Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Elon Musk, the entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, sold one of his internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius's life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits. Vance u...

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Title:Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
Author:Ashlee Vance
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Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future Reviews

  • Will Byrnes

    Elon Musk is not exactly a name that rolls easily off the tongue, like say Tony Stark, the fictional person to whom he is most often compared, or even Steve Jobs, a real-world visionary, whose mantle Musk now wears. There is no question that Musk is a special individual, someone with BIG dreams and the drive, talent, and money to make them happen. But, like Jobs, and Stark for that matter, he might be an acquired taste on a personal level. In

    Elon Musk is not exactly a name that rolls easily off the tongue, like say Tony Stark, the fictional person to whom he is most often compared, or even Steve Jobs, a real-world visionary, whose mantle Musk now wears. There is no question that Musk is a special individual, someone with BIG dreams and the drive, talent, and money to make them happen. But, like Jobs, and Stark for that matter, he might be an acquired taste on a personal level. In

    biographer Ashlee Vance gives us a picture of both the dreams and the man, peering back to where Musk began, describing his journey from then to now, looking at how he is impacting the world today, and gazing ahead to where he wants to go. It is a pretty impressive vista. Here is what it says on the SpaceX website

    It might have seemed like visiting another planet when Musk split his home country of South Africa as a teen and headed to North America, anything to get away from an abusive upbringing. He seemed to been blessed not only with exceptional analytical capabilities, and probably an eidetic memory, but an impressively immense set of cojones. He was able to talk his way into whatever he needed and deftly talk his way out of trouble as well. Sometimes that entailed a bit of truth-bending, but whatever.

    - from HarperCollins

    Vance take us from his adolescence as a computer geek, bullied at school, through his arrival in Canada, cold-calling to get work, putting together his first dot.com startup, and using the money from that to invest in a banking-oriented company that would become PayPal. It was the mega-bucks from the sale of PayPal that would allow him to begin realizing his big dreams. In 2003, Musk bought into Tesla, then a struggling startup. The company took the early knowledge that lithium ion batteries had gotten pretty good, added some top level engineering, design and programming talent, and, after plenty of mis-steps and struggles, brought the remarkable all-electric Tesla Roadster to the market in 2008. Tesla followed this with the Model S in 2012. Not only did Consumer reports call this a great car, it named both the 2014 and 2015 versions the best overall cars of their years, and the best care they ever tested. The last time an auto startup succeeded in the USA was Chrysler, in the 1920s. But this is not about simply making a buck on a new car. The long term goal is to shift our petrochemical auto industry to renewable power, and the Tesla is a nifty start. Not only is the car amazing, the company has constructed a nationwide series of charging stations where Tesla owners can recharge their vehicles…for free. There are currently 499 such stations, with many more planned. Tesla is involved in building battery production factories, hoping to help support a growing electric-car auto-economy.

    - from Tesla Motors

    But this was not the only big notion that drove Musk. A parallel effort was to develop a solar power business. And with the help of a couple of enterprising cousins, he did just that. SolarCity provides the solar arrays that prove power to the Tesla charging stations, but it has also become one of the largest solar utilities in the nation, installing, maintaining a third of the nation’s solar panel systems. There is obvious benefit to both Tesla and Solar City in sharing gains in battery and other technology. But I expect the third jewel in Musk’s crown is his favorite, SpaceX.

    - from Wikimedia

    Musk doesn’t have much going on here, nothing major, only an ardent desire to colonize Mars. But it takes the establishment of an infrastructure in order to be get from point E to point M. Musk saw an opening in the market for satellite launch vehicles. Existing rockets blast things up into orbit and then burn up on their way back down. His idea was to design a rocket that could make its way back to earth in one piece, to be reused. And he has. SpaceX is nearing its goal of launching at least one rocket a month. The manifest available on SpaceX.com lists missions to date. The company also designed a capsule called the Dragon that can be used for cargo, but also for astronauts. The cost of launching a satellite using a Falcon is a fraction of what other options charge. The next step is a larger launch vehicle. Space X is expected to launch the first Falcon Heavy later this year, offering the biggest load capacity since the Saturn V was last used in 1973. And, while this is definitely good for business in the relatively short term, one must always keep in mind that this is a stage in a bigger plan for Musk. Once the launch infrastructure is established, plans can begin to move forward to put together Mars missions. Not go, look, and explore sorts of adventures, but establishing a colony, a permanent human presence on the red planet.

    - from Musk’s Twitter page

    Of course when one has one’s eyes fixed on the stars (yes, Mars is a planet, I know, Geez), there is a large inclination to lose touch with earth-bound reality. In the movie, then play, then movie

    Max Bialystock, in order to cope with the absurd success of a play that was designed to fail, suggests to his partner, Leo Bloom, that one solution would be to do away with the cast. "You can't kill the actors, Max! They're human beings," Leo says. "Human beings? Have you ever seen them eat?" Max replies. I suspect that there are more than a few folks who feel about Elon Musk the way Max felt about the actors. He is rather notorious for his insensitivity to anyone not living inside his head. For example, here is what potential recruits are told to expect when they meet with Musk.

    Musk has an amazing capacity for work, putting in monstrous hours as a matter of course. But then he expects the same from those who work for him.

    Musk even fired his loyal assistant, Mary Beth Brown, who had been with him for twelve years, after she asked for a raise. What a guy.

    Ego is certainly a big piece of the picture here. But I guess if you can do it, it ain’t bragging. Elon Musk is a larger than life figure, a computer geek, an engineer, an entrepreneur, and a dreamer, in addition to being a walking IED as someone to work for. He is one of the inspirations for Robert Downey‘s portrayal of Tony Stark in sundry Marvel Universe films. In fact, Downey came to visit Musk, specifically to get a taste of what a real billionaire techno-industrialist was like. Downey insisted on having a Tesla Roaster on the set of

    , saying, ”Elon was someone Tony probably hung out with and partied with or more likely they went on some weird jungle trek together to drink concoctions with the shamans.” Musk even had a cameo in

    . The resulting publicity from this connection did little to diminish Musk’s view of himself. Living the high-life in Tinseltown, hanging with, social, economic and media A-listers added more gas to the bag. Part of his ego issue is that he tends to take internal company timetables and announce them to the world as promises (I can see his entire staff jointly rolling their eyes, clutching palms to temples and issuing choruses of “Oh my god” and “WTF” as they spin in place), then holds his employees to those unreasonable schedules. Of course this results in many missed deadlines, much ingestion of antacid and probably the odd nervous breakdown or two.

    - fromWired

    Musk is the sort of guy who shows up with some regularity in science fiction novels, a genre trope, like the researcher who has exactly the sort of experience and insight the President/PM/Chairman/Secretary General needs in order to stave off global catastrophe. He’s the guy who has been secretly building the arc that the world needs to stave off extinction. In this case he is doing it publicly. Of course this raises some issues. Do we as a country, as a planet, really want to be reliant on private companies for our space exploration? Do we want a possible colony on Mars to be a privately held branch of Musk Industries? There are only a gazillion questions that are raised by the privatization of space. What’s good for the bottom line at SpaceX may or may not be good for humanity. We have certainly seen how a reliance on the inherent civic-mindedness and good will of corporations has worked on this planet. Musk is a dreamer, for sure, and I expect his dream of making a better world through the use of renewable energy and his hopes of establishing a human outpost on Mars are pure ideals. But the devil is always in the details, and what would happen should Musk be infected by another virulent strain of malaria and not escape with a near miss, as he did in 2001? Would the replacement CEO share his ideals? Would a replacement CEO be willing to take big risks to support those ideals? Would a replacement CEO look to sell Tesla off to GM to make a few quick billion? One person can move the world, but it takes more than a start to keep things rolling. We could certainly use plenty more people with the sort of drive and ambition that Elon Musk embodies. Innovation is a rare resource and must be cherished. But like any powerful force, it must be, if not tethered, at least monitored, to make certain that it does not run amok.

    Ashlee Vance has done an amazing job of telling not only Musk’s story, but of making the life history of the several companies with which Musk has been involved fascinating reading. I did get the sense that Vance was, from all the time he spent with Musk, smitten with his subject. While his portrait of Musk is hardly a zit-free one, I got the feeling that there might be a few more skeletons safely tucked away in closets, a few more bodies buried in basements. Nevertheless,

    is a powerful, entertaining and informative look at one of the most important people of our time. Your personal vision of the future should certainly include checking out this book.

    =============================

    Links to the author’s

    ,

    and

    pages

    Here are links to Musk’s three main companies,

    ,

    , and

    To Musk’s

    - Loooooooove the image he is using for this. He really needs a pinky ring to go with it though. There are a lot of nifty videos in here

    Here is the

    SpaceX provided with its latest Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station. There are many links in there that are worth checking out.

    A visit to the

    And be sure to check out the link Tabasco brought in - Comment #1

    Musk joins other large players in establishing a non-profit -

    April 1, 2016 - Musk announces a new generation, mass-market car for 2017,

    , but

    might give one pause.

    September 1, 2016 - New York Times -

    - by Kenneth Chang, Mike Isaac and Matt Richtel

    September 27, 2016 - New York Times -

    - by Kenneth Chang

    October 25, 2016 -National Geographic is producing a documentary series about our favorite red-tinted neighbor (no, not the lady across the way who got too much sun. Put those binoculars away NOW). Coverage in the latest issue includes a whole passel of things Martian. You-know-who figures prominently. Enjoy.

    October 28, 2016 - Huffington Post -

    - by Alexander C. Kaufman

    January 30, 2017 - NY Times -

    - by Diane Cardwelljan

    September 7, 2017 - Bloomberg.com - Vance's article about one shop's advances in AI is must-read stuff -

    September 29, 2017 - National Geographic - EM announces his updated plans for space exploration, which includes a monster vessel aptly named the BFR, or Big F___ing Rocket -

    - by Nadia Drake

    Mars City Opposite of Earth. Dawn and dusk sky are blue on Mars and day sky is red. - image from the NatGeo article

  • Mark Bao

    Excellent and inspiring. This book brought up one key question: do you have to be a bit reckless to be good? Musk was reckless in two areas: in the risks he took, and the way that he manages his companies.

    As for the first, the number of near-death experiences that Tesla, SpaceX and earlier companies went through is almost a running joke throughout this story. The Falcon 1 failed three times, exhausting the company's funds, before achieving a successful fourth flight. Tesla avoided bankruptcy by

    Excellent and inspiring. This book brought up one key question: do you have to be a bit reckless to be good? Musk was reckless in two areas: in the risks he took, and the way that he manages his companies.

    As for the first, the number of near-death experiences that Tesla, SpaceX and earlier companies went through is almost a running joke throughout this story. The Falcon 1 failed three times, exhausting the company's funds, before achieving a successful fourth flight. Tesla avoided bankruptcy by taking on a NASA-approved loan from SpaceX plus a last-minute acquisition of a company Musk invested in pulled through, and avoided being derailed by a predatory investor by a bluff on the order of $40 million. Combine these with the many situations where it didn't look like Tesla was going to build anything substantial, plus the negative media attention—the fact that Musk continued to persevere and pull through at times where most normal people would have given up is crazy.

    This risk undoubtedly took a toll on his life and relationships, through three divorces and the insane sleep deprivation he and the others on the team go through. It brings up the question—when you're doing things as big as this, how reckless do you have to be? Should you have a breaking point? Does the sustainable, get-eight-hours-of-sleep-and-exercise approach really work? Or is the right thing to do actually to push through, get four hours of sleep, and get shit done? Are those that prefer the 'sustainable' option the ones that don't succeed as much, and the reckless ones the ones that actually make progress?

    As for the second, the way that he manages his companies, he was reckless in what he demanded from people. The most notable story is of SpaceX, where employees worked on a crappy atoll in the Marshall Islands for months to deliver the Falcon 1 rocket launches. In a Jobs-like fashion, his outward personality is cold, demanding, and fearful: employees are on edge all the time and have to have answers. If someone is the bottleneck on a project, there's immense pressure on them to deliver. And you never want to be the deliverer of bad news—and if you are, you better have a solution to back it up:

    And while that is actually a good way to work—to have everything lined up—is Musk's approach the right way to manage a company? Is it the only way to be successful on incredibly difficult things? Or are Tesla and SpaceX successful in spite of this way of working—that it actually holds people back?

    Other than those questions, this is a very good overview of Musk's life and personality, and the trials and tribulations he went through to be successful—a path beset by an immense number of setbacks and late deliveries.

    What comes through clearly is how much of a genius this guy was. To get a sense of what this guy is like, consider that in his childhood, he ran out of books to read at the local library and the school library, and sometimes would read for ten hours a day. Dude also has a memory that's not only photographic, but he can wrangle images and numbers and relationships between them in his head. Insane. His ability to ingest and retain information, and his approach to knowledge, is nuts:

    What also comes across was how much Musk believes in the technological future and how much he as done to restore that promise to humanity. It's clear that he is one of the top people pushing technology and humanity forward, and that's incredibly inspiring.

    What I found a bit lacking in this book, which would have made this an excellent book, was more about Musk's inner life. Vance hypothesizes that Musk seems cold and non-emotional because he has a different sort of empathy than others: he emphasizes with the entire human species, and wants to do the most he can for them, but that makes him forget the individuals in front of him. But what does Musk think about this? How does Musk characterize his own values and experiences? Of course, this is something that few biographies do anyway, but for someone as dynamic as Musk, it would have been a welcome addition to the surface-level 'what he did' information.

    The guy's a genius, and this book, I think, represents that well. The inside look into Musk's life and work from the mid-2000s is thorough and really gives you a fantastic backstory into Musk's experience with Tesla and SpaceX. showing he did to make them successful, making this into an endlessly inspiring biography.

    FIVE STARS — Changed how I see things

  • Tom LA

    Let me offer this thought: SpaceX is the coolest and most exciting company in the world at this moment in time.

    Yes, Tesla is also extremely cool. And inspiring. But nothing can beat that feeling of power, wonder and deep inspiration that SpaceX will give you as soon as you start to understand what that company is actually doing.

    As Vance says, "SpaceX IS Elon Musk".

    So who is this man? How is it humanly possible to achieve what he has achieved? What else can he achieve in the future? Will he bec

    Let me offer this thought: SpaceX is the coolest and most exciting company in the world at this moment in time.

    Yes, Tesla is also extremely cool. And inspiring. But nothing can beat that feeling of power, wonder and deep inspiration that SpaceX will give you as soon as you start to understand what that company is actually doing.

    As Vance says, "SpaceX IS Elon Musk".

    So who is this man? How is it humanly possible to achieve what he has achieved? What else can he achieve in the future? Will he become the richest man on Earth? Or on Mars?

    Not only this book is written in a very passionate and engaging way. I also find that it is a very important book for anyone who is at least a little curious about our present and our future.

    In fact, I believe Ashlee Vance’s portrait of Elon Musk is a necessary read for anyone, because of the effect that his companies are having on the automotive, the clean energy, and the space industries. If these companies are not changing the future, at the very least they are accelerating our pace towards it.

    Vance starts out in a ballsy way, stating that he won't budge: he will write whatever he wants, however he wants it. As I got to the end of the book, I had a strong feeling that this is not exactly the case, and that a lot has been left out. However, the information that is in the book is absolutely fascinating. It is the first biography I've ever read that I would categorize as a real "page-turner".

    The "missing facts" that stand out the most in my opinion are:

    1) Childhood troubles. Musk keeps referring to a very painful and troubled childhood, but in the book all we get is some bullying and social awkwardness. Plus, a father who was "psychologically" abusive. There are many unanswered questions there, and I think Vance chose to be respectful and not dig too deeply.

    2) The miraculous last-minute save of both Tesla and SpaceX in 2008: not enough details. Something crucial seems to be missing. Whether it is a few private donors who poured in extra millions, or some other turn of fate. I don't know if Vance knows what is missing there, but something is missing.

    Overall, Elon Musk comes across as a normal human being with exceptional ambition, exceptional luck, exceptional physical energy, exceptional intelligence and exceptional confidence in his vision.

    He is an inspiration for many, and beyond Elon Musk, his companies and his vision are a huge inspiration.

    Did you notice how the most popular fictional depictions of the future (YA, etc.) in this day and age are pessimistic, dystopian, self-hating like teenagers? Well, Elon Musk is offering us a window into a future that is the exact opposite of that. Very similar to Arthur Clarke, my favorite author, another optimistic visionary. Musk's vision of the future is so bright that reminds me of the golden age of science fiction, when Clarke and Asimov were writing, when people had the courage to dream beautiful, positive dreams about the future.

    It sounds like an advertisement for a soap, but yes ----- with Musk, the future is bright again.

    Finally, I have a comment about "being a nerd": in the first part of the book, the kid Elon Musk is called a "nerd" about a million times. Why is it that in America (and in South Africa, as it seems) a very smart kid who is into reading a lot instead of playing sports, invariably, is called a "nerd"? The fact that this word DOES NOT EXIST and cannot be translated into many European languages tells us something about America. I think Isaac Asimov was onto somehting when he said: "The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

    -----------------------

    Btw, great to find out that Robert Zubrin was a big influence on Musk. He is the head of the Mars Society, a man who has been thinking about going to Mars much longer than Elon Musk has. I read Zubrin's "The case for Mars" many years ago, and I was utterly fascinated by it.

  • TS Chan

    This is a man after my own heart. Out of all the super entrepreneurs and technological legends of the modern era, Musk ticks all the boxes on my dreams and passions, particularly space. Space has always been the frontier that intrigues me the most; for a single man to dream of colonising Mars and actually doing all he can to make that a reality is just simply astounding.

    And then of course, there is Tesla. Aside from the clean energy technology which I am a hug

    This is a man after my own heart. Out of all the super entrepreneurs and technological legends of the modern era, Musk ticks all the boxes on my dreams and passions, particularly space. Space has always been the frontier that intrigues me the most; for a single man to dream of colonising Mars and actually doing all he can to make that a reality is just simply astounding.

    And then of course, there is Tesla. Aside from the clean energy technology which I am a huge proponent of, how an electric car can become one of the most desirable and good-looking cars in the world is another example of the visionary genius that Musk is.

    As with all ideas that are so progressive in nature, the trials and tribulations faced by Musk were so daunting that most would've called it quits. His indomitable will and spirit, however, sets him apart from the ordinary. He is very demanding on himself, being extremely hands-on, and also of his employees. Then again, how else are you going to change the world by compromising on the high standards that one sets for oneself.

    Notwithstanding his crazy but awesome ideas (first, the Hyperloop and now, Neuralink) the one thing that differentiates him from most current entrepreneurs is that he really seeks to change the world. He is not in it just for short term gain, which is what a lot of businesses are doing right now. A simple case in point is Tesla's open source patent.

    I'll stop gushing about Musk now and talk a bit about the biography itself. The conversational tone employed by the author translated well into audio, and the narrator did a good enough job that it didn't sound monotonous. The biography was written from extensive interviews conducted with a plethora of his ex-employees, and the people closest to Musk. This enabled a more independent and less biased insight from one which was self-penned (not that I believe Musk will ever have the time to do so). The biography was also quite educational; while I still do not know how to build a rocket or an electric car now I've gained a better understanding of certain technical aspects of these items and how they work.

    Whether you're a fan of Musk, or just intrigued by his ideas and achievements, or even if you only just desired the Tesla badly, this is a recommended read.

  • Bradley

    There are few people outside of the fiction world that I truly admire, but barring some unseen or future tragedy, I think Musk might well be on the way to becoming my hero.

    If I didn't know any better, I might be looking at all his stated claims and seeing all the echoes of Asimov and Heinlein being dragged out of the page and brought to life.

    Skip the whole Iron Man image for a second.

    Let's talk about Ayn Rand.

    Musk is John Galt. As in Atlas Shrugged.

    Sure, he's also Dagney, too, or perhaps more l

    There are few people outside of the fiction world that I truly admire, but barring some unseen or future tragedy, I think Musk might well be on the way to becoming my hero.

    If I didn't know any better, I might be looking at all his stated claims and seeing all the echoes of Asimov and Heinlein being dragged out of the page and brought to life.

    Skip the whole Iron Man image for a second.

    Let's talk about Ayn Rand.

    Musk is John Galt. As in Atlas Shrugged.

    Sure, he's also Dagney, too, or perhaps more like Dagney in that he's unwilling to let humanity roll around in the mud despite all the backstabbing and idiocracy, in that he hasn't said, "enough is enough". But the day is young. Wait until we get to Mars. Wait until we really take the man of genius and effort for granted. And THEN we'll see what we'll miss once it is taken away.

    Ahhh, I don't want to see this man out of classic SF heroes become anything other than his stated goals.

    I'll be honest here. He's giving me real hope for humanity. Maybe optimism *isn't* unfounded after all.

    This biography tells me one hell of a great narrative. Is it life imitating art? The best ideals from the grandmasters? Who knows. But right now, I have real hope. I'm holding on to it for my very soul. :)

    Let's MAKE the future we wanted. Let's NOT let anything stand in our way!

    HELL YAH!

  • Trish

    Elon Musk is fascinating. I could simply tick off some biographical points such as him having been married twice and having five children with his first wife (a set of twins and a set of triplets), but that is not why I read biographies and, in fact, why I dislike most of them. Either the people the biographies are about are

    Elon Musk is fascinating. I could simply tick off some biographical points such as him having been married twice and having five children with his first wife (a set of twins and a set of triplets), but that is not why I read biographies and, in fact, why I dislike most of them. Either the people the biographies are about aren’t really interesting (actors barely in their 30s for example) or it really is just a list of facts that I could read on Wikipedia as well.

    This biography about Elon Musk is different. He is different. He’s only 47 but has lived through and accomplished more than other people could in 3 lifetimes.

    He grew up during a very violent period in South Africa. Granted, he’s white and the family was never truly poor, but it was still dangerous. He was also bullied in school (like, beaten bloody) and suffered the intense mind games of his father. Later, he went to Stanford university for only one day before leaving again.

    He, his way of life, his ideas and his ambition are very unconventional.

    From what I understand, he is still the little boy reading comics and dreaming of humanity conquering and colonizing the stars. And that is his mission in life that he has dedicated everything to. Some might call this silly but great minds like Stephen Hawking agree(d) with Musk that it’s the only way humanity will have a future and we do need a champion that is driving us, giving us a chance at survival. Once upon a time, we all had this dream of reaching the stars, but it has since dwindled thanks mostly to politics and peoples' tendency to give up when something is hard.

    Musk knows that getting humanity to Mars and beyond also means creating technology that will automatically enhance and better life here on Earth. There are many who can influence consumers and create new trends, but Musk isn’t here for exploiting a moment and getting rich - he’s poured ALL of his money, time and time again, into his businesses when they were in trouble and went much farther than any „expert“ thought sane, just to reach his ultimate goal (a colony on Mars).

    Simply put: he has proven that he’s not afraid to give up or at least risk everything, unlike most entrepreneurs. It’s no surprise, then, that his three main businesses are Tesla (electric cars), SolarCity (renewable energy), and SpaceX (aerospace industry).

    Before getting to create the above mentioned companies, he founded zip2, which became part of AltaVista eventually, as well as X.com of PayPal fame, but was forced out. I won’t go into detail but it seems kind of a trend that people get enthused by Musk, get rich by his skills - and then force him out because they simply wish to cash in and don’t share his vision. Backstabbing galore throughout his career. It’s sickening.

    I admit that it sounds as if he was a very difficult man to work with but that is no excuse for such behaviour and his success shows that his way of doing things works! Every time he has an idea, people say he’s nuts and that it cannot work - and then he proves them wrong.

    Short-term, inconsequential goals are trending nowadays from normal people to the highest politicians. In this environment, a radical visionary like Musk steps on many toes and quite often, too.

    It can’t be easy to be ridiculed and stabbed in the back all the time. However, he thinks that that plus his childhood suffering actually helped him to become who he is today. And I see what makes him think so. Without adversity, there is no challenge to overcome the danger/problem so you stagnate. It sounds a bit like Darwin’s theory of evolution.

    Radical. Visionary. Musk has haters and fans alike. He was even called the real-life Iron Man (albeit an Iron Man who sacked his Pepper Potts).

    His life goals certainly are very compelling if you care about the future at all and refuse to be tied down by the comfortable excuse of it being hard or costly. If you look at historical visionaries that have catapulted humanity forward, I’d say they were all more or less „difficult“ people and especially after seeing the Heavy Falcon rocket being operated successfully only recently (a fact that sadly didn’t make it into this biography as it was published earlier), I believe he can pull it off and certainly hope he can.

    I, personally, like how well-read Musk is, that he seems to be a technological allrounder, that he is right there in the factories working at least as many hours as he expects from everybody else and getting his hands dirty like any other worker (often ruining expensive Italian leather shoes to the horror of the people around him), that he has such an unbendable will (though I'm sorry it has cost him so much already), that he is playing video games in his spare time when he's not taking care of his kids (because he seems to be quite a good father as well), and that he is a big nerd and geek.

    As can be seen by him not only shooting one of his sports cars into space, that gets "steered" by a "space man" (Bowie reference) recently or by him storing a very nice collection of scifi literature onto the car's bord computer, but also by him programming said bord computer to display Douglas Adams' immortal words.

    This biography was written in a very compelling way by a man with an apparent vast knowledge of the history and inner workings of various industries (the author has worked for several well-known business papers for many years). The book also shows a great deal of research. Some authors manage to bore me even when talking about interesting people but Ashlee Vance has a unique style and I like the red thread throughout the book and that he doesn’t shy away from also showing the more problematic sides of Musk’s character.

  • Louise

    3.5 Stars

    I like the can-do attitude Vance took with hounding Musk and wearing him down till he agreed to cooperate with this biography. I also appreciated all the "Holy crap, Musk is CRAZY. CRAZY like a fox," moments I had while reading this. The only thing that keeps this from being a 4-star book is that the reporting and writing leans too heavily on idolatry. There were passages where I literally cringed at how much of a fanboy Vance sounded like.

  • S. Tom Cebic

    I wish I could rate this book 2.5 stars. It's a great long read Atlantic or Wired piece about a visionary person with an interesting childhood that is at the forefront of a technology shift and an unsuccessful emotional biography. There are a ton of details about Elon's upbringing, especially about his father and brother, who always felt like a mystery to me. I got a good understanding of how Elon's early mentor, a Canadian banking executive, gave him some insights towards starting X.com, a serv

    I wish I could rate this book 2.5 stars. It's a great long read Atlantic or Wired piece about a visionary person with an interesting childhood that is at the forefront of a technology shift and an unsuccessful emotional biography. There are a ton of details about Elon's upbringing, especially about his father and brother, who always felt like a mystery to me. I got a good understanding of how Elon's early mentor, a Canadian banking executive, gave him some insights towards starting X.com, a service I had dearly loved but didn't seem to jive with his later projects. There were interesting details on the mind boggling progress SpaceX made when building their initial Falcon rockets. In short I learned a lot about the progress of Elon's companies, but very little about what motivated him to start them or continue after making his first billion.

    It's hard not to compare this book to Walter Isaacson's 'Jobs, not only because the structure of the book is similar but Vance seems to reach for the same informal and intimate tone. Isaacson was able to give us a real glimpse into Jobs's growth as a person and a real insight into Steve's thinking. Vance gives us a chronology of Elon's life, a superficial overview of the technology that anyone with more than a layman's interest already knows, and adds his own often peremptory commentary on Musk's motivations and accomplishments. It straddles a funny line between objective reporting and jokey insider tell-all. I think it falls on both fronts as Vance does a very skin deep overview of the technology that SpaceX and Tesla have pioneered and a lot of the jokey comments come off as non-sequitor. In a way I learn more about him than Elon.

    Elon's companies are important enough to our future than any new information about him and his motivations is well worth a read. I hope someone else takes on the topic with a little more depth and a little less personality.

  • Raeleen Lemay

    This book had its ups and downs for me: the high points being Elon's early years and how he got started in the business world with companies like PayPal. The low points were the loooong chapters detailing how Tesla Motors came to be, and the technicalities behind rockets being built. In theory, I found all of this to be interesting, but while reading I found those bits to be a bit boring.

    Overall, a pretty

    This book had its ups and downs for me: the high points being Elon's early years and how he got started in the business world with companies like PayPal. The low points were the loooong chapters detailing how Tesla Motors came to be, and the technicalities behind rockets being built. In theory, I found all of this to be interesting, but while reading I found those bits to be a bit boring.

    Overall, a pretty interesting book about a very complex man and his accomplishments. I love how dedicated Musk is to meeting his goals (colonizing Mars, heck yeah!) and how he really just wants to make the world a better place with his work in electric vehicles and solar power. Ultimately, I'm glad I read this book, even though it took a little longer than I would have liked.

  • Umut Reviews

    Whether you follow him or his companies/works, Elon Musk is an important innovator of our times, and I would suggest everyone to read this book to get inspired or experience another world.

    I really admire how Vance captured his biography, which is not an easy thing to do. If you read a little bit, you'll understand Musk is not the most easy going person in the world. The author opens the book in a very intriguing way starting from why Musk allowed him to write his biography, which starts to shed

    Whether you follow him or his companies/works, Elon Musk is an important innovator of our times, and I would suggest everyone to read this book to get inspired or experience another world.

    I really admire how Vance captured his biography, which is not an easy thing to do. If you read a little bit, you'll understand Musk is not the most easy going person in the world. The author opens the book in a very intriguing way starting from why Musk allowed him to write his biography, which starts to shed some light into his character.

    It was really interesting to read about how SpaceX, Tesla and all his other success stories started, how he jumped from one ambition to another, and how he runs his companies. Obviously, Musk is no normal person. He runs after his heart, and his dreams. He's not only after making a lot of money, but he wishes a self-sufficient world before he leaves it himself. I do admire how he uses his intellect, his efforts and resources to do innovations that would be good for the earth. Clean technology, colonisation in Mars, solar power, etc.

    He's probably one of the most persistent person I've ever read about. All the difficulties he's thrown at would make any one of us to give up, but he still goes after his dreams. He's tough, both on himself and his employees. It's not easy to work for him. But, yet again, it's also not easy to aim to change how the world operates. So, we can't expect ordinary from him.

    All in all, I would really suggest this book to anybody. It's interesting, fascinating, very well captured inner world of this genius I truly admired even more than before I read this book.

    Thanks a lot to NetGalley and the publisher for granting a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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