Those tensions are exacerbated once Lida, a market researcher, discovers, in the data she works with, that “there’s something totally weird going on with our extreme users.” She shares her concern with Matt, a technical product manager she’s just started dating, and over texts, phone calls, and dinners the pair try to tease out what exactly seems off in her spreadsheets. The company’s privacy rules stymie their efforts, tempting Matt to ask a member of his team for a favor: to look into forbidden user data.
Hodjat spins this narrative from many perspectives, capturing TNC staffers’ competing agendas, from an executive eager to keep the numbers up to please the founders, to a conspiracy-minded coder trying to date a friend of Lida’s. The challenge of understanding a product’s impact on users while still protecting privacy is compellingly explored. Hodjat’s especially good at laying bare the personal motives of each character, including the twisted, self-preservational logic that inspires Matt to sabotage a promising relationship. This compact tale speeds by, perhaps too swiftly—it offers little dramatization of the user experience, what stories the app tells, and what users get from it. Still, the storytelling’s swift, the milieu convincing, and the final revelations jolting.
Takeaway: This compact speculative thriller will please readers fascinated by how the tech biz truly works.
Great for fans of: Cory Doctorow, Rob Reid’s After On.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A