... a gripping read ... Cain does his material proud ... Cain marshals his material around episodes and milestones. This allows for a few cliffhanger chapter endings, while also enabling the characters’ foibles to shine through ... Cain knows his material well. A pity, then, that after showcasing his credentials — interviews with 400 people, recipient of certain leaked documents — the book almost immediately plunges into liberal quotes from broadcasters and print media ... There are plenty of times when this works; Samsung has after all attracted widespread interest. At other times it is simply puzzling. It does not take an opinion writer from Bloomberg to explain that the merger ratio for a linchpin deal was an utter horror ... There are also a few too many clumsy efforts at inserting himself into the story — a de rigueur requirement for business books these days ... Still, these are small quibbles. Like all good business books, Samsung Rising ends with many loose ends.
... a brisk, balanced telling of the Samsung story, though there is much more here about American smartphone marketing strategy than most readers could ever want. Samsung did not cooperate, which is not surprising for a big tech company. But, then, Samsung seems more interested than most in hiding aspects of itself from the public eye ... keeps a tight lid, for instance, on almost anything to do with the ruling Lee dynasty. Cain interviewed one member of the clan, but they remain a frustratingly distant presence in his book’s pages. This is a shame, because the Lees are a truly HBO-worthy bunch.
... much of the book is about Samsung’s or the Lee family’s stumbles, and of really important differences between smart Americans and stupidly bureaucratic Koreans. We are left struggling to understand how, between the mistakes, Samsung succeeded so brilliantly. As the chapter heading titles suggest, this book is about smartphones, and not the semiconductors and components on which Samsung’s profitability and competence mainly rests, and which it continued to supply to Apple in large quantities, even at the height of the rivalry between the two companies ... Cain is at his best when his interviews with Americans went well ... There are moments when Cain’s early interviews with Koreans were informative, and we get at least an insight into the Samsung corporate mind. But, as everyone knows, Samsung is an information fortress where little escapes of the internal workings, except complaints of frustrated highly- paid white collar workers. Cain therefore relied on 'over 400' unofficial interviews to build his account ... Notwithstanding the chronological vertigo from Cain’s jumps backwards and forwards during decades especially the crucial 1990s and 2000s, the book made me reconsider the character and achievements of Lee Keun-hee, described, here warts and all, reflecting on what I knew about Chairman Lee, and what my Korean friends had told me about him, and wanting to revisit those discussions of how the shy and retiring figure described by Cain could take Samsung from being a large, but mediocre, fast- follower to a world leader. I am left thinking that we should write less about the King and more about his followers, the senior management of Samsung who turned the hints and whims of the family into reality, but who also wrestled with one another ... I wish Samsung Rising had added more important figures to this list, and a few more sentences on each ... Anyone interested in Korea, or Samsung will want to read this book, because Cain kicks over so many piles of dirt ... They will also want to read and ponder the 90 pages of discursive footnotes with which Cain supports his 288 pages of text, and consider who out of the 'over' 400 interviews left their mark. These form a mine for future researchers on the evolution of Samsung, and also a guide to what the author has left out in telling his story.