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Literature / Microserfs

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Microserfs is the fourth novel by Douglas Coupland, written in 1995. It's about a group of friends who start out working junior positions at Microsoft in the early 90's and having little else to show for their life. After one of the group meets with Bill Gates himself for advice, they decide to quit Microsoft and move to Silicon Valley to start their own tech company, as well as get a life away from work.

The book paints an intimate and deadly accurate picture of the time period, and makes you feel like you belong to the group characters as if you know them personally.

This work provides examples of:

  • A Friend in Need: When Dan's mother has a stroke and becomes paralyzed, his friends all help take care of her.
  • Artifact Title: The main cast all quit Microsoft relatively early on in the book and never go back
  • Dance Party Ending: Sort of, the last entry is about the night Dan and his friends attempted to recreate a Pink Floyd stage show with laser pointers for his disabled mother
  • Heroic Safe Mode: It's implied that Dan's dad has been in this state ever since his little brother died. He was using his work at IBM to defer the grief of Jed's passing, and when he gets laid off early in the book he can defer it no longer and has a Tear Jerker of a breakdown.
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  • Indestructibility Montage: Several programmers do this to a Microsoft "Ship-It" award plaque by pouring acid on the plaque, dragging it behind their car on a rope, and so on. The result? A few almost-invisible scratches.
  • Mood Whiplash: Dan's dad in mourning for Jed after losing his IBM job is followed up with an entry that consists essentially of "Went to Boeing surplus, bought zinc".
  • Mythology Gag: The random words Dan inputs into his computer and the housemate's Jeopardy dream categories would appear again (though differently) in jPod.
  • Quirky Household: In the beginning of the book, five of the characters live in a group house, which Abe has been renting for years despite having boatloads of money from Microsoft stock. Dan's description of it is very telling of their nerdy quirks.
  • Production Foreshadowing Dan notices Karla never seems to talk to or about her family. She only tells him they're psychotic. Dan quips that all families are psychotic.
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  • Spiritual Successor: Microserfs has one in Coupland's 2006 novel jPod.



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