THE DEAL by Joe Hutsko

THE DEAL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Gossipy roman-ˆ-clef about the duel between the visionary founder of an upstart California computer company and the fatuous, guilt-ridden mainstream marketing executive who wants to steal the company from him. That technology journalist Hutsko worked with former Apple chairman Jim Sculley, and that the fictional Via Computer in this snickering comedy of business manners is a dead-ringer for Apple, make it tempting to equate Sculley with his fictional counterpart Matthew Locke. Indeed, the opening passages seem to be a thinly disguised rerun of the boardroom coup staged by Sculley that ousted Apple founder Steven Jobs, depicted here as wealthy, idealistic, but socially naive Peter Jones, whose obsessive attachment to a balky handheld computer he wants to be the Next Big Thing distracts him from the management problems plaguing his company. But Hutsko's late-'90s setting differs dramatically from Apple's in the '80s, when Sculley took over. Here, the Interact is a familiar, all-too-easily accessed medium where Locke's maimed wife Greta can indulge in virtual sex with a pseudonymous lover, while Locke sends unencrypted e-mails to William Harrell, the megalomaniacal head of the IBM-like International Computer Products. The deal that binds Locke to Harrell is a scheme to merge Via Computer with ICP, so that Harrell can wrest control of the computer industry away from Microsoft stand-in PCSoft. Even if this made sense, Hutsko's rationale that business is a game played badly by petty guys who can't find satisfaction in sex, society, or family does not compute: by the time Jones finds a substitute father figure in ousted ICP chief Byron Holmes and leads an assault to take back his company, the narrative has lost its momentum. As is often the case with thinly fictionalized tell-ails, the true details about sex, money, and management incompetence add up to somewhat less than a powerful story. Occasionally titillating, mostly stale insider-stuff.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1999
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Forge/Tor