Tom Janeway lives in Seattle with his wife Beth and their four-year-old son, Finn. Tom is a middle-aged Englishman who teaches writing at the University of Washington; Beth, somewhat younger, is an editor at GetAShack.com. It’s 1999 and the DotCom boom is raging. Chick is an illegal immigrant from China, with a raging entrepreneurial streak, who ends up wandering in and out of Tom’s life.
Tom is perceptive enough to be an occasional commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered, yet oblivious to the problems in his marriage, and he’s flabbergasted when Beth leaves him. Worse still, through being in the wrong place at the wrong time, he becomes a person of interest in the abduction of a child, and he becomes a pariah when it’s mentioned in a Stranger article.
Raban brings DotCom Seattle to life, against a backdrop of the WTO riots, the cancellation of the millenial New Year’s celebration after the arrest of a bomber at Port Angeles, and other events that had slipped my mind.
Surprisingly few novels (to my knowledge) have attempted to capture the computer culture of Seattle. Only Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs and Daniel Oran’s so-so Ulterior Motive come to mind.
Tom is likeable and decent, yet exasperating in his obliviousness. Beth, Finn, and Chick are all strongly realized characters.
Entertaining and perceptive, and one of the better novels set in Seattle.