For What It's Worth

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: The Start-Up series by Sadie Hayes

Summary: Set against the fast-paced, winner-take-all world of Silicon Valley, where today’s software geek is tomorrow’s billionaire, The Start-Up chronicles the meteoric rise of Adam and Amelia Dory, a talented brother and sister team. With only each other to rely on, the naïve eighteen-year-olds must make their way through a treacherous world of money, power, and envy.

The Start-Up episodes are an interesting concept in story telling for the changing way we read books. The story slowly unravels over a series of novellas - or episodes, as they are called. They are released about 2 months apart in e-book format, priced at about $2.99 per episode. Three have been released so far.

Amelia Dory is a brilliant computer engineer who develops code like a musical prodigy creates a song. It just flows through her and she is content with the process. She's not looking for fame or fortune. The thrill of creating code is enough for Amelia. Her twin brother Adam, however, wants to become rich and powerful. They are attending Stanford on a scholarship and he always feels inferior to the trust fund kids around him. This time one of Amelia's codes for an iPhone app is something BIG.

Amelia: 'I wrote a little program linking the phone signals with television and radio frequencies, so I can control them with my iPhone. It's like an eye. The program is, I mean, in that it can see other devices and access their frequencies.'

Everyone and their brother is vying for this technology and for Amelia to work for them. Adam seeing it as their ticket to the top, convinces her to give up her moral high ground and join venture capitalist Tom Fenway's tech incubator. Adam and Amelia are in way over their heads when they head into the cut throat world of Silicon Valley.

Each episode is fast paced and plunges you into a high tech world of moral dilemmas, double crosses, black mail and corporate intrigue. I've seen a few people compare it to the movie The Social Network and I agree but I would also say it contains a good dose of The Lying Game. Aside from Amelia, we never know who to trust or root for. As she and Adam cross paths with new associates, the waters get murkier when everyone scrambles to get a bigger piece of the pie.

Amelia and Adam are the main focus of the series but there is a wide cast of characters who's stories often overlap as secrets and plot twists unfold.

Episode #1: The Start-Up, introduces us to the high tech and often cut throat world of Silicon Valley while Episode #2: The Anti-Social Network sets up the overall story arc as Amelia and Adam develop Doreye - their new start-up company.

I just read the newest Episode #3: Beautiful Code and I have to say it might just be my favorite. The gang heads to Hawaii to introduce Doreye and Amelia's cutting edge technology at the Maui Waves of Disruption tech showcase. This feels like a game changing episode, particularly with Adam. He often goes unnoticed and under appreciated but may have more of a nose for business than every one thinks. That might not be a good thing.
One negative for this type of format is that there is a lot going on at a very quick pace, within a small time frame. Although this is primarily Amelia and Adam's story we do get multiple POV's from the supporting players. I wasn't always sure what a particular viewpoint had to do with the main story. At first this can be distracting but by episode #3 I'm getting into the groove of things and have no problem following along. Occasionally I felt that each episode has a little too much going but again, I can see how it's all coming together now that the groundwork has been established.

All of the episodes end on killer cliffhangers but with the next one coming out in a few months it's not too bad.

Rating: The Start-Up: Episode #1 - 3 out of 4 stars. The name dropping sometimes felt a little forced (Google, iPhone, Facebook were mentioned frequently) but this was a nice fun fast paced novella if you're a fan of twists, turns and the dangers of technology and Big Brother knowing your every move.
Rating: The Anti-Social Network: Episode #2 - 3 out of 4 stars. There is no turning back for Adam and Amelia after this episode. The twists start coming fast and furious both in their business and personal lives and with this series what goes around comes around.
Rating: Beautiful Code: Epsiode #3 - 3.5 out of 4 stars. A nice relaxing vacation in Maui sounds great for the Dory twins but this is a game changing episode for several characters.

The Start-Up on Facebook


  1. This is a very interesting concept and pretty cool actually. It may give authors a whole other outlet. I'm glad you enjoyed these for the most part.

  2. Cool! Like webisodes for books. I was addicted to the mini ones for The Walking Dead that showed the story from other survivor's POVs, but like you said, I felt like there was more to the fast paced story. Still, I can see the appeal in these.

    1. I started the Walking Dead too. The Start-Up series is sort of like that except not a graphic novel and on ebook instead.

  3. I am not sure, it's just, will there be many? And then it will be so expensive for just novellas

    1. I do wonder how many there will be total. I'm not sure I would want to follow indefinitely, especially wiht the cliffhangers. I think I could handle under 10 if it had a solid outcome.
      It's an interesting experiment.

  4. Heavens, this sounds incredibly intriguing. Never heard of anyone doing something like this, either in terms of the 'episode' novellas or the very neat concept with the tech genius and all the deceit. :-) Don't know if I want to spend the time on it, but I like knowing it's out there!