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A book of two halves
on 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.