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3.2 out of 5 stars6
3.2 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 10 March 2014
This is very much a book of two halves. In the early chapters Chandra gives some personal background to his dual life as novelist and programmer, explains the fundamentals of how computers work through a combination of history and basic logic theory, then develops several themes around coding culture (both in terms of gender and of nationality).

This section is thought-provoking and persuasive, although issue could be taken with some of his broader generalisations about programming practice and culture (especially where his own personal experience is presented as a representation of the norm).

Chandra then expounds his key idea, that the grammatical rules devised for Sanskrit in the 1st Century BCE show marked similarities to the formal definition of an object orientated programming language. This in itself is a fascinating chapter, but marks a turning point in the book.

The second half, where Chandra gives an extended overview of the theory and philosophy of Sanskrit literature, is far less successful and seems fairly irrelevant to the first half and to the ostensible theme of the book.

Like a poorly documented programming language I found myself constantly paging back and forth to try to discover where a term was originally defined, because terms are immediately qualified and inherited from.

Chandra is a far better writer on computer theory than he is on literary theory, and I confess that I pretty much scanned through the last chapters of the book.

So, a mixed bag. Worth reading for the first few chapters, but I couldn't help thinking that the second half could do with far stronger editing, reorganising, and linking back to the initial themes of the book.
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on 2 November 2014
Vikram Chandra has made a living as a programmer and also written award winning literary fiction. In Geek Sublime he reflects on the writing of fiction and code, their points of connection and departure, drawing on his own experiences and the observations of others. In particular, he makes reference to literary theory, especially that relating to Indian texts, languages, philosophy, mythology and poetry, using it to reflect on ideas of the structure, aesthetics, logic, and the work of text as fiction and code. In the main it’s an interesting read, engaging with ideas little used in the consideration of code, but it is a little to uneven in its analysis, and also lopsided in its treatment of fiction and code, with too much attention paid to the former. Indeed, while there is some engagement with literary theory, there is no attention paid to its equivalent of software studies or critical code studies, though there are some references to computer science views of programming. Nor is there any reference to code poetry, the most obvious example of where code and fiction directly interface, or in thinking about code in relation to storytelling, for example in framing and generating the narrative of games or CGI movies. Overall then, an interesting read that introduces a number of new ideas, but is somewhat uneven and limited in its comparison of writing fiction and code.
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on 21 September 2015
Interesting approach to the comparison between coding and writing fiction. Parts of the discussion of the sanskrit and hindu/Indian traditions were illuminating, other parts rather tangential. Part of the book read as an autobiography. However, this book does not explore the much deeper connections between software coding and the human existence that I believe exist. Software does what humanity always wished magic would do: allow words to become truly powerful.
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on 1 June 2014
I particularly enjoyed the elaboration on logic gates and how computer hardware fundamentally works and integrates with software. Additionally, his cogent argument that coding is as artistic and creative as any other endeavor in the art community, as well as commentary on the IT industry, its culture and idiosyncrasies was insightful and enthralling. I recommend to anyone interested in better understanding IT and its workers.
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on 4 October 2015
It is badly written etc.
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on 23 February 2014
I have not read his book yet, only the short introduction that is provided as a preview on Amazon. This was enough to realize that I was reading the works of a kindred spirit who understood the desire of (good) programmers to produce elegant code. I had long recognized that, as I wrote each part of the great jigsaw that was in my mind, there may be even better ways of expressing the logic. Constant mapping and remapping in my head took place as I coded, always looking for the most aesthetic (and at the same time efficient) sequence. I started programming long before the creation of the first PC and it was fascinating to read the account of the author "stepping through the lines of code" during debugging as if it was the natural thing top do. When I was debugging my own programs in the late 1960's, I had to invent the software myself to do that step by step execution since a program debugger didn't exist in those days. I started with core dumps - but always believed that there must be a better way. As soon as I realized there wasn't, I found a way to do it and built my career on it. So I am really looking forward to reading the book itself.
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