...[a] voyeuristic cultural history ... Racy and fun, Wolfe's dossier exposes the Valley as a high-tech playground, populated by workaholic millennials coding for driven, primarily male moguls, and by wunderkinds lured there by the call of like-minded brainiacs and the promise of big bucks—and of maybe participating in a polyamorous bang-fest or two in a mattress-strewn converted warehouse ... Wolfe's entertaining and intensive look inside this aspirational, transformational, and transgressive lifestyle is both celebration and cautionary tale.
Meet the conned, who, alas, include the author of Valley of the Gods: A Silicon Valley Story. Alexandra Wolfe spins a tale of Silicon Valley absurdity masquerading as altruism, although she’s unlikely to pitch it in these terms ... Wolfe certainly benefited from access to a colorful class of characters, even if they are predominantly male and resolutely infantile ... Adding insult to injury is Wolfe’s sometimes shaky understanding of how Silicon Valley got to be the 'valley of the gods' ... In this story, regulations and rules seem hardly to matter, which may explain why Santa Clara County has two dozen Superfund cleanup sites.
Whether Thiel’s radical libertarian outlook and declinist view of American innovation mark him as emblematic of Silicon Valley or as an eccentric, these ideas have never been worthier of interrogation. And yet, though Thiel hovers above Wolfe’s narrative like an Oz-like godhead, he is barely a presence in it, except when he’s the recipient of its adulation ... Eventually Valley of the Gods reveals itself in part as a tour through Silicon Valley’s cultural mores, from its group houses and startup accelerators and dating scene (insofar as it has one) to its highest-flying obsessions, like human immortality and advanced A.I. ... Wolfe doesn’t seem interested in mounting a critique of Silicon Valley writ large that is anywhere near as perceptive as Burnham’s, and she certainly doesn’t pursue the uglier directions that Thiel’s view of the universe has taken him.