3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
There’s one thing everyone who has met Ralph agree on; he’s either a bumbling idiot or the worst spy ever. Ralph Gibsen isn’t sure if he’s a spy or not, but he knows he’s an idiot. Awkward, blundering, and goofy are words best used to describe him. He also happens to be a successful, tech-savvy Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist who is attracting a significant amount of attention from the Intelligence Community. When an educational tool he is helping to develop comes under scrutiny for its latent potential to manipulate people’s beliefs, Ralph finds his life turned upside down. He is believed to be a master spy despite his claims to the contrary. Everyone from the Chinese to the Germans and the Brits wants in on this new technology. With his life on the line, Ralph must come up with a plan to save his neck while attempting to keep the tool from being misused. Is he equipped to tackle this new challenge? Can he figure it out before it’s too late?
The Knucklehead of Silicon Valley by G. Craig Vachon is a fun and enthralling read. The book gives readers an eye-opening behind-the-scenes look into the investment world of Silicon Valley. Vachon’s in-depth knowledge of situations and locations almost has me convinced this book is more of a memoir than it is fiction. It even reads like a memoir. The stories jump back and forth from past to present at random, with entertaining and often hilarious accounts of Ralph’s escapades in the places he finds himself. Consequently, it took a while for the story to pick up.
Despite how frighteningly real the tale gets, especially concerning the perils of technology, the laugh-out-loud moments were endless. In one scene, Ralph and his friend Tom visited a seedy adult entertainment establishment in Bangkok. They were harassed, at gunpoint, into paying $150 each for two warm beers. After this, they were then reverently thanked for their kind patronage and asked to come back again soon with friends.
This book has a lot of high points. I must say I appreciate the author’s explanation of how investors examine entrepreneurial ventures for investment. The pointers were both succinct and entertaining, and I received an invaluable education. Also, I applaud the portrayal of the many cultures Ralph encounters as he travels around the globe. His comparison of these cultures only serves to celebrate their uniqueness. I also like how the author weaved real-life scenarios into the plot. Case in point, the 2016 US presidential election, and the role technology played in possibly manipulating voters. The amorality of technology and how it is often put to nefarious use is a major theme in the book.
The character development was solid, and the characters were unforgettable. Ralph was a complex and fascinating individual. As much as he appeared to be bewildered more than half the time, Ralph had his sly moments. Ralph was also an incredibly lucky guy. No matter how messy the situation got for him, he would always land on his feet. For instance, he once ignorantly walked into a restaurant in Japan filled with dangerous Yakuza members. Ralph realized much too late that he was the only non-Japanese in the place. He was almost shot to death but managed to somehow win them over by sharing his dinner of crackers with peanut butter and jelly with every one of them; they had never tasted peanut butter. The encounter ended with Ralph getting drunk with them, and the Yakuza boss insisting they needed to do this again.
My only issue with the book was the editing. There were several grammatical and typographical errors. Nevertheless, the writing was concise, and the story flowed well. As much as I would have loved to give this book a four-star rating, the editing errors must be factored in. For this reason, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. The Knucklehead of Silicon Valley is a must-read if you are into spy novels or merely interested in technology and how it can impact our lives. There are also several useful tips for startups, small businesses, and anyone interested in finance. Overall, this is a fun, fascinating, thought-provoking, and insightful book.
The Knucklehead of Silicon Valley
View: on Bookshelves