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Book Reviews

Prototype: How Canadian Innovation Is Shaping the Future

by William Illsey Atkinson

In Prototype, B.C. writer William Illsey Atkinson sets himself the task of discovering the “ideal” high-tech Canadian company: one that makes lots of money, gives its employees a fun and rewarding place to work, and does not destroy the environment in the course of doing business. Not one to sit back in his North Vancouver study and conduct his search at a distance, Atkinson journeys across Canada to look for this modern-day business ideal.

With his own vision of the ideal high-tech company firmly in mind, Atkinson visits makers of deep-sea diving suits, biotechnology researchers, all manner of computer hardware and software developers, and designers of laser templates, among many, many others, and evaluates how they stack up to the ideal. Running throughout the book is a strong theme of how these innovators are also helping cement Canada’s place as a leader in worldwide technological development.

Atkinson, a long time science and technology writer for the Globe and Mail, knows the right people to talk to and how to make his subject’s words the narrative’s driving force. Although there’s an implicit danger that holding up every company to the scrutiny of a single, ideal business model will become repetitive, Atkinson’s lively writing and his expert blending of his subject’s voices make for a rich, textured read. Prototype works as a travel narrative, as a prescription for Canadian business in the 21st century, and as a solid, fact-filled piece of business journalism.