Cynthia Marone was a fortunate woman, so she thought. It was her first day of work at her first real job after art school and she landed an executive assistant position at Amber and Associates, the fastest growing software firm in the New York financial marketplace. Unfortunately, as her day progressed she realized that the executive suite was chaotic and the executives themselves seemed too self-absorbed to do any work. Gordon, the one executive with workaholic habits had been warning the senior managers that someone was hacking their data but, since the company was recording record profits and headed for an IPO, he was ignored. Eventually, Gordon was fired and the company assumed that everything was fine. Cynthia developed a love life and the executives spent their days consuming three hour lunches and generally congratulating themselves for their superior management skills. On the day of the IPO, their software crashes, bringing down their clients with them. The IPO soon falls short of its opening price and the managers must find the ability to turn the situation around.
DAYS OF AMBER is a humorous, well-written account of life at a software development company. Unlike the huge software houses of Silicon Valley, Amber and Associates is a boutique developer serving hedge funds and other financial institutions in New York City. The plot moves smoothly through the harrowing days leading up to the IPO and accurately captures the mile-a-minute trading atmosphere of Wall Street. The characters, at first, seem to be stereotypes but as the story line progresses they begin to flesh themselves out while maintaining a consistency with their original quirks and vulnerabilities. Author Alex Chu uses this to excellent advantage by expanding their foibles beyond what a reader might expect. For example, one of the executives is a terse, tight-lipped Eastern European with a proclivity toward sadomasochism. He meets the love of his life and they have a torrid evening involving “whips, chains and chocolate covered cabbages”. There are a couple of minor shortfalls in the book, like the description of how the security settings can be “on” or “off” and the ease with which this is done. For the most part, however, the technical operation is fairly well described. Occasionally, as with most comedy, there is a suspension of verisimilitude to create a humorous scene, as when the entire company chases the hacker across the lobby. The climactic scene is punctuated with a hilarious account of the receptionist going into labor while the company is trying to throttle the hacker to death. This actually extends the comedy beyond a simple chase scene.
DAYS OF AMBER is a hilarious send up of executive pretentiousness and corporate greed. Each character is perfectly meshed into the story and the action progresses smartly to its conclusion. It is sometimes difficult to find humor on Wall Street these days but Chu seems to have done so.