...[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.
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.
Wolfe’s writing doesn’t differ much from those who came before her in this regard. She’s informative and has spoken with lots and lots of people up and down the peninsula. But unlike (most) others who come to the Valley with heaps of skepticism, Wolfe instead treats that plot of earth as if it’s mystical and magical, worthy of a place in history and something akin to the Greek odes to Aphrodite and Dionysus. But gods the nerds are not ... Wolfe’s writing can oscillate between graciously beautiful and being almost too explicative. (I didn’t need to know the name of everyone she met along her journey, but I feel as if I did.) But when her storytelling works, it works well ... Where I found myself getting frustrated was with Wolfe’s decision to omit facts that don’t fit that particular part of the story.