Anna Wiener spent years in the midst of America’s self-mythologizing disruptors of the future. We are so fortunate that she maintained her clear eye and sharp tongue; her memoir of her time in Silicon Valley is a masterpiece. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Uncanny Valley is the truest thing I’ve ever read. It’s such a precise picture of the last decade in the tech industry, told in matter-of-fact prose that made me gasp and cringe and laugh. Anna Wiener takes readers on her journey from barely-scraping-by publishing assistant to well-compensated tech worker, and how she grapples with the slow burn of false promises and the unforeseen consequences of the venture-backed playground of Silicon Valley. This is so prescient, so funny, so chilling, and required reading for anyone trying to make sense of the 21st century. Recommended By Michelle C., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A January 2020 IndieNext Pick. One of Vogue's 22 Books to Read This Winter.
"A definitive document of a world in transition: I won't be alone in returning to Uncanny Valley for clarity and consolation for many years to come." Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
The prescient, page-turning account of a journey in Silicon Valley: a defining memoir of our digital age
In her mid-twenties, at the height of tech industry idealism, Anna Wiener — stuck, broke, and looking for meaning in her work, like any good millennial — left a job in book publishing for the promise of the new digital economy. She moved from New York to San Francisco, where she landed at a big-data startup in the heart of the Silicon Valley bubble: a world of surreal extravagance, dubious success, and fresh-faced entrepreneurs hell-bent on domination, glory, and, of course, progress.
Anna arrived amidst a massive cultural shift, as the tech industry rapidly transformed into a locus of wealth and power rivaling Wall Street. But amid the company ski vacations and in-office speakeasies, boyish camaraderie and ride-or-die corporate fealty, a new Silicon Valley began to emerge: one in far over its head, one that enriched itself at the expense of the idyllic future it claimed to be building.
Part coming-age-story, part portrait of an already-bygone era, Anna Wiener's memoir is a rare first-person glimpse into high-flying, reckless startup culture at a time of unchecked ambition, unregulated surveillance, wild fortune, and accelerating political power. With wit, candor, and heart, Anna deftly charts the tech industry's shift from self-appointed world savior to democracy-endangering liability, alongside a personal narrative of aspiration, ambivalence, and disillusionment.
Unsparing and incisive, Uncanny Valley is a cautionary tale, and a revelatory interrogation of a world reckoning with consequences its unwitting designers are only beginning to understand.
"A compelling takedown of the pitfalls of start-up culture, from sexism to the lack of guardrails, Uncanny Valley highlights the maniacal optimism of the twentysomethings behind the screens and the pitfalls of the culture they are building." Booklist
"Equal parts bildungsroman and insider report, this book reveals not just excesses of the tech-startup landscape, but also the Faustian bargains and hidden political agendas embedded in the so-called "inspiration culture" underlying a too-powerful industry. A funny, highly informative, and terrifying read." Kirkus (Starred Review)
"Uncanny Valley is an addictive combination of coming-of-age story, journalistic memoir, and brilliant social critique. This is a stunningly good book. I loved it." Dani Shapiro, author of Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love
About the Author
Anna Wiener is a contributing writer to The New Yorker online, where she writes about Silicon Valley, startup culture, and technology. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, New York, The New Republic, and n+1, as well as in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017. She lives in San Francisco. Uncanny Valley is her first book.