In Theranos’s brief, Icarus-like existence as a Silicon Valley darling ... [t]he company was the subject of adoring media profiles; it attracted a who’s who of retired politicos to its board ... This is the story the prizewinning Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou tells virtually to perfection ... Carreyrou’s presentation has a few minor flaws. He introduces scores of characters and, after a while, it becomes hard to keep track of them. In describing these many players he sometimes relies on stereotypes ... Such blemishes in no way detract from the power of Bad Blood. In the second part of the book the author compellingly relates how he got involved, following a tip from a suspicious reader. His recounting of his efforts to track down sources...reads like a West Coast version of All the President’s Men. The author is admirably frank about his craft ... The question of how it [Theranos] got so far — more than 800 employees and a paper valuation of $9 billion — will fascinate business school classes for years.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup is John Carreyrou’s gripping story of how Holmes’s great idea led to Silicon Valley stardom and then into an ethical quagmire ... Carreyrou tells this intricate story in clear prose and with a momentum worthy of a crime novel. The only flaw, an unavoidable one, is that keeping track of the many characters is not easy—Carreyrou interviewed over 150 people. But he makes sure you know who the moral heroes are of this sad tale.
Carreyrou’s reporting in Bad Blood is exhaustive, including interviews with more than 150 people—more than 60 of those being ex-Theranos employees with enough tea to fill an Olympic pool. Still, the book stumbles a bit in its third act, when Carreyrou introduces himself and how he broke the story. Since we’ve spent the last 200 pages in the story, hearing him piece it together after the fact is a bit humdrum. (Carreyrou might have two Pulitzers, but this isn’t exactly Spotlight.) Still, these are small issues in a book that speaks volumes to tech at large.
Theranos’ blood-testing device ... would eliminate thousands of deaths from adverse drug reactions, identifying diseases early, and run any blood test for less than half the normal cost, potential customers were told. The problem was, Theranos had no such device ... Now Carreyrou is out with a book-length exposé, Bad Blood, which uses interviews with more than 150 people to show how Holmes briefly became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. Holmes is depicted as a kind of social hacker loose in Silicon Valley, hoodwinking potential partners while intimidating her critics ... It’s not hard to imagine further enforcement actions flowing from Bad Blood ...The book exposes a host of Theranos lies.
Crime thriller authors have nothing on Carreyrou’s exquisite sense of suspenseful pacing and multifaceted character development in this riveting, read-in-one-sitting tour de force. Investigative journalists are perhaps the country’s last true protectors of truth and justice, and Carreyrou’s commitment to unraveling Holmes’ crimes has been literally of life-saving value.
Carreyrou’s book tells the story of Theranos and of how he painstakingly took it down, which means that it’s the story of how he painstakingly found sources, and painstakingly persuaded them to talk to him on the record ... Nothing that Carreyrou has uncovered about Holmes’s life before Theranos suggests that she had the makings of a world-class scam artist. The best he can come up with is that, as a child, she was too competitive at Monopoly ... Bad Blood wasn’t written to be a parable for our current moment, but it may as well have been.
Despite its protagonist’s obvious flaws, the book eschews the simplistic (and sexist) conclusion that the Theranos founder is a femme fatale who bewitched her associates — almost all of them men ... The book is also a blistering critique of Silicon Valley, a kind of nonfiction corollary to Dave Eggers’s The Circle ... In chronicling Ms Holmes’s attempts to export Silicon Valley’s rotten culture into the world of life sciences, Carreyrou reminds us that her actions put real lives at risk ... Tales of corporate malfeasance are always better when the writer is in the room, and the story is at its most compelling near the end, after Carreyrou enters the action. His unmasking of Theranos is a tale of David and Goliath.
The book is especially engaging on Ms Holmes’s battle with the author himself. She tried to squelch Mr Carreyrou’s initial exposé, going so far as to recruit Rupert Murdoch, the Journal’s proprietor, as an investor. (He put $125m into Theranos in 2015, a stake that is now worthless.) Mr Carreyrou is weaker on Ms Holmes’s psychology. He never got close enough to her or her confidants to illuminate her motives. One striking oversight is an examination of her company’s origins. Ms Holmes apparently wrote a patent application for a medical device after a year at Stanford University and a summer internship in Singapore. Mr Carreyrou recounts this creation myth without comment. Still, the story and its telling are not over yet. A Hollywood film starring Jennifer Lawrence as Ms Holmes is in the works.
The author brilliantly captures the interpersonal melodrama, hidden agendas, gross misrepresentations, nepotism, and a host of delusions and lies that further fractured the company’s reputation and halted its rise ... Already slated for feature film treatment, Carreyrou’s exposé is a vivid, cinematic portrayal of serpentine Silicon Valley corruption.
Carreyrou blends lucid descriptions of Theranos’s technology and its failures with a vivid portrait of its toxic culture and its supporters’ delusional boosterism. The result is a bracing cautionary tale about visionary entrepreneurship gone very wrong.