Wednesday, February 23, 2005

12. The Bug by Ellen Ulman

The Bug book pictureMy brother-in-law gave this to my dad for xmas, who read it and gave it back to him, who then read it and gave it to me. It is the story of a tech firm in the mid-80's, a programmer who becomes obsessed with a bug and the QA tester who first finds it. I have to admit that I was pretty sucked into the narrative. I read the book in a couple of days. It has two threads going on, a technical mystery about the source of the bug and two personal stories about the respective relationships (and their unravelling) of the two main characters. The programmer is often not very sympathetic and his descent into depression is frustrating because you feel that he's a bit too isolated. However, the rest of it rings very true. It portrays the corporate culture of that time (which really was the genesis of the dotcom boom) convincingly. And the other human relationships are quite compelling as well. Ultimately, though, it's the story of the bug itself that drew me in. You want to find out what caused it and the conclusion is satisfying, and goes a bit deeper, presenting an interesting theme on the relationship between humans and machines.

This is an interesting book, because it definitely has a chick side, spending a lot of time on people's feelings and relationships. But it also has lots of semi-hard technical passages which the guys will love. I'd recommend it.

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