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I received a free copy of this book to review. However, the following review is my honest opinion.

After a job interview involving drinks, a club (not the wooden bat), and a lack of personal hygiene, Dan starts a much-needed job as a programmer for Former.ly. The company basically runs an online, public diary, except your profile is hidden as long as you’re alive. You have to die to really use the site. That’s right, folks. They’re trying to capitalise on death.

For Dan, the hours are long, his bosses are weird, and he never knows what’s going on. His strained relationship with his girlfriend begins to show cracks. Dan knows he needs to either drop the job or lose her. But with Former.ly increasing in popularity each day, he thinks this might be his chance to make it big. Plus he’s pretty broke.

The problem is, there’s more than one good reason to quit. Dan’s paranoid bosses become more paranoid. Break-ins begin occurring at the company. It’s clear the company’s eccentric founders aren’t telling the whole truth. Or even part of it. Dan has to decide whether to jump ship now, or risk waiting until it hits the fan.

This blurb was written by me. For the author’s own description of his book, see the book’s sale page.

The Quills: 7/10

 I came to start my new job on four hours of sleep, nursing a hangover with a five o’clock shadow. Still, I got there at nine on the dot and was greeted by John, the young founder, who was wearing a pair of white Reebok Classics and a fluffy pink dressing gown, holding a steaming cup of coffee to ward off the autumnal chill.

-Dane Cobain, Former.ly

Former.ly is told in first person point of view by Dan. This book was pitched to me as literary fiction, but don’t let that scare you off. I presume it’s literary because of its subtle comments on society and social media but the tone and writing suit commercial fiction quite well. Furthermore, the plot toward the end becomes something of a slow mystery.

The writing isn’t ethereal and lyrical, as some would expect from literary fiction, but it’s straightforward, has personality, and it works. There are a few places extraneous words can be cut to make sentences snappier, but those aren’t a big issue. The themes are there, but they don’t stick out to jab you in the eye, which is great.

The plot moves quite slowly but builds up to the climax well. It gradually accelerates as it approaches the climax, but for more impatient readers, the pace may be too slow and dragged out. During some parts, it seems as though a lot of things are happening, but the plot isn’t really moving.

The world is their office, and their office is their playground. Although the book is set in modern London and America, the real world is in their office and online, on their computers. The offices are described well. These descriptions add to the tone and appropriately shift with the plot. As for the online world, the tech details are a nice touch, but sometimes it feels like too much. It will go over people’s heads. Certainly, it went over mine. It’s often unnecessary to know that applets are being coded in PHP or javascript so the sections with a whole slew of technical terms felt a little pointless.

The characterisation is like a breath of fresh air. It’s subtle and the character traits are mostly shown by what they do rather than described bluntly. The people are real. Or rather, they have different sides (the main characters, at least). They’re smart, funny, lazy, jealous, sad, impatient, worried, temperamental,  and they aren’t afraid to be different. With the plot moving sloth-paced, it’s really the characters that drive the book. I mean, I wouldn’t want to know any of them in real life because they’re crazy, but they’re not flat and one-dimensional.

The Roses: 6/10

Personally, I loved the concept but in execution, I thought it moved a bit too slowly. Parts of the book felt like walking in a circle. A very small one. A lot of things were happening, but nothing was really going anywhere. At the end, I could see better that it was a gradual descent, but that didn’t make the slow parts seem any faster.

I loved the characters. They’re all crazy in the most awesome way.

Just because I have to be picky, I’ll say type this: it bothers me that a professional programmer doesn’t know what a keylogger does. Like, c’mon, it’s in the name. I understand it’s used as a device to explain keyloggers to the reader, but it seemed awkward and forced to me.

At first, I was a little disappointed by the relationship between Dan and his girlfriend but in the end, it seemed exactly right.

This feels like one of those books best read twice. In quick succession. Only then do the fine details sink in. I’m just not sure if I want to slog through the slow parts again.

Conclusion: If you’re more into quick, plot-based books, this may not be the one for you but if you’re willing to wait it out and pay attention to the details, Former.ly is a great read with an intriguing concept.

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