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...Read More
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-of-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.
Anna Wiener is a contributing writer to The New Yorker online, where she writes about Silicon Valley, startup culture, and technology. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, New York, The New Republic, and n+1, as well as in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017. She lives in San Francisco. Uncanny Valley is her first book.
"Extraordinary . . . Wiener's storytelling mode is keen and dry, her sentences spare - perfectly suited to let a steady thrum of dread emerge." - Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
"[Wiener] is here to fill out our worst-case scenarios with shrewd insight and literary detail . . . Wiener is a droll yet gentle guide . . . The real strength of Uncanny Valley comes from her careful parsing of the complex motivations and implications that fortify this new surreality at every level, from the individual body to the body politic." - Lauren Oyler, The New York Times Book Review
"Biting and funny . . . Uncanny Valley will speak to you as well as any book about millennial culture. Its humor is a proxy for the despair Wiener feels about tech culture's predicament and her helplessness at doing anything about it . . . Uncanny Valley ought to be read by policymakers just as closely as any set of statistics." - Mark Athitakis, Los Angeles Times
"[Uncanny Valley] defamiliarize[s] us with the Internet as we now know it, reminding us of the human desires and ambitions that have shaped its evolution . . . Wiener's book is studded with sharp assessments." - Sophia Nguyen, The Washington Post
"[Wiener] was seen as dispensable; her memoir is anything but. If Silicon Valley had seen her potential, she would not have become one of the finest, most assured writers about the internet today. I read it in one sitting, overcome with the eerie sensation that my own life was being explained to me." - Kaitlin Phillips, Bookforum
"[An] excellent memoir . . . what makes Uncanny Valley so valuable is the way it humanizes the tech industry without letting it off the hook. The book allows us to see the way that flawed technology is made and marketed." - Charlie Warzel, The New York Times Privacy Project
"Uncanny Valley is a different sort of Silicon Valley narrative, a literary-minded outsider's insider account of an insulated world that isn't as insular or distinctive as it and we assume . . . Through [Wiener's] story, we begin to perceive how much tech owes its power, and the problems that come with it, to contented ignorance." - Ismail Muhammad, The Atlantic
"Wiener has the two talents that every memoir needs: A devastating eye for detail . . . and the ability to map her experience onto a cultural shift much larger than herself . . . I deadened my phone and laptop while reading this so I could give it my Undivided Attention. I'm recommending not only the book but also this reading method." - Molly Young, Vulture
"Hyper-self-aware . . . Wiener's book transcends the model of a tech-work memoir . . .Throughout the memoir, Wiener sustains a piercing tone of crisp, arch observation. It's revelatory to see her navigate the subjects one generally reads about in newspaper headlines, about sexism at Google or the unregulated forums behind events such as Pizzagate." - Antonia Hitchens, San Francisco Chronicle
"Equal parts enchanting and subversive . . . [Wiener's] account of living inside the Bay Area bubble reads like HBO's Silicon Valley filtered through Renata Adler; Wiener is a trenchant cultural cartographer, mapping out a foggy world whose ruling class is fueled by empty scripts: 'People were saying nothing, and saying it all the tine.' The book's author does the very opposite. " Lauren Mechling, Vogue
"Beautifully observed . . . Someone like Wiener makes for a good spy in the house of tech . . . Wiener excels at . . . the texture of life for people in a particular and pivotal time and place." - Laura Miller, Slate
"[A] hyper-detailed, thoroughly engrossing memoir . . . At the intersection of exploitative labor, entitled men, and ungodly amounts of money, Wiener bears witness to the fearsome future as it unfolds." - Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire
"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
"[Wiener] is an extremely gifted writer and cultural critic. Uncanny Valley may be a defining memoir of the 2020s, and it's one that will send a massive chill down your spine." - BookPage
"[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
"A compelling takedown of the pitfalls of start-up culture, from sexism to the lack of guardrails, Uncanny Valley highlights the maniacal optimism of the twentysomethings behind the screens and the pitfalls of the culture they are building." - Booklist