Book Review: Uncommon Stock, Power Play

It's funny; now that my wife and I have recently had our second child, people naturally assume we have no time for anything. Interestingly, we have time, but that time just occurs at the most odd hours of the day or night.

Last Friday night I was up at 2:30am changing my two-month-old's diaper, and as minutes led to an hour of my son not falling back asleep, I decided it was the most opportune time to crack into a new book and hunker down for some father-son bonding, with my son resting on my shoulder and my Kindle in my hand.

The book was Uncommon Stock: Power Play by Eliot Peper. It's a startup thriller about a pair of college students who drop out to found a company and end up getting caught up in a money laundering conspiracy. Power Play is Eliot's second novel and the sequel to the inaugural Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0 which came out in March. I first heard about Eliot's books from my good friend and venture capital investor Brad Feld. Version 1.0 was the lead title for Brad's new publishing company, FG Press, and I was immediately intrigued when the book was described as "John Grisham for startups."

I read Power Play in one sitting. Actually, three sittings because I needed bathroom breaks, diaper changes, and coffee. Shady venture capitalists? Desperate founders? World-changing technology? A potent mix for a startup-junkie like me. The entrepreneurial roller coaster threw flaws into sharp relief and left no character's life untouched. But this isn't a post about the plot or the story. Nobody likes spoilers anyway.

Downing the last cold drops of coffee, as the sun was coming up and my son was finally asleep, I returned my Kindle. Then I heard the buzz of my phone. There it was, sitting there innocently, notification light blinking away. Thanksgiving itineraries were being firmed up, and meetings were being moved around based on everyone's changing travel schedules. It couldn't hurt to check it, right? And if I checked Twitter along the way, well, nothing wrong with that.

Then I glanced back to the Kindle and something shifted inside me. All those social feeds and hashtags. All those updates, of which I am often a contributor. The blogosphere is obsessed with self-help because we are obsessed with success. Of our own and of others. We are sometimes more concerned about career velocity than in making the next right move. That's not surprising given that so many of our online personas are fine-tuned to demonstrate the perfection we may not be able to find offline.

If anything is the opposite of trying to make our million dollar move from a tweet, it's a novel. I came away from Power Play refreshed and rejuvenated. Stories give us a glimpse into other people's heads. We're not skimming their lessons-learned, we're experiencing their trials and tribulations alongside them. And when those people are startup founders with their lives on the line, the ride gets seriously wild. And fun. Vicarious adventure had given me the respite I needed to center myself.

Peper's novel was a welcome inspiration to my imagination. A perfect blend of cadence, suspense, startup thriller, and a pleasant change from world of hashtags. I highly recommend it.