Financial fiction review: ‘The First Billion’ by Christopher Reich

Love financial fiction? So do I. And I review them for you!

In this post I’m reviewing…

The First Billion by Christopher Reich


Financial fiction with international adventure, plenty of IPO and stock market action, big dollars, and a corrupt Russian businessman.

OVERVIEW: This story is about John “Jett” Gavallan, a former pilot who now owns Jet Black Securities and is in the midst of taking a Russian media company public on the New York Stock Exchange. His company is stretched thin to make this big win and they are pinning all their hopes on this media company… when a mysterious blogger starts sharing alarming information about the media company. Suddenly, everything starts to unravel as Jett globetrots from the US to Europe to Russia to learn the truth and save his struggling company.

REVIEW: This is Christopher Reich’s third book, published in 2002. I really enjoyed Reich’s other books (Numbered Account, The Runner, The Devil’s Banker — I will be reviewing all of them here) but I gotta be honest, I didn’t love this book. The characters seemed like they were stereotypes (the all-American jet-flying hero, the bureaucratic Swiss banker, the seductive Russian woman named Tatiana, the corrupt Russian businessman, the by-the-books FBI agent, etc., etc.) These characters then felt plunked down in a plot that seemed tired and stretched thin. I also find the inconsequential details, like on page 129-130, which lists the brands of empty drink containers he has in his garbage can. I think Reichs did this to give it a sense of realism and to root the story in the real world (maybe?) but I think it distracts from the pace of the story and pads the runtime. And most disappointing, in my opinion, was the the climax: the characters all converged at the New York Stock Exchange for one final showdown but nothing really happened. Yes justice was dealt but (spoiler alert) the villain got away and so did a turncoat on the inside of the main character’s business… therefore justice was done but not by the main character. The book just felt like a bloated story with cardboard cut-out caricatures.

FINANCIAL FICTION QUOTIENT: The financial fiction quotient comes and goes through the book. At times there is a good amount of financial content, especially as they introduce the concepts of the stock exchange, how an underwriter works, and all the money moving around the world. That part was great. But it came in bursts and then vanished, to be replaced by a bit more punching-and-shooting action. Nothing wrong with with either. This is probably better for newbies to financial fiction because it’s very approachable and not overly detailed. That said, you also need to remember that this book was published in 2002, which means it was probably written in 2000-2001 at the height of a tech bubble, so some of the info is dated.

SUMMARY: I hate being so critical of this book, especially since I normally love Christopher Reich… but I just didn’t love this book. It was hard to get through and I almost gave up a few times. This book will appeal to someone; just not me.

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