A biography of iconic serial visionary Stewart Brand, from the Merry Pranksters and the generation-defining Whole Earth Catalog to the marriage of environmental consciousness and hacker capitalism and the rise of a new planetary culture—the story behind so many other stories
... an illuminating biography that captures Mr. Brand’s rich and varied life ... It is a challenge to capture the essence of a protean life while the subject is still writing the script, but Mr. Markoff, a longtime tech journalist for the New York Times, has done it beautifully.
Even in a book as comprehensive as this, based on his access to Brand’s archives and to Brand himself, Markoff has trouble tracking this revolutionary thinker’s many changes of mind as he moved from a career in the military to photography to various startups, seeking to cope with the velocity of change by employing a slowed-down, organic way of thinking about the world ... Missing from this biography is a chronology, a sort of chart, that might help the rest of us navigate through the teeming adventures of the Brandian world.
At times, reading Whole Earth feels like being the sober person at a psychedelic party ... The book offers less, however, of a critical perspective on Brand’s life and work. Markoff aims to illuminate tensions in how environmentalism related to science and technology, but he struggles to place Brand’s contributions effectively in the context of the complex broader movement. Maybe that’s because, in the end, Brand rode a series of waves, but did not create them.