The Unknowns: A Novel

The Unknowns: A Novel

by Gabriel Roth


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The Unknowns: A Novel 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
The Unknowns is the first novel by American author, journalist and software developer, Gabriel Roth. Eric Muller is the quintessential computer nerd trying really hard not to be a dork. At school he never quite managed to fit in, stumbling from one social disaster to another; as an adult, despite being a Silicon Valley millionaire, he goes to great lengths to not appear socially awkward, and his ultimate solace is still writing computer code. Enter journalist Maya Marcom. Eric finds himself in love with this enigmatic woman, but will their relationship survive the dark secret she carries from her past? Roth does a brilliant job of portraying a teenager with a dysfunctional childhood trying to understand how the world works and his place in it. The teen angst, self-centredness and confusion are skilfully conveyed. Even as the reader laughs, cringes, gasps and groans at his decisions, Eric’s adult thoughts are a revealing look at the analytical mind of the computer nerd. Because the story is told as a first person narrative, the reader never gets to know the other major characters really well, but this is entirely appropriate, as they are just some of the unknowns that Eric spends his time trying to allow for as he calculates (and sometimes grossly miscalculates) the best possible action to take to optimise his chances in life. Roth manages to inject plenty of humour (the Ecstasy episode is particularly hilarious), and handles certain dark topics in a sensitive and insightful manner. An inspired debut novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good! I like your writing style!
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The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
Computers are Cool in 'The Unknowns' Note: I won this book in a Twitter giveaway from @littlebrown  Have you ever read a book that has you wanting to tear your hair out because you are so torn on how you should be reacting to it? This is one of those books. On the one hand, I loved it. I read it, more or less, from start to finish and could not put it down. Plus, it takes place around Denver, where I live, and a lot of the locations are real, so it was easily to visualize. But….  I feel a little disconnected from the decade that I grew up/went to high school in. Let me explain. The Unknowns is the story of a computer geek named Eric. A total nerd in high school who had his fair share of embarrassments, he becomes a multi-millionaire by the age of 24 by doing exactly what he was previously made fun of for doing. Of course, with money comes more opportunities for social exchanges, and this awkward kid learns to navigate the world of women. But soon he learns that not everything is as it seems and, at the root of things, there are unknowns (when I first started reading, I thought The Unknowns were people, but of course, they aren’t – they are the things about others that we don’t know, and in hindsight, this was fairly obvious).¿ But back to my point. In the book, Eric is only four years older than I am. While I could relate to a lot of his high school agony, whether on behalf of him or his antagonizers, most of his high school days are about the desire to conceal his computer geekiness. The problem with this is that I don’t remember computers being so foreign in 1996. I had a family computer with AOL and chatrooms and word processing at that time. And I certainly don’t remember dark dungeon-like classrooms for the computer nerds to run off to during lunch. Perhaps this was the case when Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were doing their thing, but I don’t remember this being an issue when I was in high school. Then again, maybe my school just had an inordinate amount of technology and so it wasn’t as taboo as it was in other schools. Either way, Eric ultimately makes computers look cool. Maybe it’s because computer sensations  are cool now and so I’m backdating their coolness based on fame and success, but it happened none the less.  Plus, Roth does a great job of making the reader see the beauty in a software that works. Here’s a quote that demonstrates this much better than I could: “Most software makes people struggle, and so when they notice it they see it as an enemy. But if a designer can anticipate not only the user’s  goals but the user’s instincts and assumptions, user’s will feel that the software cares about then, pays attention to their needs – loves them. And they’ll start to love the software back. All feelings of love toward technology are this kind of reciprocal love, I think.” (p. 90) But where I’m unable to connect with Eric on a technological level, it is made up for in leaps and bounds on a social level. I remember being awkward. I remember being gawky. I remember (probably because this still happens) saying or doing the wrong thing in social situations.  His ability to delve into the human psyche is incredible, and Roth manages to put onto paper a perspicaciousness rarely found these days (perspicacious is also my favorite word right now and Roth is only the second author I’ve ever come across to use it). Another quote (because Roth says it best) to demonstrate this is: “…. we see others from the outside, all smooth surfaces and fixed appearances, and ourselves from the inside, with our subjectivities and histories…” The Unknowns has a way of threading its way into your inner self and thrusting your doubts and questions to the surface. Because we, as people, are social beings whose current lives are crafted by our histories, each reader will have a different experience – but each one is worthwhile.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wanted to challenge myself and read something a little different than what I normally read. This was good it kept my interest. I love wit of the main character Eric.