Haunted Empire review: It's the book about Apple after Steve Jobs that's the real horror story

There is a case to be made that Apple is doomed without Steve Jobs. Kane just fails to make it. Worse, she doesn't even try.

Skip it.

I was tempted to make that my entire review. But it would be a disservice to anyone considering buying Yukari Iwatani Kane's new book, Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs. You might find some of the anecdotes about Steve Jobs and Apple collected between the book's covers interesting but this is not the type of work anyone should reward with money.

I feel terrible writing that. I hold Kane and her years of work on the Apple beat for the Wall Street Journal in the absolute highest of regard. When I heard she was leaving to work on a book about Apple and Steve Jobs I was thrilled. Given Kane's sources and her chops, I anticipated something great. And that's what makes Haunted Empire so tragic. It's not even good. It's not even mediocre. It's a waste of Kane's time and talent.

To be clear, my opinion is both objective and subjective. I freely admit I dislike some works that are genius and absolutely love some that are trashy as hell. That isn't the case here. This isn't a great book I simply didn't like. This is a bad book.

I was sent an advanced review copy a week ago and it was arduous to get through it. I don't have anything against the premise, gloomy as it may be. No one can deny how important Steve Jobs was to Apple and the hole his death left in the company and everyone who worked with him. There's certainly a case to be made that Apple post-Steve Jobs is no longer the company that shook the world with Mac and iPod + iTunes and iPhone. There is a case to be made that Apple is doomed. Kane just fails to make it. Worse, she doesn't even try.

Instead Haunted Empire meanders and jumps about, not even bothering to set up straw apples before knocking them down. I would call it a hit piece if it weren't so poorly organized. How it made it through the editing process and into publication is difficult to understand. How Kane could be happy having her name on the cover even more so.

I dislike writing these kinds of reviews. I'd much rather spend my time and your attention on great products that make all of our lives better. But Apple and Steve Jobs are lightning rods and Haunted Empire will no doubt get far, far more exposure than the work itself deserves on its own merit. So, caveat emptor. Caveat very, very emptor.

I can't recommend Haunted Empire. Not for any reason. Not to anyone. I can only recommend you skip it.

Lest anyone think I'm being unfair, here are a few more reviews of Haunted Empire to compare and contrast with:

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Don't be fooled by excerpts into thinking there's any great insight to be had here either. So Steve Jobs said Apple shouldn't make a TV. He also said Apple shouldn't make a small tablet, or iBooks, or an iPod with video - until he changed his mind. That's the kind of analysis, the kind of context, that's missing here, and that someone like Kane might have been uniquely positioned to bring.
  • Her talk at SXSW was equally terrible. Nothing insightful or anything I hadn't already heard somewhere else. Any person with an axe to grind against Apple could have given that session.
  • So , I haven't read the book. Don't plan to, really. But honestly, it's not surprising that Apple focused sites wouldn't like a book criticizing apple. I'm not saying that Rene's opinion isn't valid, I'm just saying I'm more curious what non apple centered sites think of the book because I don't really trust apple websites to be super critical of apple. (Note: this applies to all sites centered around a specific company . Such as a windows site and etc.)
  • I agree. I'd love to read a non-tech site in general review. The only advantage I have is that I've been around Apple long enough and spoken to enough people I trust to have an idea about what's going on with the events she's describing. I'd take an awesome Apple-is-doomed book any day of the week. I might not like or agree with it, but I'd happily acknowledge the arguments it made. This just wasn't that.
  • Fair enough, then. And thank you for not taking my comment as a form of criticism. It wasn't intended like that really. Just, like you said, in general review and such. And I appreciate you and the others experience being around the company and it's one of the reasons I frequent here .
  • So Rene, do you think the antidote about Jony Ive asking for his own plane (and Cook/the board turning him down) is accurate. I question it because who would know about something like that other than Cook, Ive and the board. And who among them would leak it to anyone?
  • Walter Isaacson gave it high praise (oddly enough his book was also panned by the same crowd), as did Florian Mueller. I suspect most of these reviews trend towards a slight appl manipulation and keeping the audience happy. But hey, it could just be a sh**ty book (though it is a bit scary to see most Apple sites share the same borg like opinions)
  • I didn't dislike Isaacson's book at all. Like others, I wish Isaacson had probed a little more but given the constraints no doubt placed upon him, I think it turned out as well as could be expected. Kane, far as I know, didn't have any of those constraints (i.e. didn't have to keep Jobs engaged and talking to her.) So she could have really states a premise, backed it up, and drawn a conclusion from it. Like in math class — shown the work. This was more like 6 + blue = ham sammich! Maybe I'll buy it, but I need to see how she got there.
  • Hi Rene, I heard she was paid by apple's competition to write about these things. Money rules of course.
  • It's a great title! Isn't that enough?
  • Haven't read it but may at some point. I feel I already know enough about Apple from following them over the years and there's other more interesting stuff to read. But I don't feel the case was made as to why this is a bad book. Perhaps it is but you're only telling us that without hardly any reasons. It's trash. It's bad. I really hate doing this. But it's bad. It's trash. Think I'm unfair? Other Apple fan sites think it's bad too. The end. You've written much longer reviews (sometimes too long) just covering a simple feature.
  • I'm not sure how to provide what you're looking for me? If it were fiction, I'd call it plot holes and deus ex machina. I'm not sure what the equivalent is in non-fiction.
  • Unfortunately, cardfan's summary of your review is uncomfortably accurate. If the book isn't worth mentioning, then don't write about it at all. If it's worth panning, then nothing beats a few quotes of the bits that you didn't like and the reasons why you didn't like them (e.g. inaccurate, accurate but lacking insight). Or give us an outline of the book's structure and why you think that is invalid/uninteresting.
  • Saw the video of their views about Apple. So if I form a theory or conjecture about Apple without firm evidence and never being in any of their meeting or involved in their product developments. I guess we all can write a book about Apple based on our opinions about what Apple should do or not do. I wouldn't read or buy this book because these people have no credibility about what really goes on in the Apple company.
  • I personally like Apple ingenuity we all have to be careful in our expressions. Verification and independent testing are good ways of checking subsequent questions and insights that may follow. Laboratory tests under strict controlling of all variables are essential later one can field test to find the telweaks
  • Excellent review. It seems a little early to trash Apple minus Steve Jobs. Hope she sells lots of books before Apple announces significant product enhancements and new products later this year. This is like calling the kettle black when is still white. Thanks