It’s been nearly ten years since I first read Microserfs, and it is the only book I’ve ever re-read three times. Despite the changes and technological advances of the intervening decade the setting still rings true. Insert Web 2.0 over multimedia and throw Google into the mix and you’re halfway to bringing it up to date.
The heart of the story, what really keeps it from dating, are the relationships of Dan- the narrator- and his family and friends. Trapped in Microsoft shipping hell at the start of the story Dan and his housemates slowly develop lives, escape the corporate comfort that is stunting their growth, find love and mature. The diary entry structure is shot through with emails, musings on the human-machine interface and word games (entries re-imagined without vowels or remixed by file corruption). The ending, mimicking life, is totally unexpected but somehow manages to draw on several of the themes running through the book. And it can still make me cry with its downbeat optimism.
In 1996 the BBC gave us This Life, a TV series allegedly about people my age. I could see no-one I knew and quickly grew tired of it (Attachments, an attempt by the same people to do a geek program, was even worse). Microserfs, despite being set in the, to a geek, exotic locales of Redmond and Silicon Valley, was full of characters I recognised.
Ten years on I’m still feeling some of Dan’s malaise, a fear that I haven’t managed to grow up and get a proper life. Coupland himself remixed/covered the story earlier this year with Jpod, a dark pastiche that he wrote himself into.
I want to write a story like Microserfs, optimistic but honest, about a lost geek’s travails. Yes, I know it would end up being a little biographical. After the current novel’s finished (first draft being typed up when I finish this) I’m returning to Post & Publish, my tales of a blogger from a few years ago.