PositiveAir MailA fascinating, moving and at times shocking portrait of a person who, at 42, has now been famous for being famous for most of her life. This reflects very well on the person who wrote it, who clearly wasn’t her ... Are we really to believe that Hilton would describe her mother sending her a takeaway on a private jet as \'a vivid demonstration of both the love of privilege and the privilege of love\'? ... The thing is, we have heard this woman talk. Quite a lot, in fact ... Time and again, we see her assuming herself to be the cultural equal of the biggest pop stars, actors and even historical events of her era, and it’s never clear that she’s in on the joke ... And yet; and yet. At the heart of this book there is a truly disturbing tale about a horrible childhood ... The triumph of Paris Hilton is that despite all of this hate, or perhaps because of it, she succeeded in becoming the Marilyn Monroe-style icon she always wanted to be ... Her tragedy, though, is how little she truly seems to understand any of it.
MixedThe Times (UK)At this point we’re only a few pages into this book, and it seems as if there should be a wild ride ahead. Unfortunately, rather than studying the mad plans of the rich to survive the apocalypse, Rushkoff is far more interested in why they think one is coming, and how it informs everything they do, a view that trickles down to the rest of us. He calls this \'the Mindset\'. The thing is, while the Mindset is interesting, it’s not nearly as interesting as the bonkers escape plans to which it leads ... One problem with this book is that I’m simply not convinced that the rich separating themselves from the poor is new, or anything to do with the tech age at all. I mean, I’ve seen Titanic. Another problem is that when Rushkoff considers different futures, he grows decidedly woolly ... Right at the end he discusses \'bounded economics\', in which small communities reinvest their profits back into themselves, a clear alternative to the dominant capitalist idea of sucking the world dry and running away. Like a lot of this book, though, this is discussed only through the prism of being something Rushkoff once said somewhere else at a conference; an interesting notion thrown out while the author is rushing off somewhere else — although I suppose it’s no huge criticism to say of a book that it leaves you wanting much more of everything it discusses. At any rate, the big takeaway is clear: your bunker won’t save you. Time to make nice with the butler.
PositiveThe Times (UK)\'The video for \'Smells Like Teen Spirit\' was not more consequential than the reunification of Germany,\' Chuck Klosterman writes in The Nineties. Yet the joyous, maddening thing about this beautiful book is that he clearly believes that it was ... One problem with this book is that Klosterman is such a beautiful writer that it can take a while to realise he isn’t always saying much. His chapter on the internet, for example, is 30 pages long, and has as its only real message the idea that the internet didn’t really get going until the 2000s ... so much in this book...is bang on the line between being a dazzling observation and no observation at all. A bigger problem, at least for me, is that he’s just so American. Should I care about the basketball player Michael Jordan? ... Yes, it drifts and is far too long. Never before, though, have I read such a thorough deconstruction of what formed at least some parts of my cultural identity. And as for the rest? Oh well, whatever. Never mind.
Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang
MixedThe Times (UK)... makes a decent stab at being the definitive history of Facebook to date ... makes for a good read, even if some passages do read as though they have passed through more lawyers than a glass of London tap water has through people ... There is something fascinating in looking back at these early misadventures with data, not only because they set the tone for what was to follow, but also because they show just how clueless even the tech illuminati were about exactly what people would stand for ... The Facebook story of course isn’t over, which makes this thoroughly engaging book end a little unsatisfyingly ... I could also have done with a bit more analysis of what, in the end, it has all been for. This export of mania, this breaking of the world, this exponential amplification of everything bad about all of us. Why this hunger to connect, to soak up data, to dominate, when every bit of the wealth and power to which it leads seems to hold no interest for him?
Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang
PositiveAir Mail... a decent stab at being the definitive history of Facebook to date ... It makes for a good read, even if some passages do read as though they have passed through more lawyers than a glass of London tap water has through people ... There is something fascinating in looking back at these early misadventures with data, not only because they set the tone for what was to follow, but also because they show just how clueless even the tech illuminati were about exactly what people would stand for ... [the] Russia chapter is one of the most granular in the book, yet it remains quite hard to comprehend exactly what happened ... I could also have done with a bit more analysis of what, in the end, it has all been for. This export of mania, this breaking of the world, this exponential amplification of everything bad about all of us. Why this hunger to connect, to soak up data, to dominate, when every bit of the wealth and power to which it leads seems to hold no interest for him?
MixedThe Times (UK)...Bezonomics: How Amazon is Changing Our Lives, and What the World’s Companies Are Learning From It...is the sort of incredibly long title that publishers only give books when they aren’t sure what the point of them is. Bezonomics is an easy and engaging read, but I’d hesitate to call it gripping. Quite often, though, it is eye-opening ... If you want to understand why Amazon ended up here rather than any other company then the answer seems to lie with Bezos himself, who emerges as both an enigma and not very interesting all at once, even if the raw ingredients of character ought to be promising ... One flaw with this book is an occasional tendency towards being too reverential ... Probably there is not much new here, with other books looking in more depth at AI, automation, the gig economy, data mining, or Bezos, but it all makes for a fair beginner’s guide pulling it all together.
RaveThe Times (UK)Pomerantsev’s book is beautifully written. Sometimes it’s virtually travel writing...Yet it is densely argued too, and its theses are strong ... Why is truth taking such a battering? Here Pomerantsev is at his most philosophical, and I love it ... I suppose there are points in this book when Pomerantsev’s ability to write beautiful prose might be doing quite a lot of the heavy lifting. The distinction between old-fashioned protest and new, populist parody pseudo-protest is obviously subjective, and I’m not sure he always calls it right. Such as with Corbynism, which he seems to identify as the latter ... Still, his lived experience, his background, and most of all his restless globetrotting, mean that his conclusion has to be taken seriously, and what a conclusion it is.
George R.R. Martin
PanThe Times (UK)Think of it as anglosphere manga, but written down ... At some points, this gets frankly impenetrable ... Even this would be forgivable if the story drew you in, but it does not, because there isn’t one ... Occasionally the narrative shows signs of flaring up into what could have been a proper story if Martin could have been bothered to write it properly. Essentially, it is all one long synopsis for about 50 books that he will never get around to writing, which itself has only been written because he can’t get around to writing the other two Game of Thrones books that his fans are waiting for. ... Worse still, after a doorstop of a thing, we’re still a century and a half short of GoT even beginning, which means there’s another volume of this interminable, self-indulgent crap to come.
RaveThe Sunday TimesDense, complex and hilarious, which is a rare and winning combination ... a wonderful book and I say that having almost certainly misunderstood quite a lot of it. I shall read it again, more than once. it is just such a blast to read. Witty, terribly clever and steeped in the wild, doomed peculiarities of 19th-century Germania, it is a tremendous and reformative biography of a man whom popular history has perhaps done a disservice. Is this man, Prideaux asks, really to be remembered through the lens of a sister who never truly understood him at all?
PositiveThe TimesThere are not many new facts in this slim volume, which sometimes reads like proposals for ten other books, minus meaty research. What Lanier does, though, so brilliantly is take well-worn concepts and present them, freshly, from the other end ... \'Fake people,\' he writes, \'are a cultural denial of service attack\': when fakery so overwhelms reality, the latter ceases to function. This is Lanier at his best, taking the language of the internet and turning it back on itself ... The only time he loses his footing is on politics, possibly because where it doesn’t intersect with tech he’s just not very interested ... These, though, are quibbles ... Best of all is its quiet insistence that social media is an addiction, much like any other.