Award-winning author Joan Gelfand delivers a fast-paced, fun, and edgy thriller with her debut novel, EXTREME (July 14, 2020; Blue Light Press/First World Publishing; ISBN: 978-1-4218-3651-5; $21.95, Original Trade Paperback). Set in a high-risk gaming startup peopled with world-class skateboarders and power-hungry executives, worlds collide when a Hollywood producer comes calling. Enter Hope Ellson, a talented, driven woman who has fought her way up in the tech industry.
Written with an insider’s view, EXTREME follows the journey of a startup—from a pair of skateboarder’s bold idea to building a site that can withstand a global audience and finally to crisis management. Featuring a dynamic pair of quirky founders, coding geniuses, intrepid fans, and hard-nosed deal makers, EXTREME is complicated by an app built on scrappy code, unresolved love affairs and the tension between authenticity and commercialism.
When Silicon Valley CEOs and recruiters turn to the topic of “who’s innovating,” one name always comes up: Hope Ellson. What Hope and her partner (and ex-lover) Doug Wiser pulled off at Topia—one of the very first companies to break through from a geeky to a global audience—is the stuff of legend. For the past year, Hope has been heads down at Manuserve, doing banal enterprise software work and collecting a fat paycheck. When Arthur McKnight, corporate raider and startup kingpin recruits her, Hope is sure she’s landed in her dream job. Despite a few red flags, she leaps headfirst into his latest buzzy young company: FearToShred.
Before making a job offer, Arthur tells Hope the backstory. It began when he discovered two rock star boarders—Jeff Price, whose star rose when a YouTube clip of his 18-foot jump between two rooftops went viral, and Julie Tang, who’d won gold at the X Games —working on an app for skateboarders. FearToShred grows fast when Jeff and Julie started sending out quirky challenges on Twitter—execute 360s and ollies under a full moon; catapult over a creek wearing neon ski goggles. Skaters, surfers, and cyclists hop on board, posting videos of themselves shredding cool tricks. Now as CEO, Arthur envisions a future for FearToShred beyond gaming and millions of Twitter and YouTube followers: a reality show on The Action Network, with Jeff, Julie and other extreme sports stars as judges. When Arthur confides his concerns to Hope that Jeff and Julie don’t have the chops to expand the site to satisfy The Action Network’s viewership, Hope recommends the best engineer for the job: Doug Wiser.
Tracing the rapid transformation of a skater app into a real-time craze and a big-league company, EXTREME offers insight into how a startup grows and how it is vulnerable to dying before its prime. The novel also draws readers into Hope’s battles as a woman in the testosterone-heavy tech world, aggravated by relentless pressure to meet ambitious goals, clashes of titans, and working closely with a man she used to sleep with. Yes, Doug has a wife and Hope has a steady beau. But are their feelings for each other—attraction, passion, and an unsettling sense of loss or, maybe, betrayal—really in the past?
As Arthur moves closer to closing a mega deal with TAN, trouble hits. When a rogue challenge results in a tragic death, the site crashes. To keep its followers and investors, FearToShred needs to fix its glitches and prove that its quirky challenges can be safely pulled off by anyone—even an average person like Hope, the company’s uber Product Manager. Hope is willing to take one for the team, but is FearToShred worth the risk of losing her life?
EXTREME offers a glimpse inside the world of tech startups and its players in a page turner that’s sharp, quick, entertaining, and hard-hitting—a perfect combination for the perfect Summer 2020 beach read!