(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

John Seabrook, a staff writer for THE NEW YORKER, began his two-year exploration of cyberspace in late 1993 when he was assigned to do a profile of Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corporation, and decided that it might be a good idea to buy a modem and communicate with Gates via e-mail. The book is a personal account of Seabrook’s discovery of the unique on-line world from e-mail to the World Wide Web.

The first three chapters focus on the e-mail Seabrook received from Bill Gates as well as some of the responses he and Gates received after the profile appeared. Subsequent chapters describe Seabrook’s first flame letter, a scorching criticism of his failure to give due credit to one of his sources for the Gates article; his first virtual sexual experience during a private chat session, in which he pretends to be female; his efforts to find a community of computer users on the WELL, a hippie-yuppie bulletin board; and his creation of his first World Wide Web site.

This is not a book for experienced on-line addicts or web surfers; it is written for the millions of computer users just discovering the Internet and the Web. Seabrook’s approach is that of a “newbie” who traverses the on-line world in a tentative, exploratory way; his persona is that of a pioneer in a frontier world. The tone of the book is personal, with the emphasis neither on information or philosophic implications of the on-line world, but rather Seabrook’s individual reactions to its many unique features.

Sources for Further Study

Chicago Tribune. February 16, 1997, XIV, p. 5.

The Economist. CCCXLIII, May 17, 1997, p. 11.

Executive Female. May, 1997, p. 65.

GQ: Gentlemen’s Quarterly. LXVII, February 1, 1997, p. 65.

New Scientist. CLIII, March 8, 1997, p. 41.

The New York Times Book Review. CII, February 16, 1997, p. 23.

The Observer. March 9, 1997, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLIV, January 6, 1997, p. 58.

The Spectator. CCLXXVIII, March 8, 1997, p. 30.

Time. CXLIX, February 10, 1997, p. 82.

The Washington Post Book World. XXVII, March 16, 1997, p. 11.