Summary and book reviews of The New New Thing by Michael Lewis

The New New Thing

A Silicon Valley Story

By Michael Lewis

The New New Thing
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  • Hardcover: Oct 1999,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2001,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

In the weird glow of the dying millennium, Michael Lewis sets out on a safari through Silicon Valley to find the world's most important technology entrepreneur, the man who embodies the spirit of the coming age. He finds him in Jim Clark, who is about to create his third, separate, billion-dollar company: first Silicon Graphics, then Netscape-which launched the Information Age - and now Healtheon, a startup that may turn the $1 trillion healthcare industry on its head.

Despite the variety of his achievements, Clark thinks of himself mainly as the creator of Hyperion, which happens to be a sailboat . . . not just an ordinary yacht, but the world's largest single-mast vessel, a machine more complex than a 747. Clark claims he will be able to sail it via computer from his desk in San Francisco, and the new code may contain the seeds of his next billion-dollar coup.

On the wings of Lewis's celebrated storytelling, the reader takes the ride of a lifetime through this strange landscape of geeks and billionaires. We get the inside story of the battle between Netscape and Microsoft; we sit in the room as Clark tries to persuade the investment bankers that Healtheon is the next Microsoft; we get queasy as Clark pits his boat against the rage of the North Atlantic in winter. And in every brilliant anecdote and character sketch, Lewis is drawing us a map of markets and free enterprise in the twenty-first century.

Chapter One

The Boat That Built Netscape

The original plan, which Lord knows didn't mean very much when that plan had been made by Jim Clark, was that we would test the boat quickly in the North Sea and then sail it across the Atlantic Ocean. If nothing went too badly wrong, it would take us six days to sail down to the Canary Islands and another ten to the Caribbean. I had seen Clark in so many different situations that I felt sure I knew him, and the range of behavior he was capable of. But there is nothing like sixteen days on the high seas with a small group of people who have a lot of doubts about each other to test one's assumptions about human character. On the Atlantic crossing Hyperion would carry only the captain and his seven crew members, one or two computer programmers, Clark and me.

Why Jim Clark was so worthy of study was another matter, and I'll come to that soon enough. For now I'll just say that the quirks in the man's character sent the most ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Fortune Magazine

Lewis is a gifted storyteller...[he] makes his case through a series of beautifully rendered set-pieces....While many writers will try to bring this fantasyland to life, few will do so as vividly as Michael Lewis.

Business Week

[Lewis's] incisive and entertaining volume largely succeeds in getting past the glitter of money to identify the real key to the Valley's vibrancy: new ideas....Lewis provides a look that is penetrating as anything written so far.

Los Angeles Times Book Review

Lewis brilliantly describes Clark's intensity and passion, his genius for technology and leadership and his impatience with convention. He also faithfully chronicles Clark's ruthlessness, willingness to exact revenge on opponents and ability to casually upset people's lives. The fact that these last qualities are described in almost complimentary terms reflects a Silicon Valley sensibility that they're laudable.

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutan

Lewis does for the late 1990s world of techno-geeks and software cowboys what he did in Liar's Poker for the 1980s Wall Street world of traders and arbitrageurs.

Kirkus Reviews

[R]ip-roaring . . . .Michael Lewis, the petulant sprite whose Liar's Poker hilariously exposed the venalities of Wall Street investment bankers, vies for Tom Wolfe's ice cream suit with an effortlessly glib account . . . . Funny, feverishly romantic . . . the American lust for wealth becomes a Byronic quest for the next dream that will change the world.

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