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Book of the Month - December 2011, 圈子圈套


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If you buy all three books in the trilogy in hard copy you'll also get a DVD containing lectures given by the author (though I haven't watched any of these yet, so I can't say if they're any good). According to his bio in the book, the author has worked in various positions all the way up to senior management in half-a-dozen large foreign enterprises in about as many years (which is quite telling), and that although it's a work of fiction it's also based on the sort of things that he's experienced during that time.

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Ok, before going into the next chapter, there were a couple of things from chapter one I forgot to mention that will be relevant to future chapters. Firstly, we learnt that there are 3 main companies offering competing software products in the same space: ICE, 科曼 and 维西尔.

When debriefing Peter in the car, Jim wasn't worried about competition for the 合智 deal because 科曼's software only runs on UNIX servers and all of 合智‘s servers are Windows. He also mentioned that 维西尔's sales team is no good, hence his confidence in the deal.

The other thing from chapter one is we get the impression that Linda is very much the type of person who is more than prepared to sleep her way to the top, and she's interested in Jim because he's soon to be made the boss rather than anything else.

Anyway, with that out of the way, on to chapter two.

Chapter two starts off on the other end of the phone call that happens at the close of chapter one, with 赵平凡 telling his colleagues that ICE can't find out what they're doing and that if they try to get any information from 合智 employees, then everyone has to give a consistent story so as to keep them from getting suspicious.

When his colleagues leave his office, 赵 picks up the phone and calls 俞威. 俞威 works for one of ICE's competitors 科曼 - the one with the software than only runs on UNIX. 科曼's main office for Greater China is in HK, and it turns out the purpose of Chen's urgent trip to HK is to discuss a deal with 科曼. At the time of the call 俞 has just arrived at HK airport. He's also here for the talks because he's the sales guy that's been making promises to Chen about what they can do.

After the call, 俞 sees Chen ahead of him in line at customs and is hoping to be able to get through quickly, so he has a chance to talk with him at the airport. 俞 is amused that the customs official checking his papers is called Jacky and jokes to himself about how all it takes is for Jacky Chan to get famous and suddenly everyone in HK wants to call themselves Jacky too. He's less than pleased however when he gets asked to stand to the side and wait for a minute (especially as he's in a hurry to catch up with Chen). He's made to wait for quite a while before finally getting his papers back and being told there is no problem and he can proceed. 俞 is less that happy about this and wants to know the reason why. Jacky tells him that it's because he has the same name as someone else and they needed to verify things more closely. This makes 俞 even more angry because he feels his name 俞威 is quite uncommon and so the only way for someone to have the same name as him is if they were comparing the pinyin. He huffs off, but not before making a couple of disparaging remarks about how Jacky, being Chinese, should study more 普通话.

俞 finally catches up with Chen at the baggage claim, but Chen's already been met at the airport by some of his employees who are taking him back to the office. He says he'll catch up with 俞 that evening at the hotel (which is when they'd arranged to have their talks). 俞 therefore catches the airport express train in to the city by himself. During the ride, 俞 reminisces about 3 years earlier when Jim and 俞 were both in HK catching the airport express together. It turns out the two of them used to be good friends, and were working at the same company. They were sent to HK for some conference, even though they were both about to leave the company they were at, with Jim planning to head to ICE and 俞 heading for 科曼. 俞 is upset because they're parting ways and they will be competing against each other. Jim makes a deal with him then that because they are such good friends then at their respective new companies they won't compete with each other for the first 3 sales deals they find themselves up against each other on, with whoever gets there first being the one who can have it. This cheers 俞 up, and he ends his reminiscing as the train pulls in to his stop.

At this point, we cut back to Jim in Beijing, who is beginning to suspect that 科曼 is up to something and that 俞 is behind what's going on.

Then we're back in HK for the meeting between 合智 and 科曼. Representing 合智 we have Chen and a couple of his people, and 科曼 is represented by 俞, 俞's HK boss Tony, and another employee. Things aren't going well, because Tony starts out by saying that they can't offer the price or the terms that 俞 had originally promised to Chen in Beijing, and they won't be able to provide any future discounts on yearly service fees either, because headquarters in the US did not approve of such generous conditions. Chen is not happy, saying that for that price he would have just gone with ICE and wouldn't have bothered coming to HK. He gets up to leave and 俞 does a lot of fast-talking to convince him not to leave and that they can still work something out. Chen isn't interested, but 俞 says they'll get in touch with their boss in the US and get him to approve the deal over the phone then and there (despite it being a bad hour to call the US).

俞 and Tony leave the room to make the call, and it is now we find out that actually this has all been a ruse by 俞 to get 合智 to pay more, and the US parent company has already approved the previously promised discounts. Tony is not happy and fears that the deal is about to collapse and wants to just go back in and say everything is sorted out and they can sign a deal at the previously agreed upon terms. 俞 is still convinced he can get them to pay a higher price and tries to convince Tony to go back in and say their boss is currently on a flight and couldn't be contacted but that they'll definitely have an answer the following morning. Then in the morning they can give them the original cheaper up front price, but still get away with not providing any discount on the yearly service fees. Tony's not having any of it, and the chapter closes with Tony deciding to go back in and close the deal on terms originally agreed to with 合智.

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Chapter 3 begins back in 俞's hotel room. He’s disappointed that his plan to get USD $200k higher for the 合智 contract fell through. While wallowing in self-pity, his mobile rings. On the other end is 范宇宙, the boss of a systems integration company that mostly deals in reselling UNIX servers and that is hoping to get a slice of 合智 deal. 范 had made the trip down from Beijing to HK especially to meet with 俞 that evening after having previously arranged it. With the disappointment from the contract signing, 俞 had forgotten all about it. He quickly heads downstairs where 范 is waiting.

They head off to a massage parlour, opting first for a regular massage to unwind. While that is going on, we learn that the main reason 合智 was interested in 科曼 was to take advantage of 科曼’s reseller network for an upcoming new product it is working on that is targetted towards enterprise users. 合智’s current reseller network is focused on home users rather than the enterprise, whereas 科曼’s reseller network is geared exclusively towards enterprise users. The deal is that 合智 will buy 科曼’s software, and in exchange, 科曼 will let them use its reseller network. The cost of buying a few new UNIX servers is trivial compared to setting up a reseller network. ICE failed in its bid for this contract because it underestimated this fact and assumed that 科曼 would be out of the running because it only ran on UNIX, they also don’t have a reseller network, preferring instead to do direct sales.

Plus it turns out that ICE was actually never in the running for the contract, and everything was just an elaborate ruse set up by 俞 and 合智 to convince 科曼’s US headquarters to approve a discount for 合智, because if the US headquarters didn’t think they were going to lose the contract to ICE, they wouldn’t normally approve such a large discount.

We also learn that 俞 and Jim are no longer friends, basically because 俞 ignored their previous deal not to compete against each other on their first few projects.

Conversation then turns to the purchase of UNIX servers, with 范 saying he’s done everything he was supposed to do (which I take to mean he’s payed the appropriate bribes to the appropriate people) and now he’s wondering when 合智 will come to him to buy the new servers. 俞 tells him not to worry, it’s all sorted out, and 范 should go ahead and order the UNIX servers so he can be ready to ship them as soon as 合智 comes to him to sign a contract.

The regular massage finishes, and 范 goes out to ask for a couple of hookers. While they are waiting for them to arrive, 范 and 俞 talk about their plans for the next day.

俞 says he’s got to go shopping to get some makeup for his wife who’s given him a list of everything she wants. He also says he plans to open up a HK bank account. Upon hearing this, 范 offers to accompany him and deposit 50,000 HKD in it so as to “help him avoid banking fees”, because he’s heard that accounts with at least this amount in it get VIP treatment from the banks, which of course is basically just a polite excuse for giving him a 50,000 HKD bribe.

We leave HK just as the hookers arrive, and 范 complaining to massage parlour manager that he ordered ones with big breasts, not the couple of skinny, flat-chested, ones who arrived.

The story now cuts back to a bar in Sanlitun, Beijing. Jim is meeting up with one of the members of his sales team - 小谭, or David. David’s been doing some digging, and has found out that 俞威 also flew out to HK today and it’s certain that ICE has lost the contract to 科曼. Jim also figures out that they’ve been played for fools by 俞威 and 合智.

Back at home, Jim gets a call from Linda asking him what’s going on, because she’s heard that the contract signing ceremony and press conference has been cancelled. Jim explains what’s up, and also says given what has happened, it’s unlikely that he’ll be promoted to chief representative of the China office. The chapter ends with Jim hoping Linda will offer to come over to comfort him, but when it looks like she’s not going to offer, Jim asks her directly and she declines on account of it being so late (something she has never done previously, regardless of how late it was).

Anyway, for those reading the book, how are you finding it so far? My chapter summaries have fallen well behind my reading, and currently I've only got a couple chapters left before finishing it. I will say it definitely remains interesting throughout.

Does anyone else feel like doing word lists or anything?

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Looks interesting! Is there a link on the sina page you cited to download the whole book as a single file? I'd like to get it into my Kindle, or Pleco reader. I guess I can scrape the individual html pages into a big text file... but if I'm missing a link to a single big file, I'd appreciate knowing where to look. Thanks for the summary, I will read along as much as my ability allows. B)

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  • 1 month later...

Finished it today...

This more or less became my book of the month for January - in December I only started by reading first four or five chapters...

I ended up practicing my listening skills instead of reading, as I went with the audio version for the most part. The first book was adapted to 小说剧, which was just too 精彩 to pass up - they hired a bunch of voice actors, both male and female (who did a nice job), added some sounds and background music here and there, all to good effect - some of the dramatic parts even made my hair raise :ph34r: I noticed that some parts were left out, but those probably weren't all that important for the story in my opinion (like the scene with Jackie on the Hong Kong airport). Well, it is a 改编 version after all...

The other two parts of the trilogy are only available as ordinary audio-books, with only one person reading the whole thing out loud, so I will probably go with the printed version - my reading speed still needs a lot of work and I have a lot of other materials to listen to...

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Thanks to Imron for the recommendation. Like Sarevok, I have started the audio book. My listening/speaking lags my reading by a long way so it is a real struggle for me, but probably just what I need.

Agree with Sarevok that the audio book is done very well. I particularly like listening to Peter speak Chinese. My first reaction on hearing the put-on laowai accent is always to think Peter sounds awful then a second later realise the reader isn't seriously disguising that he is a native speaker and that Peter sounds about a billion times better than I do. Not sure why I enjoy this really, a streak of masochism I suppose.

It is fun but I am pretty sure I will have had enough of it after the first one - I assume it is not necessary to read/listen to the whole trilogy?

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It is fun but I am pretty sure I will have had enough of it after the first one - I assume it is not necessary to read/listen to the whole trilogy?

It is not necessary, as there aren't that many loose ends in the first book - you can consider the story finished at that point.

I myself really liked 洪钧 and other characters (thanks to that superb voice acting, it's a pity they only recorded the first book) and I want to see how their story develops, so I already went to the bookstore and picked up the other two books...

EDIT: 又被imron抢先了 :wacko:

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  • 4 weeks later...

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