Pulitizer-winning journalist Dillon's breezy debut novel, first serialized in The San Jose Mercury News, takes its lead from business news about the fallout in the computer software industry- -it's full of nasty details about the day-to-day workings of Silicon Valley and that monster of the north, Microsoft. Once a legend in the Valley, J.P. McCorwin has faded from the scene. A former Jesuit, J.P. (with similarities to Jerry Brown) now has a personal guru, Baba RAM DOS, a French anarchist who serves as J.P.'s constant companion and theorist. Together, they seem to be plotting the takeover of J.P.'s last employer, a Valley giant called Infinity, which found J.P.'s explorations in artificial intelligence a waste of money. As part of this grand scheme, J.P. recruits a motley group of up-and-comers: There's Maria Cisneros, a Stanford MBA Chicana whose father worked as a farmer; also high up in J.P.'s nameless company is Brad Roth, a former Microsoftee in marketing who was fired for voicing criticism of Windows95. The techies on the staff are all industry dropouts, hacker/geniuses with grudges against corporate domination. Dillon clearly knows how those people dress and behave, and he draws each character with satiric glee. J.P.'s quest is further complicated by corporate intrigue. When Infinity comes to J.P. to solve its devastating problems with imploding laptops, is it really a glitch, or is it a clever bit of corporate sabotage to weaken the company on the stock exchange? The only disappointment in this breakneck plot is the nature of J.P.'s grand scheme when it's finally revealed: It's not the ``virtual pyramid'' that all fear, but something truly wacko. In any case, Maria manages to cope and save the day, and with kind words from Bill Gates, no less! First-novelist Dillon re-creates Silicon Valleyspeak with comic aplomb, which more than compensates for his hobbled plot.
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