Book Review: Options – Fake Steve Jobs

For the uninitiated, Fake Steve Jobs originated as a blog purportedly written by the CEO of Apple (but whose author was eventually revealed to be Dan Lyons who writes for Forbes), where he shares his inner-most thoughts in a way the head of a public company would never even remotely consider, not even in a world without Sarbanes-Oxley, the SEC or trial lawyers.  The blog offers funny and often trenchant industry analysis and portrays Jobs as a neurotic, perfectionist, aesthetic, ruthless, monochromatic, quantitatively- and geographically-challenged, mock turtleneck-wearing, ’60s-throwback/New Age-devotee waging a lonely battle against ugly things and pretty much the entire world.  Options puts the blog’s character into a book (a medium about which I believe Gutenberg once said “Dude, I friggin invented the printing press”.  I’ll leave the shared middle name and resemblance of Johannes in the Wikipedia image to Osama Bin Laden for another post).

Both the blog and the book really shine in their characters and the language.  In addition to wonderful caricature of Jobs himself, Bono, Larry Ellison, Al Gore and Yoko Ono all make recurring and larger-than-life appearances.  Larry’s introduction as a great humanitarian is one of the funniest parts of the book.  Fake Steve has a whole set of catchphrases including “I’m Steve Jobs, I invented the friggin’ iPod – have you heard of it?” and the desire to “re-instill a child-like sense of wonder”.  The blog has propelled the  epithet “frigtard” into broader usage in my circle anyway along with its open source cousin “freetard”, the ecological “greentard” and other *tard derivatives.

The blog regularly marinates the technology industry news of the day in these characters and voice, plus regularly cuts through industry absurdity straight to the bone (e.g. Second Life, open source inconsistencies and politics, pretty much any Sun initiative), to great effect.

The book keeps the same cast and style, but instead of bite-sized pieces on the daily antics of the technology industry, its backdrop is the investigation into the backdating of stock options at Apple.  The on-going prosecution of Apple’s former general counsel and CFO plus Steve Job’s upcoming deposition where it is not clear if he is simply a witness in that case or a target for future charges gives this fictional work some topicality.  Dan’s publicist is probably praying for an indictment.

Overall, Options features the same posse of great characters from the blog, makes for a quick and crisply-written read, is laugh-out-loud funny in parts and holds together as a real book and not just a bunch of random blog posts strung together.