How do you take the full measure of an increasingly troubled figure whose life’s work and legacy still hang in the balance? At stake is not just Musk’s place in history, but also his place in the present and future. If Isaacson fails to pin that down in a satisfying way, it might be because Musk is such a fast-moving target, and Isaacson prioritized revealing anecdotes and behind-the-scenes reportage over a sophisticated critical lens ... Fortunately, the juicy details are plentiful, especially in the book’s final third, which covers the two especially volatile years Isaacson spent shadowing Musk ... It’s clear Isaacson intends for Elon Musk to be more than a bunch of interesting stories about a controversial guy. He frames it as a character study, a quest to understand and perhaps reconcile the contradictions at Musk’s core. But the central question he sets out to answer in the book’s prologue feels a bit too easy ... Though the destination lacks suspense, the ride is entertaining enough, particularly for those who haven’t closely followed Musk’s high jinks. And despite the book’s length, it zips along thanks to Isaacson’s economical prose and short chapters.
As we learn throughout the book, the Musks are persistent fabulists, prone to embellishment and fabrication, and this becomes the first of many narrative sequences that the reader must consider with an eye to truth versus narrative convenience ... Isaacson’s truth is, above all, selective ... Silences...come to haunt the capacious hull of Elon Musk — to the point that they risk drowning out the project altogether ... The narrative is filled with moments of...dissonance ... The author will unearth unflattering personal anecdotes and share stories about the subject’s capacity to be cruel. In exchange, the subject’s greatness will be treated as an assumption ... No biography can or should be totally comprehensive, but it’s pretty easy to conclude which sorts of topics and conversations Isaacson decided it would be best to avoid altogether. I started Elon Musk wondering if the world needed another book positioning Musk as a great man...and finished thinking it’s time to retire the entire genre of 'great innovator' biographies, period.
A book that can scarcely contain its subject, in that it raises infinitely more questions than it answers ... How does a biographer begin to write about such a man? ... Isaacson, in his account of Elon Musk’s childhood, barely mentions apartheid himself. He writes at length and with compassion about the indignities heaped upon young Elon by schoolmates ... Musk’s childhood sounds bad, but Isaacson’s telling leaves out rather a lot about the world in which Musk grew up.
The author tries to make sense of the billionaire entrepreneur he has shadowed for two years ... Isaacson, whose previous biographical subjects include Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs, is a patient chronicler of obsession; in the case of Musk, he can occasionally seem too patient — a hazard for any biographer who is given extraordinary access ... The details of...domestic intrigues are, in the book and in Musk’s life, largely beside the point. He is mostly preoccupied with his businesses.
Does a good job hammering home the portrayal of the SpaceX founder and now owner of X — formerly Twitter — as a visionary but mercurial figure who’s given to mood swings and self-destructive behavior. It’s a familiar descriptor for Musk’s fans and detractors, but Isaacson’s biography still offers plenty of revealing details about the tech mogul ... Isaacson deftly handles complicated matters like the development of electric vehicles, rockets and artificial intelligence while also deeply exploring Musk’s background and family ... The most fascinating parts are early on, as Isaacson delves into Musk’s upbringing, particularly his father.
Doesn’t contain much in the way of genuine revelation, because Musk himself, while volatile, isn’t especially deep or complicated ... There’s more of...procedural material in Elon Musk than there is dish about its subject’s florid personal life ... Far more interesting than the portrait Elon Musk offers of its subject is the detectable outline of its intended reader. That shadowy figure may be even more disturbing than Musk at his worst ... The readers—and there will be many of them—who come away from Isaacson’s biography thinking they’ve gleaned such valuable managerial principles as 'empathy is not an asset' may, indeed, end up changing the world. But they won’t be changing it for the better.
Reading the book is like hearing what Musk’s many accomplishments and scandals would sound like from the perspective of his therapist, if he ever sought one out ... Isaacson’s central question seems to be whether Musk could have achieved such greatness if he were less cruel and more humane ... By presenting Musk’s mindset as fully formed and his behavior as unalterable, Isaacson’s book doesn’t give us many tools for the future—besides, perhaps, being able to rank the next Musk blowup against a now well-documented history of such incidents. Instead of narrowing our critical lens to Musk’s brain, we need to widen it, in order to understand the consequences of his influence. Only then can we challenge him to do right by his power.
Isaacson divides Musk into two men: the cruel boss who, in his increasingly conspiratorial public statements and appalling treatment of women, resembles Errol; and the other Musk, a visionary genius ... A beat-by-beat book that follows the tycoon inside important rooms, as well as exploring obscure regions of his mind. Isaacson is dazzled by his subject.
In Isaacson’s narrative, Musk’s social downfall is part of his Shakespearean hubris, the tragic flaw that drives him to continually inflict pain on himself ... bBy and large, Isaacson’s focus in this book is not on analysis. Elon Musk is strictly a book of reportage, based on the two years Isaacson spent shadowing Musk and the scores of interviews he did with Musk’s associates. His reporting is rigorous and dogged; you can see the sweat on the pages. If his prose occasionally clunks...that’s not really the point of this kind of book. Instead, Isaacson’s great weakness shows itself in his blind spots, in the places where he declines to train his dutiful reporter’s eye.
One of the merits of Isaacson’s book is the way he delves into how these formidable organisations came into being. It’s clear from his account that none of them would have happened without Musk’s distinctive combination of vision, maniacal determination, personal commitment and ruthlessness.
Isaacson has a taste for crisp chapters that are often four or five pages long, and interleaves episodes from Musk’s career with snapshots of his most intimate relationships ... Yet he also comes across as unexpectedly realistic about the possibility of defeat — and funny.
Dull, insight-free ... There’s a lot to work with here, but it doesn’t make reading this book any easier. Isaacson comes from the 'his eyes lit up' school of cliched writing, the rest of his prose workmanlike bordering on AI. I drove my espresso machine hard into the night to survive both craft and subject matter ... To his credit, Isaacson is a master at chapter breaks, pausing the narrative when one of Musk’s rockets explodes or he gets someone pregnant, and then rewarding the reader with a series of photographs that assuages the boredom until the next descent into his protagonist’s wild but oddly predictable life ... We know the ending to Musk’s story before we even open it. In the end, the bullies win.
Isaacson has a tendency to see bad behaviour by Silicon Valley titans as being part and parcel of What Great Men Must Do in order to change the world ... While Elon Musk is probably as entertaining as any celebrity business bio could be, it is not in any way a book of ideas ... I found myself wanting a deeper examination of the ramifications of Musk’s controversial position in the privatisation of space ... Fortunately, Isaacson goes deeper when it comes to Musk’s strange detour into the far-right political world.