sly, entertaining tribute to American can-do ingenuity. Ken Kesey would be
- Boston Sunday Herald
terrific novel--full of Valley color, the politics of business, the
business of problem-solving, the drama of risk-taking. What is so terribly
attractive about The First $20 Million--outside of its great sense of
humor, lively detail and memorable characters--is, finally, its close
approximation to the daily grind.
- Santa Cruz Sentinel
San Francisco Bay Guardian
Bronson, fresh from the critical and financial success of his first novel,
Bombardiers, has written a compelling morality tale set in the world of
superstar engineers and venture capitalists. Bronson does an admirable job
showing that this once wide-eyed, gee-whiz industry no longer offers an
easy ride to financial success on the basis of a clever idea. The result
is a joyride of corporate machination, betrayal, and ultimately,
transcendance. Bronson has considerable skill in creating likeable and
eccentric characters. The book is filled with loads of technical
information on the process of designing a computer, but miraculously,
Bronson's simple language makes even the computer outsiders come to
appreciate the ins and outs of chips and coding. Bronson, like the best of
the novelists who wrote about capitalism in the 80s, goes beyond the
worship of monetary success. In doing so, he brings about the triumph of
the nerd and of all others who chase a dream.
"Po Bronson's new novel captures Silicon Valley's mad quest for
technology, money and fame.... perfectly captures the antic side of the
Silicon Valley's mad quest for money and fame..... Like his hero, Bronson
is a founder, too, beginning to define the Silicon Valley novel and
raising the bar for sucessors trying to create the next killer
Jose Mercury News
"First rate entertainment and perhaps even something more.... The
book simply grabs you, smartly capturing its time and place and creating
characters who aren't just believable but even, here and there, memorable.
Most of all, though, the day is saved by some awfully clever plotting.
Here is a writer not ashamed to tell us a story.... The plot takes some
marvelous twists and turns and there is some great fun along the
A wise and witty, twisted and satirical send-up of the computer world. A
must read for anyone who owns a computer or is shopping for one, swore
never to buy one or wishes desperately to have one but can't afford it.
It's a joke-a-page tale that skewers every computer geek you have ever
known while simultaneously making you respect these wizards. Bronson
lampoons engineers for their idiosyncrasies while lauding them for their
creative genius. Best of all, Bronson shows how some of the simplest
problems can become stupefyingly difficult when egos are on the line. The
ending wraps up with wonderful twists. Suffice it to say, the only bad
part is that it actually ends.
York Times Book Review
Offers worthwhile insight into the peculiar, arrested-adolescent computer
culture of Silicon Valley. Told in a breezy, sarcastic, italics-encrusted
style, this "Bytefire of the Vanities" finds an unlikely but
likeable hero in Andy Caspar. It's a predictable plot, but one that is
brightened by Mr. Bronson's comic twists and savage cynicism--and by his
infectious enthusiasm for entrepreneurial genius.
Wonderfully readable ... Could be a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, with
its frothy surface masking harsh social satire. This book is goofy,
warm-hearted, and even romantic, while still managing to stick it to
research geeks, computer magnates, and high-tech investors.
Don't have time to read a novel? Sure you do, especially if it's as
fast-paced and funny as this one. In The First $20 Million Is Always the
Hardest, Po Bronson builds an engaging tale around some underdogs who
battle the ugly fact that success in computing has as much to do with
marketing and ruthlessness as it does with innovative technology. So go
ahead -- add this suspenseful and entertaining novel to your reading list.
Bronson deftly leads his adversaries through ever more dastardly
double-crossings. The result is often hilarious. But it would take a
microscope to make out the moral differences between the good guys and the
bad guys, and the massage is that old 80s tenet: greed is good.
An amusing romp through mazes of legal red tape, mismatched connections,
and good intentions. The eccentricities of Silicon Valley are viable props
for Po Bronson's observations. The reader will readily recognize the fine
line between genius and instability, with many undefined areas in between.
Very funny ... Bronson pushes the pace on the very first page--you'll
start laughing before you're half way through it.
The book is amusing, even if you know relatively little about computer
hardware and next to nothing about the people who invented that hardware.
As in Bombardiers, Bronson is able to explain what many of us don't
understand while being funny. Frankly, I can't wait for Bronson to tackle
Louis Post Dispatch
Bronson has a sharp eye, a sharper word processor, and a strong sense of
pacing. The First $20 Million is informative and entertaining and it will
make you never look at a computer the same way again. The book notes that
Bronson has "also been a reporter covering San Francisco politics
andworked for many years in book publishing, two industries not without
their own abuses of power, so they should stay on guard." That's good
advice for politicians and publishers--and gives readers something to look
& Marketing Management
Readers will never look at a start-up the same way again.... A refreshing
break from the basic business book, Bronson transports the reader into the
competitive world of intellectual property and hostile takeovers.
Bronson's descriptions are so convincing, you feel that you've worked with
people just like Benoit and Caspar for years. Full of insights on
marketing and sales. Bronson depicts a cutthroat business world--a place
where even the closest friends would dump each other for the right IPO.
"Nails the mind-set of the engineers he writes about.... His subtitle
for 'The First $20 Million' is 'A Silicon Valley Novel' -- and it's the
first book to give that label some genuine value.... Long after the
'network computer' has faded from sight and other innovations have spun
through similar hype-and-trash cycles, readers will still be able to enjoy
the book's characterization of the technology industry's captains and foot
Despite some bugs, it's not hard to get with Bronson's program. The First
$20 Million is real and enjoyable enough to warrant spending a weekend
with Andy and the gang. Who would have thought that a bunch of
pocket-protected engineers could be this much fun?
The characters in 20 Mil are rendered so well, so finely crafted that you
can practically feel them breathing between the pages. They are vivid and
ingratiating and I ached for them when they were disappointed and
celebrated their triumphs. I cared about them. The end is an ultimately
happy one and the denouement so efulgent and ntoxicating that I actually
made an audible sound while I was reading! You know how some people talk
abck to movies, I was talking back to this book! I actually said out loud,
"Oh, wow! Unbelievable!" I can count on one hand how many times
in my reading life that has happened. This book has tons of soul. If there
were more books like Bronson's, I'm convinced, the world would be a
better, smarter place.
Where $20 Million succeeds is as a character study. The misanthropic
engineers, the monotonic human-resource drones, the evangelistic
marketers, even the nontechnical but talented girlfriend all strike
painfully home. I know these people. They are my friends, my
co-workers--my wife. We see nerds at work, nerds at play (which is to say,
at work), nerds in love, and of course some nerd humor. "If Microsoft
made cars ... we'd all have to switch to Microsoft gas," says Caspar.
(Have him killed.)
"Half the San Francisco Bay Area, it seems, is busy playing
pin-the-tale-on-the-programmer with pre-release copies of what may turn
out to be the Primary Colors of Silicon Valley. Deftly written, Bronson
has filled the plot with enough corporate double dealing, espionage and
sleight of hand to libel all of California. Hardly anyone comes out of $20
Million with his or her integrity intact."
"Bronson spent a year soaking up Silicon Valley's culture and lingo.
The research paid off: With his knack for detail, he has produced a
delicious satire of a fascinating world. The novel is also extremely
timely.... it's a rollicking good read that sheds a revealing light on the
personalities and values of Silicon Valley. Bronson deserves credit for
creating a page-turner from the travails of a high-tech startup."
"After reading Po Bronson's THE FIRST $20 MILLION IS ALWAYS THE
HARDEST, you'll never feel the same about your computer again. From the
inside this 'Silicon Valley novel' reveals the sham of that hacker's
paradise. Original and sparkling, it reveals how the computer industry
cons us into believing we need faster and more complex computers. Brosnon
thought of calling his book 'Not Gates.' This book is for anyone who has a
computer, or wnats to knw about computers, and it will cure that itch to
upgrade. And bravo! to someone with the know how to put Bill Gates in his
"The author of this quirky novel about Bill Gates wannabes running
amok in Silicon Valley likely will appreciate the fact that yet another
reviewer has concluced that his book 'doesn't suck.' That expression, Po
Bronson explains, represents on eof the many strange little superstitions
of the cutting-edge computer engineers who are building the hardware and
writing the software that is propelling us all into the new information
age. Any neurotic will grasp the idea instantly. If you love something and
say you love it, just saying you love it will make it go away. So don't
say you love something; instead, say you don't hate it. Say it's 'not too
shabby.' Say it doesn't suck.... Bronson delivers a compelling and
disturbing cast of characters and a dark vision of Silicon Valley. He
leaves one hoping against hope that the real players who are about to
assume such a huge role in changing all our lives are cut from kinder
cloth than the arrogant, intolerant know-it-alls in THE FIRST $20 MILLION
IS ALWAYS THE HARDEST."
"Satirical and hilariously high-energy; bestsellerdom portends. After
a successful debut with Bombardiers, an antic about the bond market,
Bronson presents another humorous take on another frantic corner of
capitalism, the computer business."
"A crafty, funny, and sympathetic depiction of a world that's
high-tech to the max, but very human for all that. . . . With a fresh and
affectionate eye, Bronson depicts the fragile egos and brilliance of 'ironmen'
as they negotiate the real world."
"Business guy-turned lit-hunk Bronson burst onto the book scene with
the vigorously promoted Bombardiers, a Wall Street greed read that had the
added value of being entertaining. Now he has turned his eye to the inner
workings of Silicon Valley. The result: Douglas Coupland goes to business
school. But although the title calls to mind one of those road-to-riches
pot-boilers advertised in the back pages of Smart Money, Bronson's crisp
and knowledgable prose nevertheless make it a capital venture."