Cover Image: Viral


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Member Reviews

As someone in the midst of my masters, I rarely get the chance to enjoy a good fiction book that also relates to my current research project, so Viral became a bit of a guilty pleasure for me to read on an evening as I unwound for the night, whilst retaining the excuse it was in technicality a good reference point I could discuss in my diss. 
Viral, is arguably ever more relevant since the pandemic swept the world, as we are ever increasingly living our lives on the web, and the dark underbelly that surrounds us and our consumption of content (in that inauthentic identities and more are visible all around us but we don't ultimately notice), the satire is spot on if at times broaching the realm of the uncanny, in that this fictional realm is just too close to reality to deny elements could very much be real!
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Viral is a satirical novel about Berlin start-ups, power, and money, turning a mocking eye towards the tech industry's attempts to 'disrupt' everything. Ned and Alice are entrepreneurs with a social media start-up in Berlin that seems to be taking off, but whilst Alice is focused on that making money, Ned is thinking of other ideas, including an app to be the Uber of the sex work world. However, his app catches the attention of Berlin's underworld, and Ned seems to be losing control of his company, as both threat and business move quickly.

This is a book that is darkly mocking, presenting a ridiculous pair of protagonists (especially Ned, who thinks he's ironically emulating start-up guys when really he just clearly is one) in a wild situation, when success comes at the same time as an underworld threat. It really focuses on the absurdity of the technology industry, and particularly on people trying to get rich quick in a cool way with Berlin offices and a detachment from the real world. This makes it clever, but also it lacks engagement with some of the issues around gentrification and race that it raises due to the tone and the fact things have to absurdly work out.

I read Sperling's previous novel Astroturf a while back and didn't realise that this is a kind of sequel to it until I was nearly at the end of this and happened to look at the blurb of my copy of Astroturf, realising that the protagonist had the same name. You don't need to have read Astroturf to read Viral, but it does explain why Viral contains a lot of cryptic references to Ned's previous dodgy dealings. It is a cutting look at people who moved to Berlin to create start-ups with an underlying edge of suspense.
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This was a perfect book for the times we're living in, complete escapism during lockdown.Viral felt different  to anything I've ever read but so poignant in subject matter, fitting perfectly into the way we live now, in the age of Social Media and 'Fake News'. 
The pace and structure of the story were perfect, dark in parts but with a sense of humour, The characters were well written and relatable, I feel like Ned and Alice were people that I've come across in my own life!
I will definitely be recommending this book to friends, it's t a shame that the release date is still so far off as I've really enjoyed it whilst being stuck at home and look forward to being able to discuss it with friends once they've read it. 

Thank you to Matthew Sperling, Quercus Books and NetGalley for the advanced copy.
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Viral is a deliciously vicious and sly read, that's extremely well paced and feels all too real for the times we live in. Absolutely gripping and unputdownable page turner from Matthew Sterling.  This is one that would spark some very lively and interesting debates if you are in a book club.
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'Viral' by Matthew Sperling is a brilliant, satirical take on modern life. 
The main plot focuses on Alice and Ned who run ‘The Thing Factory’ in Berlin; a fast paced startup with an emphasis on social media advertising. Everything appears all well, if not slightly arrogant with the group of young and ambitious workers but Ned has a less than squeaky clean past. The story begins to take a darker turn after the company begins work on an app for the Berlin escort industry; their idealism believing that it will give women control of their work life. However Ned soon discovers the old bosses strongly disagree with their power being taken away in this modern way. 
The whole narrative in this book is tightly wound in pace and brilliantly vicious in tone. Personally this was a departure from the type of books that I usually read but it was a breath of fresh air in terms of its critical and biting remarks on the move towards young, online start-ups. I enjoyed the setting choice of Berlin which fits the character’s modern attitude to life but the darker underbelly references their shadier approach to ambition and competitiveness with one another. A brilliant novel which really probes into the human side of a ‘fake news’ era.
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Mathew Sperling has written a very entertaining novel. Set in Berlin at the time of the 2015 UK election it tells the story of a startup whose CEOs form the main protagonists. Ned has a tainted past having raised the required funds through dubious enterprises. Alice is highly motivated, determined to succeed following a failed acting career. Their startup called The Thing Factory uses social media as an advertising platform. Ned diversifies by developing an online platform to give autonomy to sex workers. 

The story is captivating; it drew me in with its cast of quirky twenty somethings. It is written with skill and craft. I chose to read this as the review described the story as fast paced and satirical, I wanted to read humour to uplift my current mood in these dark times. It is certainly fast paced and unique, part of the time line is narrated from the perspective of both Ned and Alice. The story satirized the startup and social media phenomenons, particularly in the first half of the book, unfortunately I didn’t find it very humorous; this may be down to my current mood. I would recommend this novel.

I wish to thank Matthew Sperling, Quercus Books and NetGalley for the advanced copy of Viral in exchange for an honest review.
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