What it’s about:
Taylor Harden is a man on the edge.
The edge of fame. The edge of untold wealth.
The edge of utter humiliation.
He built an unhackable system, and in front of everyone, it’s hacked.
His reputation goes from king to goat in a split second. Boom. Like that.
Some dude in Barrington, USA (AKA Nowhere) has locked down Taylor’s code, and if he doesn’t get it back, he’s going to be wearing a monkey suit for the rest of his life.
Except, this guy? This hacker from Nowhere? He’s not a guy.
Harper Watson’s all woman. And she has a plan for Taylor, his code, and his body.
King of Code is an engaging game of cat and mouse. Author C.D. Reiss has infused the opening chapters with the life-like tension involved in every high tech rollout since Hewlett, Packard, Woz, and Jobs started crafting sci-fi-like innovations in their Palo Alto garages. Beyond a couple small gripes that I will share later, I really enjoyed this book. The references to the stress and tension in the valley couldn’t have been truer. The big egos, the competition, and the high stakes all felt genuine.
Ms. Reiss has peppered the story with commentary on the plight of the rust belt as well as the divergent views of the haves and have-nots. Much of the story takes place in the town of Barrington, which typifies the plight of the rust belt. It is a small town that is dying a slow, painful death since the one factory (and main job source) shut down. The remaining inhabitants are forgotten or written off as stupid, lazy rubes. I loved how Ms. Reiss showed that one’s prejudice about a group influences acceptance of an individual from “that” group, and how getting to know the individual from said group can make him/her more acceptable. I especially loved that this calling out happened on both sides of the haves and have-nots. The inhabitants of Barrington are just as ready to judge Taylor as he is ready to judge them.
Equally interesting additions to the story are the ideas of (1) Taylor’s current situation being a result of his prior, questionable actions (karma), (2) Taylor’s up-bring and how that influences his perceptions, (3) Penance for someone else’s misdeeds, (4) the Townies’ blind loyalty to the Barrington sisters, and (5) the comparison of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Blue Carbuncle to Harper’s activities. These little gems are deftly woven into the story and revealed as Taylor and Harper play their cards.
Taylor and Harper are great characters. Both are wicked smart, but only one has powerful connections. One had humble beginnings and one has fallen on hard times. Together, they’re an interesting story. Taylor thinks very highly of himself, but it is really Harper who is in complete control. She outplays him until he is lulled into complacency and accepts her apparent guilelessness. Or is it love? Who knows? However, Harper is the wake-up call Taylor needs. He’s read the hype on his genius one time too many, but being stuck in Barrington, forces Taylor to take stock of his life and reassess his goals and motivations.
San Jose and Silicon Valley are my hometown, and I appreciated some of the references to the area. There is the obvious Tesla, and the less well known, but locally iconic, Scott’s Seafood—a long time business lunch location. As a local, my two beefs are the use of “SanJo” and “Cali”. Longtime residents refer to San Jose as “downtown” (as opposed to “the city” which is San Francisco), and more recent-to-the-area locals use SJ, or DTSJ. SanJo is “outsider” slang that is equivalent to using Frisco in reference to San Francisco. Same with Cali; sadly, the rapper reference is gaining in popularity with non-natives. While use of “SanJo” and “Cali” are like nails on a chalkboard to me, perhaps the use is fitting since main character Taylor Harden is not necessarily a native who saw the main “crop” change from apricots and prunes to microchips and code.
Ms. Reiss draws her readers into both the fast paced life in Silicon Valley where conspicuous spending is a broadcast of your success as well as to middle America where friendship and loyalty are measures of one’s success. This skillfully spun story is a suspenseful race against the clock. The potential scope of involvement and the motivation of the players will keep you guessing as to who is the true ruler of the QI4 code.
About the author: CD Reiss is a New York Times bestseller. She still has to chop wood and carry water, which was buried in the fine print. Her lawyer is working it out with God but in the meantime, if you call and she doesn’t pick up she’s at the well hauling buckets.
Born in New York City, she moved to Hollywood, California to get her master’s degree in screenwriting from USC. In case you want to know, that went nowhere but it did give her a big enough ego to write novels.
She’s frequently referred to as the Shakespeare of Smut which is flattering but hasn’t ever gotten her out of chopping that cord of wood.
If you meet her in person, you should call her Christine.
Promotional materials courtesy of Social Butterfly PR