lured him out to California to review as set of re-incorporation documents, which amazingly Saverin signed without comprehending. Shortly afterwards, Facebook issued a ton of new equity that diluted Saverin's share of the soon-to-be multibillion-dollar company down to virtually nothing. He was out of a job and a fortune, and friendship was out the door.

In his epilogue Ben Mezrich describes himself as an "enormous fan of all the characters in this book", forcing us to wonder how he might write about people for whom he feels less enthusiasm. No one comes off well here. Zuckerberg himself, who didn't cooperate with the author, is a dark enigma. Like most compulsive hackers, he probably has a diagnosable psychological disorder. He could be a schizoid personality, or even suffer from Asperger's syndrome or one of the other mild variants of autism. None of these conditions preclude brilliance, and some can even enhance a person's ability to focus monomaniacally on technical problem-solving.

Eduardo Saverin appears a likeable enough person, but a patsy for whom it's hard to sympathize. For the guy for fancied himself the business brain behind Facebook, the fact that he would blindly sign a legal document authorizing his own destruction seems proof he needed to find another job anyway. Sean Parker, who also was later expelled by Zuckerberg and his new team, seems a stoned-out narcissist, albeit talented and engaging. The Winklevoss twins appear as privileged and rather dim-witted jocks. None of these characterizations are likely to be quite fair, but in a quick sketch, it's how they come across.

Mezrich writes in a style that's reminiscent of early Tom Wolfe and certain other authors whose work constituted what was called "new journalism" back in the 1960's. Like Mezrich, these writers were highly entertaining and easy to read, but they also generally sought to illustrate social themes. In Mezrich's case, his theme is the impact of progressive technology and mega-money on people's lives in twenty-first century America. Whether Mezrich is a "fan" of his characters or not, they don't come across as very happy people. They're engaged in socially useful business, and while not truly corrupt as people, they're self-centered and generally amoral. One gets the impression that mega-money is likely only to make these problems worse for them as their young lives progress.

Mezrich's limited purpose with this book is to entertain us and to illustrate these motifs. I think he succeeds, and I can recommend the book to people who don't expect from it more than it has to offer.
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136 of 175 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written, July 19, 2009
By 
I was amazed how poorly this book is written. I originally thought that it was the author's first book, but to my amazement it turned out that he already published 10 books! I only read it because I was curious about the story, but seriously, the story could be written in 20 pages, not two hundred something. Also, the constant mention of "hot blond" or "hot Asian" chicks was extremely annoying and offensive. Isn't it strange that every character in the book views women purely as a sex object and is only attracted to blonds or Asians. Or is it the author, Ben Mezrich only attracted to Asian or blond chicks? Anyway, this book was a total waste of money for me.
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63 of 80 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Where's the beef?, July 14, 2009
Mark Zuckerberg is the very public face of Facebook so this book will let readers know all about the genius Harvard computer nerd who turned a prank into the biggest social network on the web, right? Sorry, if you want to know anything new about Zuckerberg you'll have to search elsewhere.

He would not speak to the author. Zuckerberg's former friend and partner Eduardo helped out. He doesn't seem to know Zuckerberg at all. By the end of this book he admits that he never really knew the guy well. Even the anonymous sources don't add much to this discussion.

The bare bones of Facebook are here. The embryonic growth phase. The lawsuits. But it is written as a sort of fiction. The author imagines conversations and the details of events. Mezrich went to Harvard so he is writing what he knows, sort of.

The book is already optioned for a film. Perhaps the film will be bolder about portraying Zuckerberg as more than a mysterious cipher? Hard to say, with Zuckerberg's cash perhaps everybody is just afraid of litigation. Who knows?

This book is not any great revelation despite what some adoring critics might claim. A pretty wrapper but not much on the inside....

p.s. Be sure to read the review by Kim Albert aka "BigMamma" in this group of reviews. In the comments section you will find a fascinating conversation between this reviewer and Ben Mezrich, the author of "Accidental Billionaires." Enjoy!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Story, Terrible Execution, October 2, 2010
By 
Jiang Xueqin (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
Ben Mezrich is a shoddy, silly reporter and a lousy, lazy reporter. He reports and writes not as if he's a graduate of Harvard, but as if of the ESPN and Sports Illustrated Night School of Journalism. But he does have one gift, and it's to track down a great story. "Bringing Down the House" was a great story and a terrible book, and "The Accidental Billionaires" is an even better story and a more terrible book.

What makes "The Accidental Billionaires" so terrible is the sheer shoddiness and superficiality of the work. It seems that the author talked to the Winklevoss twins (who have always claimed that Facebook was their idea), to Eduardo Saverin (who initially financed Facebook back when it was a Harvard dorm enterprise), and a bit to Sean Parker (the founder of Napster who introduced Mark Zuckerberg to VC capital) -- individuals who all have good reason to hate Mark Zuckerberg, and to have their side of the story told. Besides these self-serving interviews Ben Mezrich fails to do anything more substantive, and essentially tells the story from the perspective of these bitter and biased individuals.

Yes, the Winklevoss twins, Eduardo Saverin, and Sean Parker felt betrayed by Mark Zuckerberg, but the question is why?

The Winklevoss twins were future Olympians and alpha males at Harvard who were looking for a geek to build them a website so they can meet the girls they would like to screw (a website seem to them the most time-efficient way to advertise their sex appeal because they were so busy with their rowing). They wanted someone who could "get" (Mezrich uses the word "get" a lot in the book, and it's possible that he's the only writer who's ever dared to use the word "getable" not ironically in a book) the idea and have the technical ability to build the website. But anyone who "got" the idea and was a computer whiz kid probably also "got" that he really didn't need the Winklevoss twins.

Eduardo Saverin prided himself on being a businessman, and he saw Facebook as a good investment, and in hindsight, considering his return on capital, it will always be the best investment of his life. But for Mark Zuckerberg Facebook was a passion and an obsession. For him, Facebook was not about making billions and getting laid (those were side fringe benefits) -- for him, it was about a revolution and total world domination (in the "Pinky and the Brain" sense of world domination). Mark Zuckerberg probably saw the movie "Gamer," in which the computer genius villain literally controlled people's minds and actions with his social networking sites, saw how the movie was purposefully attempting to mock him, and liked what he saw.

And there's really no mention to explain why Mark Zuckerberg dumped Sean Parker because even Parker conceded he was out of control.

Mezrich's book, while meant to be a condemnation of Zuckerberg, offered insights into why ultimately Facebook succeeded. Being incubated at Harvard helped and it was truly a great idea, but there's also no doubt in my mind that the main reason Facebook succeeded (and not other campus social networks) was because of Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg was a totally focused, driven, and disciplined individual (he's been called "socially autistic," whatever that means), and the defining characteristic of such an individual is intolerance for those who are not like him. The Winklevoss twins were useless, Saverin was not committed, and Sean Parker was too Sean Parker -- so they had to go. But those who stayed with him and shared his zeal were well-rewarded, and will continue to be so.

Mezrich may not have been able to interview Zuckerberg, but a writer is supposed to have an imagination and be able to construct a character. The book vitally depended on an interior view of Mark Zuckerberg, and the author failed to construct one. It's not enough to just say that Zuckerberg was a genius or even that he was "socially autistic." We learn nothing about his childhood, his parents, his Exeter days, his fascination with computers, and his awkwardness with girls. And so we learn nothing about Zuckerberg.

My best guess is that Zuckerberg is even worse and will become even worse than the way he's portrayed in this book. He's similar to Bill Gates and the Google founders in that they all have similar drive and discipline, but Microsoft and Google are real companies with real revenue models. But Facebook is more hype than anything else. Zuckerberg is living in a castle in the sky, and because he's so removed from reality he will eventually implode and may even go insane (if he's not insane already), but not before destroying a lot of what is good and noble in this world.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great look behind the scenes of a revolution, July 27, 2009
By 
A. J. Wolfson (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Here is what you need to know about this book:

1. Is it an enjoyable read? YES. Read the book in about a day and a half and couldn't put it down at the end.

2. Is it an interesting story? YES. For the first time, I really felt that I was there (the "fly on the wall") as a whole idea unfolded from end-to-end, to become something that makes Microsoft and Google quiver in their boots.

3. Is it an interesting plot? YES. Its a real tragedy of friendship, greed, and power. It is a delightfully unexpected path woven together well by Mezrich.

I saw lot of reviews and reports about this story, and read it eyes-opened. Is this verbatim of what actually happened? Of course not, but do you really believe everything that gets written by Jenna Jameson or Marilyn Manson in their "true autobiographies". Is it clear enough that this is the way the main plot played out? -- to me there is little question.

So if you want to enjoy a good read, pick up this book. It you want to stock up on dry factoids, pick up an Encylopedia Brittanica -- I hear they are real cheap nowadays ;)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mezrich Delivers, January 27, 2011
By 
J. Yasmineh (Sydney, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal (Paperback)
This book is "f---ing awesome!" Just kidding. It's quite a good book though.

Ben Mezrich gives us as honest an account of the birth of Facebook as the information he had access to allowed him. Certainly, the book is fed its information by those who had bones to pick with Mark Zuckerberg, whilst Zuckerberg himself refused to be involved in any way. Nevertheless, there is a strong sense in the book that Mezrich has tried to maintain balance, to report things from Zuckerberg's point of view, and not to take sides with his sources.

It's a highly interesting and entertaining read. Mezrich has a knack for writing books on young geniuses who buck the system, and this is no exception. The story has some flaws (some plot points are predictable, for example), but as it's based on true accounts there's not much you can do there. The writing has some flaws as well, particularly where Mezrich makes a point of being clear that a scene is imagined and inserted for continuity rather than based in fact, as he had no access to the primary sources - but personally I'd rather be informed of this than left to believe that fabricated scenes are factual.

Despite these, it still provides serious insights into the drama that was the creation of Facebook, the kind of personalities involved in making this multi-billion dollar enterprise a success, and the kind that might have doomed it to failure. In a nutshell, it's a story about the characters, rather than the technicalities, and there is an honesty there, despite not all the facts being present.

A lot of the poor reviews of it seem to be picking on unfair aspects, either griping about the shallow references to women (hello, welcome to college life, this is what happens, and why boys want to get rich) or else taking shots at the necessity of Mezrich imagining some scenes when he didn't have access to facts. None of these things kill the book. It remains engrossing, insightful, dramatic and a valuable resource for understanding aspects of the rise of Facebook that wouldn't normally be available in the media.

Well, well worth reading, especially if you are interested in what it takes to create a successful start-up, and the relationship pitfalls of being successful.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad at all, February 3, 2011
By 
Jonathan D. Hirt (Mountain Home AFB, Idaho) - See all my reviews
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I bought this after watching The Social Network since this is the book that inspires the movie. You should note if you've seen the movie you wont find very much new here. The movie follows the book almost word for word most of the time, though the movie spices things up a bit and there are some creative differences, but again don't expect much new.

That said I think you can still enjoy the book, especially if you're a huge fan of the movie. It may be written in an awkward manner (and it annoyed me too at first) but once you get past that the story is interesting and enjoyable. A great companion to the film for fans and an interesting read for those with a casual interest.

I'd recommend The Facebook Effect for those who've seen the movie and don't want to pretty much read the film on paper.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad, bad, bad... do not be fooled, November 23, 2009
By 
Anna Z (Indianapolis) - See all my reviews
"This is just silly" constantly entered my thoughts between eye rolls and groans while reading this book. Ben Mezrich's story about facebook's conception is an obvious stretch to fit a pre-determined marketing plan. It's boring and the crude terms and references to women and getting laid are cringe-inducing.

I thought this could still be a fascinating story, even without an interview from Mark Zuckerberg. But instead of finding more sources and interesting facts, Mezrich just fills 98% of the story with unneeded details (`Tyler was really hungry as he ate his ham sandwich, still warm, half wrapped in paper' and `Zuckerberg could probably still smell the girl's perfume in the air as he left the computer lab'- who cares!?). Mezrich gets input from a few people close to the development of facebook, but doesn't seem to have any other sources to better demonstrate how exactly facebook took off and how hugely successful it is.

I reluctantly dragged myself through the entire book looking for interesting details on facebook's popularity explosion and Zuckerberg's life as a billionaire. Other than a page or two about Zuckerberg as a college student and the amount of effort it took to create the initial site (surprisingly, not much), the interesting facts are seriously lacking and this book is just plain bad.
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The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
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