January 31st, 2008

there!, Hello

Surprise Entry for Book Number 8

8) Installing Linux on a Dead Badger and Other Oddities by Lucy A. Snyder.

Something of a surprise entry, actually... While in the midst of reading a couple of other books (both of which happened to be in another room, when I laid down to get my before-sleepytime reading in), I happened to pick this one up from the stack for a quick story fix.

"Well, I'll just read one..." became "Well, I'll just read the next..."

Sleep stopped me from going much further, but Wednesday, before dinner, I picked the book up again, and soon enough, I reached the point of: "What do you know, I'm almost done with the book. Might as well finish it."

Here's my review in a nutshell:

Installing Linux... is one of those rare treats: a book that, when you're finished, you feel impelled to share with all your friends, if only to have someone else to swap the jokes with.

The collection is a slender volume, maybe 110 pages long, with about 12 stories or so. The titular piece is written as a set of instructions for using Linux to create your own zombie badger (with an Appendix for additional instructions and warnings for use with alternate species or unsupported animals). The following eight stories are written in a journalistic style, immersing the reader in an alternate universe where this sort of software opens up whole new vistas. In the manner of Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, these individual stories combine to create a strangely familiar world. The author blends humor with eeriness in a heady, must read mix... In this world, teens run wild with their borderline illegal Linux installations, zombloyees usurp the jobs of less cost efficient living employees, companies install a new requirement for the ruthless (some might say bloodsucking) world of middle management, IT networking goes to extreme dimensions, playing dead might be the only way to survive, and the relentless killing machines of a previously unknown "pest" become the season's hottest pets...

I found the last three stories in the volume to be somewhat less involving. Perhaps this is due to the shift to a more "familiar" writing style, less "you are there" gonzo and more traditional first/third person narratives.

While the first of these ("The Great VuDu Linux Teen Zombie Massacre") is certainly a part of the previous world, it makes the mistake of repeating the content of the titular piece. In its previous appearance as a story in Spacesuits and Sixguns, this repetition would have been necessary to keep unfamiliar readers up to speed. Not so here. I wonder if the piece might have benefited from more insight from the complexities of an actual wetware install, instead of a seemingly verbatim recounting of the manual... However, the rest of the tale proves to be a hoot, bringing a whole new levels of fun to the terms "IKnowKungFu" and "fire fire fire".

The final two stories are disconnected, though they each have their charm (particularly the piece titled, "In the Shadow of the Fryolater," which involves the hilarious and bizarre encounter between a restaurant worker and a rather megalomaniacal sea critter). That they seem related to the other stories only thematically seems to detract from their punch somewhat... At least for me. Then again, by this time I was chugging along at a pretty good clip, with all the previous pieces buzzing around my brainbox.

Still, good stuff.

Friends who I see regularly, don't be surprised if I pass this book to you, while chortling that you must, must, must read it...