★★★★ In Lee Barckmann’s Digging Up New Business: The SwiftPad Takeover, a failed green energy entrepreneur named Kip Rehain has a fateful encounter with local tech legend Cynthia “GG” Oglethorpe at a meet-and-greet in Portland. GG has an idea for a cutting-edge competitor in the social media arena, and it just so happens that Kip is looking for his next big gig. After connecting over the project, the pair begins putting in motion their plan to make GG’s app, SwiftPad, a market leader. But, of course, business is never quite that easy, and as SwiftPad starts to gain attention, so too does it start to gain enemies. And while most of this newfound hostility is strictly business, it appears that someone out there is more interested in taking lives than it taking shares of company stock. In the unpredictable world of Portland tech, anything can happen—even murder.
Digging Up New Business: The SwiftPad Takeover by Lee Barckmann is a high-tech, highbrow amalgam of social satire and hard-boiled sci-fi. Though its premise sounds quite serious, Barckmann’s story is populated by colorful characters and strange workings, which keep things light. The author has taken clear inspiration from seminal sci-fi authors like Philip K. Dick and Neal Stephenson, managing to mold their often outlandish scenarios into a fast-paced, sharp-turning plot that sounds like it could never happen, but is very likely happening right now. While this isn’t necessarily a novel that encourages you to root for its characters, readers will nevertheless engage deeply with its dialogue, social insight, and earnest quirkiness.