(p. 18) As I sat down for lunch at a restaurant in Los Angeles, I placed a copy of “Valley of the Gods,” by Alexandra Wolfe, on the table, and a waitress walking by stopped to peer at the cover. . . .
“It’s about Silicon Valley,” I began. “It follows this young kid, John Burnham, who gets paid $100,000 by this weird billionaire guy, Peter Thiel, whom you’ve probably heard of; he’s a big Trump supporter and spoke at the Republican National Convention?” — a blank stare from the waitress. “Anyway, Thiel pays him (and a bunch of other kids) to forgo college so Burnham can mine asteroids, but he doesn’t actually end up mining the asteroids and. . . .”
. . .
The book begins with the protagonist, Burnham (or antagonist, depending whose side you’re on), who isn’t old enough to drink yet but is debating dropping out of college to follow the Pied Piper of libertarian and contrarian thinking, Peter Thiel, to Silicon Valley. As Wolfe chronicles, Thiel, who has a degree from Stanford University and largely credits where he is today (a billionaire) to his time at that school, started the Thiel Fellowship, in 2011, which awards $100,000 to 20 people under 20 years old to say no to M.I.T., Stanford or, in Burnham’s case, the University of Massachusetts, to pursue an Ayn Randian dream of disrupting archetypal norms.
It won’t be giving away the ending by pointing out that it doesn’t end well for Burnham.
For the full review, see:
NICK BILTON. “Denting the Universe.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, FEB. 19, 2017): 18.
(Note: ellipsis at end of second paragraph, in original; other two, added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date FEB. 14, 2017, and has the title “Pet Projects of the New Billionaires.”)
The book under review, is:
Wolfe, Alexandria. Valley of the Gods: A Silicon Valley Story. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.