Publication Date : March 10th 2020
Publisher : Spiegel & Grau
Genre : General Fiction
Pages : 320
Stars : ★★★☆☆
Set in the New York City tech world, a wry and edgy debut novel about a heist gone wrong, a secret online life exposed, and a young man’s search for true connection….
Lucas and Margo are fed up. Margo is a brilliant programmer tired of being talked over as the company’s sole black employee, and while Lucas is one of many Asians at the firm, he’s nearly invisible as a low-paid customer service rep. Together, they decide to steal their tech start-up’s user database in an attempt at revenge. The heist takes a sudden turn when Margo dies in a car accident, and Lucas is left reeling, wondering what to do with their secret–and wondering whether her death really was an accident. When Lucas hacks into Margo’s computer looking for answers, he is drawn into her secret online life and realizes just how little he knew about his best friend.
With a fresh voice, biting humor, and piercing observations about human nature, Kevin Nguyen brings an insider’s knowledge of the tech industry to this imaginative novel. A pitch-perfect exploration of race and start-up culture, secrecy and surveillance, social media and friendship, New Waves asks: How well do we really know each other? And how do we form true intimacy and connection in a tech-obsessed world?
*** Note: I received e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to PRHGlobal for free copy. ***
New Waves was general fiction that revolved around two friends Margo and Lucas, Lucas discovering more about Margo after her death, and coping with grief and loss. It was about technology and start up tech companies in 2000s, music, work and living in New York, and mainly friendship, loss and grief, racism at workplace and in society.
Writing was crisp and intriguing, both serious and witty at some point while trivial on another. It felt like I was reading documentary. Now from synopsis I guessed this might be a mystery, a techno thriller, (who tagged it mystery on Goodreads!) I thought Margo died because of data they stole or to keep Lucas safe or something. But that’s misleading. There is no mystery in this book, not anything like thriller. So don’t just get the book thinking you will have a mystery to solve. It is a pretty simple fiction about loss and grief and companionship.
New Waves was narrated from Lucas and Jill’s perspective. Both characters connected through Margo after her death. Lucas’ perspective told about how he met Margo, how they started working together, how he was coping after her death, how he met Jill and what they found in Margo’s laptop. Jill’s perspective showed her emotions, her writer’s block, her life before she met Margo and Lucas, what she talked to Margo, how she felt after Margo died, and what she thought about her and Lucas, how she found inspiration once again.
Characters were interesting and realistic but not exactly likable and were hard to connect. The plot and scenario actually made them interesting. The only interesting character died in first chapter.
Lucas didn’t have degree and still found job but didn’t appreciate it. He was aimless and passionless. Only thing he liked to do was chat with Margo, later sex with Jill, drink excessively, and wallow in loneliness and grief. I didn’t like his attitude and his mindset. I felt sorry for him that he had to face and experience racism at every level of his life. I know how it feels to be different from majority, not just in looks but in all other things but that doesn’t mean you hurt even those who cared for you or gave you opportunity. He messed in everything and with people who tried to help him and then turned all the failure in anger towards them. Most of the time he was boring character but some dry-wit scenario made him entertaining enough to keep reading.
Jill was full time author and was experiencing writer’s block. I liked her a little, she was at least better than Lucas. She had aim and goals, all she needed was inspiration and motivation that she received from Margo and after her death through her audio files. One thing I don’t understand about her is how she has money to waste on drinks if she claims to be broke?!
Her and Lucas’ relationship was okay. They lacked seriousness and love. They liked each other but it was not enough. At some point I thought, they might be together and help each other grow but they messed it too.
Margo was most interesting character. We know her from Lucas’ memories of her, from her chat with Jill and her audio files and all these three medium showed different side of Margo they weren’t aware of.
Lucas and Margo’s relationship showed what real friendship is and it takes whole life to know them and still there will be things about person that surprise you. You only know a person from what they share with you.
Grief isn’t just the act of coping with a loss. It’s reckoning with the realization that you’ll never discover something new about a person ever again.
I didn’t know the meaning of title until I read it in book and googled it – popular pop music in 1970s and 1980s. There was a lot about music, piracy and TV shows and characters’ thought on it was interesting.
There were many layers in this book– technology and startup tech companies, misuse of internet and social media (This part was both serious and entertaining); Asian-American culture and discrimination they faced, gender inequality and companionship.
I loved some facts included in the book about face recognition technology and later its military funding (but here the year founded and its takeover was different. What I liked was Jill’s thoughts behind it. I don’t agree with her that the technology was racist in this but I agree the way government wanted to use it was racist), internet messaging that started in 2009, The longest record for running a marathon with the time of 54 years 246 days 5 hours 32 minutes 20.3 seconds (Lucas told whole story behind this longest record which was fascinating and real. What he was trying to say through it made me chuckle), and great Kanto earthquake (142,800 died in this earthquake, more than people died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, combined! I didn’t know that and I liked what characters said about it).
Climax was unexpected. I didn’t expect Lucas mess things this bad. I couldn’t understand what he wanted in life. Jill’s development was good and I liked how she finally moved on in life and with her dead project. I liked reading what happened to Lucas after he messed things and what he did at the end. That last chapter, last story and insight of it was great.
Why 3 stars-
Plot and pace was bumpy. I lost interest in the middle of the book. I didn’t care about characters until climax. Characters were not impressive and I didn’t like them.
Though I liked those audio files they felt disjointed with the main story. There was no character development until climax. Lucas’ development was not full even after climax. He grew but not totally. I still don’t like him.
I don’t know why Jill was given whole chapter (and I tell you chapters are long, there are total 8 chapters in this book) in the middle of the book telling about her ex and her life with him. I would have preferred her story short and in conversation with Lucas, there was no need to switch narration. Again second last chapters with 6 detailed weeks of Jill’s life was too much.
Overall, New Waves was different read than usual. Some things I like, some I didn’t but definitely very observant fiction. This can be hit or miss so read excerpt first.
What do you think about the book? Have you read it already or any book by the same author? Have you read a book(s) featuring Tech companies?
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