Walter Isaacson didn't leave anybody guessing about his admiration for Steve Jobs, but reviewers seem pleased about learning the darker side of the visionary. The same words pop up in almost all of the (very quickly written) reviews for Isaacson's Steve Jobs which hits shelves on Monday morning: "complex," "rebellious," "brilliant." Each seems as applicable to the Isaacson's biography--everybody loves it--as it does to the book's subject. Everybody's fascinated by Steve Jobs, and so far, the reviews are as focused on the many revelations about his life as they are about the quality of the book. That said, it's nothing less than flattering for Isaacson as a journalist to have the public swooning over the facts he admirably dug up about a very mysterious man.
Janet Maslin at The New York Times finds the book flattering and well done. She even manages to work in in the term "iBio":
"Steve Jobs" greatly admires its subject. But its most adulatory passages are not about people. Offering a combination of tech criticism and promotional hype, Mr. Isaacson describes the arrival of each new product right down to Mr. Jobs's theatrical introductions and the advertising campaigns. But if the individual bits of hoopla seem excessive, their cumulative effect is staggering. Here is an encyclopedic survey of all that Mr. Jobs accomplished, replete with the passion and excitement that it deserves.
Matt Warman at The Telegraph, like others, latches on to Isaacson's treatment of the Apple co-founder's complexity:
It's the sense of relentlessness about Steve Jobs' ambition, expressed through iPods, iPads and iPhones, that comes through Isaacson’s book. He dropped prototype iPods in fish tanks to prove that there was air inside, and consequently space to make the device even smaller, for instance. It may be difficult to hold Jobs the man up as the person everyone should aspire to be--but he made Apple into the company every businessperson aspires to run. For that alone, he is worthy of Isaacson’s treatment.
Rachel Metz at the Associated Press highlights a number of the gee-golly facts about Jobs, not the least of which highlighted Jobs vindictive nature. On Jobs's less than amicable relationship with Google's Eric Schmidt:
Isaacson wrote that Jobs was livid in January 2010 when HTC introduced an Android phone that boasted many of the popular features of the iPhone. Apple sued, and Jobs told Isaacson in an expletive-laced rant that Google's actions amounted to "grand theft."
"I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong," Jobs said. "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."
Adam Satariano and Peter Burrows at Bloomberg devote some space to describing Jobs's very positive relationship with Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior vice president of industrial design:
"I trusted him to know exactly what to do," Jobs told Isaacson. "He had the same vision I did, and we could interact at a high strategic level and I could just forget about a lot of things unless he came and pinged me." … Jobs considered Ive, who goes by Jony, his "spiritual partner" who was vital to product development, according to the book. Jobs said he set up Apple so that nobody could tell Ive what to do.
George Stephanopoulos at ABC News pulled quotes more than he reviewed, but he pulled good quotes. Especially this one: "Was he smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius." Stephanopoulos continues:
The author pulled no punches in this book, describing Jobs as a charismatic and inspiring leader but also as a man who could be very tough, even mean. Jobs told Isaacson that he and his team at Apple could "have a rip roaring fight and that brutal honesty" in meetings, telling Isaacson that he didn't know how to have a "velvet glove" touch.
Tina Jordan at Entertainment Weekly did not like approve of the book's paper quality. And no, it doesn't seem like she's trying to make some sort of metaphor:
If occasionally workmanlike, Isaacson's thoughtful, broadly-sourced bio is thorough, filling in all the holes in Jobs' life, especially the years after he returned to Apple. My only quibble is a small one: Though the jacket is gorgeous (perhaps because Jobs himself had a hand in it), the book's interior feels cheaply done, with thin paper and an unremarkable font. As I hefted it, I thought, If only it measured up to Jobs' exacting design standards. But no matter, really.