Vikram Chandra has been a computer programmer for almost as long as he has been a novelist. In this extraordinary new audiobook, his first work of nonfiction, he searches for the connections between the worlds of art and technology. Coders are obsessed with elegance and style, just as writers are, but do the words mean the same thing to both? Can we ascribe beauty to the craft of writing code?
Exploring such varied topics as logic gates and literary modernism, the machismo of tech geeks, the omnipresence of an "Indian Mafia" in Silicon Valley, and the writings of the eleventh-century Kashmiri thinker Abhinavagupta, Geek Sublime is both an idiosyncratic history of coding and a fascinating meditation on the writer's art. Part literary essay, part technology story, and part memoir, it is an engrossing, original, and heady book of sweeping ideas.
There's a lot of good and interesting ideas here, but Chandra seems to smash the most disparate of them together in some sort of frenzied confluence of idealism and fever dreams. I read it straight though, which was exhilarating, but I will definitely have to go back and pick through things in order to find theme or thesis. Chandra seems to hit on these a few times, but the scope of this work is so big that each time he approached having a pristinely packaged unification of thought, it would switch to a new topic, leaving things unfinished, still in scaffolding. However, this may have been intentional--the flow and pacing may indicate that this was by design, and perhaps this frenzied form adds to the conversation. Either way, the whirlwind mixture of feminism, computer science, lit crit, eastern philosophy, and personal memoir was thrilling, even though it took work not to glaze over during some of the thicker passages. Very interesting perspectives.