Ashlee Vance - Elon Musk: Inventing the Future (18)

Where to begin with this. Okay, so first, it’s a decent read about a man at the head of two companies that are incredibly influential in shaping North American technology and markets right now. The book is worth reading for that reason alone. But it isn’t the 5-star change your life marvel that most reviews would lead you to believe. 

Whether or not Musk is a crazy person, a jerk, or some kind of demigod isn’s super relevant to me. If you want to like Musk, there’s enough in the book to make you think he’s a genius. If you want to hate Musk, there’s plenty here to make you think he’s a jerk. Moving on.

SpaceX and Tesla are young enough companies that the book can describe their early years and recent successes, but their true impact won’t be known for another decade. 

I disliked the author’s style, and there’s no way this is perfect book. Vance inserts himself into the narrative for no reason whatsoever - mostly just the lazy use of first person narration to stitch together information. This habit, combined with too much fanboyism for Silicon Valley in general, creates this feeling like the author wants desperately to be part of Musk’s world. It’s annoying.

One premise about Musk’s childhood confuses me. Vance makes a lot out of the idea that Musk had a “difficult” childhood. He hints at, but offers no details about issues with Musk’s father. He references bullying, but the examples he gives - Musk being called names, a friend being beaten up - sound more like any rough and tumble childhood before the bubble-wrapped 21st Century. I feel like anyone my age could tell similar stories. Better examples needed to be given in order to justify the amount of time Vance spends on this point or he needed to dispatch with it quickly, like say that he has good reason to believe something or things very serious happened but no one would go on the record. Instead, he labours the point and then offers weak examples. 

The most interesting parts were the stories about challenges Musk and his company faced. The general gist of it is that people basically always wanted Musk’s companies to fail - competitors, investors want to make power plays, rivals within the company, vested interests from old industry, people who dislike him personally, etc. 

To me, these stories were the best way to illustrate how Musk’s clarity of vision and singular, simple focus (go to Mars, make the best electric car) are the defining characteristics of both Musk and his companies.