Written by Jack Cheng
Jack Cheng was born in Shanghai and grew up in a suburb of Detroit. After a few years in advertising as art director and copywriter, he left to start his own company, co-founding Disrupto, makers of Steepster and Memberly.
He became a full-time writer in 2013 and published These Days, his debut novel about the human side of technology. He currently lives in Brooklyn.
These Days is a modern-day love story about a guy who designs prop computer interfaces for furniture showrooms and a girl who doesn’t have a—and despises the—smartphone. It is a book about creativity, technology, startups, our relationships with the technology we embrace and use everyday, and how that effects our real life relationships.
The book was crowd-funded through Kickstarter in 2012 and Jack typeset and designed the book himself. He printed a limited edition run of hardcovers and now a paperback and e-book version are available online.
These Days interested me because it is a novel about technology. I hardly ever read novels about technology. Not that I try to avoid them, but it’s just not that easy to find specifically great ones. Also, there’s something confronting about them, as is the case with this book.
Simply put, this book is about a designer who ends up in the startup scene and finds a girlfriend who doesn’t like the startup scene and the people it consists of. The guy, Connor, practically lives online and uses his phone a lot throughout the day. He uses technology to distract himself from the present but capture and relive the past, whereas his girlfriend, K, doesn't use technology because she wants to live in the moment and forget the past.
Cheng reflects on today’s life and the way we use technology, as a whole, by describing Connor and K’s relationship and how technology effects their lives. He captures the start-up life very well and his way of writing is very pleasant, making the book a joy to read.
Although I love the way I can use technology to make my life better, this book also served as a kick in the nuts. It inspired me to get out a bit more (‘live in the moment’, as cheesy as it sounds), just like K does. The book kept wandering around in my head for a couple of weeks, reminding me of that. Jack Cheng is one of the most interesting debutants I came across lately, and I’m looking forward to what he will bring next.