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Thursday, 20 December 2012
Lad Lit Book Reviews: The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
A staggering 71% of the British public log in to Facebook every day, over 1 billion users worldwide have signed up, and it is worth an estimated $15m. That's a lot of people looking at a lot of ex's! Quite impressive for a company that launched in 2005.
But the most impressive fact of all has nothing to do with the size of the audience or the staggering value of a company barely out of nappies. The most impressive fact is that Facebook was created so guys could rate girls based om their level of hotness! That's it! No fancy business plan or 5-year strategy to make that first million. The fact is Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in his dorm room at Harvard University so we could perv over the girl next door!
In this book from Ben Mezrich - which inspired the Oscar-nominated The Social Network - Zuckerberg is potrayed somewhat as the bad guy; which is probably due to the fact he refused to take part in the project. The story is fused together from a number of interviews and sources; most notably Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevoss Twins, who would all end up in bitter legal and court wranglings with Zuckerberg over the ownership of Facebook in the years that proceeded the social networks launch.
Mezrich freely admits that he uses a certain amount of creative freedom when writing his books for entertainment purposes and to 'fill in the gaps'. I've read enough of his books to know that he also likes to follow a certain pattern: super intelligent college kid gets involved with something dangerous or cool, he has a love interest who he inevitably will win over in the end, and there is always a dark or siniister undertone hanging around in background ready to rear its ugly little head.
Mezrich is adept at working with a specific type of main character and creating a world around them that is exciting, sexy, and cool. That environment works when you have a bunch of MIT students taking on the Las Vegas casinos, but it feels a little unbelievable at times in the surroundings this story is set in. After all, this is a story about an internet geek who sat in his dorm room looking at images of girls on his computer screen. Again, nothing wrong with that - we've all been there! But Zuckerberg is a man described in the book blurb as an 'awkward maths prodigy and a painfully shy computer genius' and therefore it's hard to see how this story has been billed as tale of sex, money, and betrayal. Money, yes. Betrayal, ish. Sex, zero.
I think this is a book that probably needed to be written because of the historical importance it plays in modern culture, but I don't think the test subject allows Mezrich to be at his best. It's also the only time (as far as I'm aware) in a Mezrich non-fiction book where the story is not told from the main protagonist so you never feel like you are getting the whole story of what really happened with the invention of a modern masterpiece.
It's a good read, and if you have never read a Mezrich book before then no doubt you will find it enjoyable. But my advice would be after you have read this book, make sure you pick up a copy of Bringing Down the House or Busting Vegas to read Mezrich at his very best.