Once in a while you come upon a book that throws you completely unguarded off your feet. When you buy a book you usually have an idea what to expect to find between the covers and you prepare yourself for a pleasurable journey into a new world unknown. But when you get a free copy of an e-book as a runner up for the review giveaway contest, you do not know much about it, or whom you are going to deal with and spend your Kindle-time with during the next few days or weeks.
Mara Winkle is the heroine of Eliot Peper's Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0 (The Uncommon Series). She is a strong female character caught in the bizarre love-business triangle between her boyfriend Craig and her best friend James. Craig and James are not too much fond of each other, which makes Mara's life even more colorful and exciting, pushing her every now and then to express her strong character in both decision-and-relationship making. Beside being strong headed and ready to cut off people seemingly without a second thought or regret, Mara is passionate about mountain biking and especially rock climbing. "Climbing was the most intellectually intense sport Mara had experienced. She had heard it described as physical chess. It was a kind of dynamic athletic geometry and there was a good reason bouldering routes were called problems. Every move was an exercise in balance, a special mixture of intuition and calculation." However, she is not so enthusiastic about studying at the University of Colorado, Boulder, especially when her best friend James asks her to partner with him to start a new software company Mozaik Industries.
This is a decision that changes both James' and Mara's lives. In their new partnership, James focuses himself on "what he does best, technical development to make Mozaik as awesome as it can possibly be" while Mara becomes "the buffer between him and all the rest of the random shit that needs doing” (Peper describes them as sales, investment, legal, and marketing). In short, they split their roles in doing what they are both best at: "programming for James, juggling for Mara." How this decision affects Craig we won't mention here, so as not to reveal too much and thus spoil the thrill of reading!
This is the moment when all the fun starts in Uncommon Stock, placing this novel among the ranks of fast-paced tech startup thrillers. For new entrepreneurs and enthusiasts Uncommon Stock may serve as a greatly informative and educational reading full of useful advice, but also as the warning on the cruel facts of starting your own business. "Founding a company is a fuck-ton of work. The sausage factory reality is far from the glitzy Silicon Valley mythology. It's a grinding slog that can be enormously satisfying and rewarding, but it's also painful, frustrating, and soul-crushing. If you're going to make it you'll have to sink blood, sweat, and tears into the process. And if you're going to make that kind of a commitment, you've got to truly believe in what you're doing. You've got to be such a zealot that other people are magnetically attracted to you and what you're working on. You've got to dream."
Eliot Peper masterfully leads us through a painful startup process, showing us all the traps and hardships we face along the way. No price is too high, every mistake is paid dearly. Before we realize it, we have already accumulated basic knowledge of the craft, ending up much smarter than we were before starting reading this exciting, adventurous, wise and gripping novel of a slightly unusual title.
In between twists and turns, Eliot Peper amazes us with beautifully intelligent descriptions and ingenious eye for a detail. "They people-watched along the way, relishing the familiar oddities of Boulder's unique human condition. Cyclists were out in force. Mara wondered why it was considered cool to wear jerseys plastered with tacky Fortune 500 branding. A shirtless homeless man was loudly touting the spiritual virtues of vegetarianism and handing out handwritten flyers on the evils of meat from a street corner." "The sky was mostly clear with a thin patina of smog and the sun shone down on an endless grid of concrete, steel, asphalt, and cars. An occasional palm tree or soccer field broke up the urban mélange." "Trees occupied a different dimension than humans. Movement was never an option. They were literally rooted in place and experienced the world through a permanently local lens. Seeds blew off in the wind to sprout new trees in places the parents would never see. And entire generations lived in one area."
Or, "The snakes in her stomach had distilled into a cocktail of righteous anger and frustration."
I don't shun admitting: Eliot Peper bought me with his descriptions, if not only with his page-turning plot. Uncommon Stock is a high-quality intelligent and intriguing writing of a skillful and undoubtedly talented author whose success and a true value cannot be measured only by a number of sold copies, but also by a commitment and professionalism of this indie writer invested into creating the best end-product for his readers, the only ones that matter to him.
I wouldn't be surprised if it also helps a few startup businesses in the process with his motivational and inspirational dialogues, situations and advices, because, as the author himself says in the novel, "there is something ephemeral but infinitely satisfying about starting something yourself."