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The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story Paperback – January 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140296468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140296464
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (268 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #461,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Michael Lewis was supposed to be writing about how Jim Clark, the founder of Silicon Graphics and Netscape, was going to turn health care on its ear by launching Healtheon, which would bring the vast majority of the industry's transactions online. So why was he spending so much time on a computerized yacht, each feature installed because, as one technician put it, "someone saw it on Star Trek and wanted one just like it?"

Much of The New New Thing, to be fair, is devoted to the Healtheon story. It's just that Jim Clark doesn't do startups the way most people do. "He had ceased to be a businessman," as Lewis puts it, "and become a conceptual artist." After coming up with the basic idea for Healtheon, securing the initial seed money, and hiring the people to make it happen, Clark concentrated on the building of Hyperion, a sailboat with a 197-foot mast, whose functions are controlled by 25 SGI workstations (a boat that, if he wanted to, Clark could log onto and steer--from anywhere in the world). Keeping up with Clark proves a monumental challenge--"you didn't interact with him," Lewis notes, "so much as hitch a ride on the back of his life"--but one that the author rises to meet with the same frenetic energy and humor of his previous books, Liar's Poker and Trail Fever.

Like those two books, The New New Thing shows how the pursuit of power at its highest levels can lead to the very edges of the surreal, as when Clark tries to fill out an investment profile for a Swiss bank, where he intends to deposit less than .05 percent of his financial assets. When asked to assess his attitude toward financial risk, Clark searches in vain for the category of "people who sought to turn ten million dollars into one billion in a few months" and finally tells the banker, "I think this is for a different ... person." There have been a lot of profiles of Silicon Valley companies and the way they've revamped the economy in the 1990s--The New New Thing is one of the first books fully to depict the sort of man that has made such companies possible. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

While it purports to look at the business world of Silicon Valley through the lens of one man, that one man, Jim Clark, is so domineering that the book is essentially about Clark. No matter: Clark is as successful and interesting an example of Homo siliconus as any writer is likely to find. Lewis (Liar's Poker) has created an absorbing and extremely literate profile of one of America's most successful entrepreneurs. Clark has created three companiesASilicon Graphics, Netscape (now part of America Online) and HealtheonAeach valued at more than $1 billion by Wall Street. Lewis was apparently given unlimited access to Clark, a man motivated in equal parts by a love of the technology he helps to create and a desire to prove something to a long list of people whom he believes have done him wrong throughout his life (especially his former colleagues at Silicon Graphics). As Lewis looks at the various roles of venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and programmers and at how these very different mindsets fit together in the anatomy of big deals, he gives readers a sense of how the Valley works. But the heart of the book remains Clark, who simultaneously does everything from supervise the creation of what may be the world's largest sloop to creating his fourth company (currently in the works). Lewis does a good job of putting Clark's accomplishments in context, and if he is too respectful of Clark's privacy (several marriages and children are mentioned but not elaborated on), he provides a detailed look at the professional life of one of the men who have changed the world as we know it. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Michael Lewis, the author of Boomerang, Liar's Poker, The New New Thing, Moneyball, The Blind Side, Panic, Home Game and The Big Short, among other works, lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Tabitha Soren, and their three children.

Customer Reviews

Michael Lewis provides a very insightful look into the psyche of Silicon Valley through the eyes of Jim Clark.
Bhavin Trivedi
Lewis writes the book in a way that indicates that he's an author that knows he's got nothing but has invested far too much time in research to try to turn back.
M. Strong
I think Biff Tannen (you know Biff from Back to the Future) would have been better off with this book than his Sports Almanac.
Mark Ruzomberka

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Perpetual Skeptic on March 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book at an airport I was passing through en route to someplace else. I knew Michael Lewis as an author, having read Liar's Poker, so I knew I would find his style appealing. I had no idea about Jim Clark at all.
To my utter surprise, the book was not only entertaining, but it brought to my attention some facts about the world that I live in that I had never fully realised:
1) You can choose to be a down and out misfit on the road to nowhere, or you can choose to show 'em all and make something of your life
2) Having decided to do something, there is no actual limit to how big you can think
3) An individual can actually swing the entire economy and all of its big established companies around to a different agenda and different competitive landscape
4) If you are blessed/cursed with the kind of mind that loves to dwell in "pure possibility", is never satisfied with the way things are and can always see how they could be, do what Jim Clark does - get on with changing the world! Actions speak louder than words.
5) Engineers have finally realised that they should be more fairly compensated, relative to the amount of value they create in the economy. The consequence of this is that financiers, who really don't understand what or how an engineer does what he does, must now compete to get a piece of the action. A financier, even if he has infinite money, cannot personally create anything of tangible value with his financial skills. Contrast this to what an engineer with good skills can create and you realise that what really counts is the creation of tangible things that make the human condition somehow better.
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71 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Adler VINE VOICE on November 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are two reasons why Liar's Poker was such a great book. First, it profiled some of the greatest characters of Wall Street during the 1980's. Secondly, Lewis was very critical of Solomon. Reading "Liar's Poker" makes you think about how ridiculous traders' views of the world were in the late 1980s.
The problem with "The New New Thing" is that Michael Lewis is not critical enough of Jim Clark. Jim Clark certainly was generous to Michael Lewis by letting him tag along on so many of his adventures, and it would probably have been inapproriate for Lewis to be more critical of his subject. But, this doesn't make it an interesting book.
If you're looking for the "Liar's Poker" of the Internet, try Michael Wolf's "Burn Rate," or Po Bronson's "Nudist on the Late Shift," both of which contain much more interesting people, much more information about the internet revolution, and much more cynicisim.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By J. Wright on November 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is just a fun read. It is not an academic book, and Lewis does love to dwell on the excesses or silly points, but Lewis captures better than any other author the culture and people of Silicon Valley, who have legally created a stupendous amount of wealth in less than a decade.
There were two parts of the book I particularly loved: First, the part on the engineers from India was compelling. These kids grow up on the brink of starvation and work their tails off to make it to Silicon Valley to seek their dreams. The book keenly demonstrates how Jim Clark is able to harness these kind of people and let their talents operate in the most productive way, and also make them rich beyond their wildest dreams.
Second, the best part of the book was the second to last chapter, about how Jim Clark came from absolute poverty in Texas. Clark had to defend his mother from his drunken father, and his mother had only $5 a month after the bills were paid. The book keenly demonstrates how Clark's sense of anarchy and adventure led him to rise far above the hand he was dealt in life.
The story of how Clark has made 3 different billion dollar companies is amazing, and even more amazing is that he is using his talents to create a fourth company instead of only sailing his crazy boat.
You'll learn a lot when you read this book, it will inspire you, and you'll enjoy it. Read it soon, before the next new new thing makes it irrelevant.
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72 of 79 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Michael Lewis has written a humorous and insightful book about Jim Clark, the founder of Silicon Graphics, Netscape,Healtheon and myCFO. The story is educational in that it provides an insight into the process of conceptionalizing a technology idea, packaging and selling the idea to the venture capitalists,individual investors and those that have to bring the idea to a reality,convince the Wall Street investment bankers of the marketability of such a scheme to the investing public and the final IPO which makes everyone along the food chain rich. This educational story will certainly make you think twice before investing in future technology IPOs. For some, valuation is not a consideration. Lewis has a great style, which is not only informative, but also humorous. I especially liked the way he chides the American legal system (page 195). Anyone who has experienced serving jury duty will appreciate the arrogant and pompous process described by Lewis as the Department of Justice begins the trial against Microsoft. This is a must read for anyone who has ever invested in a high flying technology stock or wondered about life in the Silicon Valley.
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