Microsoft chairman Bill Gates doesn't actually make an appearance in Coupland's new work, but the stamp of the high-tech priest is all over this moving and audacious novel.
Written in the form of a diary, Micro-serfs is the story of Dan Underwood and his six housemates, each of whom is unhappier than the next, toiling away as software programmers for Chairman Bill. It's not that the money's bad; there just has to be something better beyond perfecting the Microsoft empire.
One day Dan's friend Michael comes up with the clever idea of a new software company whose main product will be Oop!, a kind of virtual Lego for grown-ups. The clan decides to leave Microsoft's rainy Seattle campus for the sunnier and (they hope) more laid-back hills of California's Silicon Valley.
Somehow the very investment of their sweat and imagination in creating this unlikely product transforms everything that they do. Dan's romance with a brainy programmer blossoms; his father, who was recently laid off by IBM, grows new roots in the computer business; and somehow the Microserfs succeed in "getting a life."
Although Coupland, (Generation X) casts a knowing eye on techie subculture, Microserfs is no mere cyber-gimmick, but a hilarious, intimate look at the way high technology is transforming American life—for better and for worse. (HarperCollins $21)