Tim Higgins’s compelling and deeply reported history of Tesla addresses the essential question of how this upstart automaker came from nowhere to become one of the most valuable companies on Earth ... Power Play allows us to see how Musk aligned Tesla with his personal vision...and how he in essence became indistinguishable from the brand ... One of the more enlightening aspects of Power Play is the paradox Higgins presents: Tesla couldn’t have possibly succeeded without Musk, whose money, ideas and unwavering push for excellence forced the young firm to meet seemingly impossible goals as it became increasingly adept at building electric cars. Yet Musk was Tesla’s biggest liability, too ... Higgins...is unafraid to chronicle the chief executive’s behavior in telling detail ... One shortcoming of Power Play is that it lacks a rigorous look at Tesla’s environmental impact ... I would have liked to get a better understanding of the ecological value of Tesla and how much a world running on its cars could help us out of our current predicament ... Even so, Higgins’s book amounts to an exceptional work of business journalism.
Higgins...has done an outstanding job. He's performed a deep dive into the nuts and volts of Tesla. His book is extensively researched ... While the book is long, there's no sense that it is bloated. The only question Higgins doesn't answer is if the ends justified Musk's means. Ultimately, the climate might say yes. But as for the people he tossed aside, well, not so much
Higgins doesn’t break much news or gossip—but [he] also nicely encapsulates this sweeping history of the electric-car juggernaut, a company that often seems to innovate and thrive in spite of its founder rather than as a result of his vaunted genius. To the inevitable disappointment of some and the relief of others, this is a book about Tesla, not about its founder ... When Higgins writes about facts and situations I’m familiar with, I can attest he’s right on the button, every time. If there’s any nonsense in Power Play, Higgins isn’t the source of it.
Higgins is exemplary in describing many of these extraordinary machinations. He has interviewed hundreds of people associated with Tesla, both past and present. He knows the financial story like the back of his hand ... Yet for all the details — and glorious profanities — in Higgins’s book, I’m left thinking that it’s all a bit too Wall Street. Higgins rightly criticises General Motors for the underwhelming Chevrolet Volt but he has little to say about non-American offerings such as the Nissan Leaf, the Renault Zoe or the latest luxurious electric models from the big German manufacturers. Other than Tesla’s involvement, he is silent on the rapidly growing Chinese electric vehicle market...He has little to say about Musk’s dream of storing renewable energy in batteries as a way of revolutionising our daily lives both at home and while travelling in one of his future autonomous vehicles ... And, because the book is biased towards finance — would Tesla survive, would it ever make a profit? — the human aspects of the story are too easily brushed aside. Musk himself is something of an enigma ... Higgins has written entertainingly about the financial Bet of the Century. With a broader horizon, however, he might have covered one of the Stories of the Century.
Without Musk, telling the story of Tesla might be a more straightforward endeavor—of the triumph of science and innovation over a seemingly intractable technical problem, or some other version of the Great Industrialist fairy tale. With Musk at its center, it becomes something thornier: that of a tech giant whose extraordinary leaps forward in the art of cooling down batteries justify the lavishly unpleasant behavior of its entitled leader. This tension between figurehead and technology is often spoken of as a contradiction ... The sheer number of people Musk fires in anger in Power Play is nerve-wracking just to read about ... Power Play is both entertaining and tonally unharmonious. Higgins has had to write a fairly detailed book about battery cell technology, while simultaneously painting a portrait of an idiosyncratic investor compelled to take the limelight. He cannot help but present them as two sides of a binary, whether it’s product versus engineering, man versus nature, or Elon Musk versus General Motors. Over the course of the book, what feels like confusion emerges ... The 'contradiction' Higgins articulates ('while Musk’s vision, enthusiasm, and determination carry Tesla; his ego, paranoia, and pettiness threaten to undo it all') is actually an image Musk has long cultivated, making Higgins’s book not a tell-all about a founder’s personality flaws but a reiteration of Tesla’s own self-presentation.
... eschews sensationalism for a high-resolution portrait of how exactly an unusual man and an unusual company managed a meteoric rise ... [Higgins] focuses less on Musk's character, and more on the machinations that created his success ... Higgins is generally quite even-handed when it comes to assessing Musk's decisions ... the book is hardly boring: The tale of Tesla's ascent is inherently dramatic and compellingly told. It is, perhaps, a little repetitive. Tesla almost runs out of money, Musk raises the cash — and repeat, and repeat ... the most interesting elements of the book, perhaps, are the hints at what might have been.
Higgins used hundreds of interviews and multiple primary sources to weave together an intricate story of one company's mission to become the dominant car maker of the present and the distant future ... This book is a well-documented and comprehensive look at Tesla, Elon Musk, and the people involved with its creation and successes.
Behind the shenanigans, Higgins takes an in-depth and well-balanced look at the interplay between Musk’s swashbuckling mindset of 'building the airplane as [he] was heading down the runway' and the hardheadedness of Tesla’s veteran engineers and leaders, who understood the rigors of making cars that could kill people if they malfunctioned. The result is a sometimes appalling, occasionally inspiring, and always entertaining saga.
The author effectively combines his well-honed journalistic skills with revealing perspectives from industry observers, frustrated Tesla staff, futuristic engineers, and Musk himself, creating a spirited report on a company consistently embroiled in a swirl of melodrama and controversy ... Readers fascinated by the hype of Tesla history will find a gold mine of facts and foibles in this immersive analysis.