Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.75 shipping
The Bug: A Novel Paperback – February 28, 2012
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
This is a remarkable book, a character study of the narrator (a professionally successful female software tester around the time of the dotcom crash, considering an episode from early in her career), and of a doomed programmer named Ethan Levin whose life imploded amidst a struggling venture-funded startup at which she had worked, fifteen years earlier.
Levin is not entirely a likeable character, though we sympathize with him. He had hoped to be an academic, but had to leave to join the workforce when his father died. He is not respected at work because of his background in "corporate" programming (Ullman totally grasps the mutual contempt between different groups of software engineers), and because a software bug that ultimately threatens the survival of their company seems to be his fault.
I would characterize the book as true science fiction, even if set in the past. In the spirit of Arthur C Clarke, Ullman uses computer programs to discuss the nature of life, and the emergence of intelligence, and even the fear of death. As in Clarke's writing, software can come to seem malicious, though explanations for any metaphysically worrying aspects of the bug's behavior are ultimately straightforward.
The book gets to be a little repetitive about 2/3 of the way through. Levin's personality flaws have been made clear, and I think nothing is gained by showing us three or four more times his descent into self-destruction. The character would probably be labelled mildly autistic today, but in the 1980s, he was just a jerk in an industry that tolerated a lot of idiosyncrasy. The breakup with his girlfriend is similarly dragged out a bit too much (and there is a 'surprise' related to that breakup that I won't reveal here, and which I think was unnecessary).
I'd probably give 4.5 stars if that were a choice. The book is well written and will be appreciated especially by anybody who has ever programmed for a living.
The story takes you through the last year of Ethan's life as a programmer working on a large GUI system (think X windows in the 80s). Ethan lives with his girlfriend Joanna, and has a good job. However, a bug manifests itself is his code, and causes horrendous problems at work. As Ethan's personal life begins to fall apart, he becomes more and more obsessed with the bug, and through weeks of extreme debugging, slowly learns more about himself, and begins to question his life.
What made this book great is the feeling you get from relating to the main character. As someone who has been programming since age 12, this book struck a very tender part of me, and it made me feel sad, happy, depressed, and even reflective of my own life.
I won't spoil the novel anymore than I already have, but you need to read this book. It is great.
Ullman's writing is clean, precise and emotionally spot-on, her characters are all too real to anyone who has worked in the software industry. Ethan Levin, software engineer lost between the world of dbx, cc and his broken relationships with human beings, is finely drawn and involving. A flawed tragic character descending into a madness Shakespeare would have recognised instantly. Roberta the software tester and former linguist who becomes a programmer as Ethan decays in front of her is also tragic, lost and very human, if more capable than Ethan of introspection and thus survival.
The wisdom with popular science books is that for every equation they contain the readership is cut in half. I would have thought things would be at least as bad for a novel that contains C code... but not in this case. Ullman fits the technical explanations and some code into the text with admirable dexterity and clarity that anyone should be able to follow. It was a very brave course to take, it could easily have ended up as an indigestible geeky info dump, but she pulls it off extremley well.
Her ability to see the world and relationships through the eyes of men is quite spooky at times, particularly men caught up in the challenges, excitement and self-absorbtion that can be found in the world of code and debugging. She ties it all back to our essential humanity and analog vs digtal world views in a satisfying conclusion.
This is one hell of a book.
Most recent customer reviews
It's amazing how things didn't change in the last 30 years.Read more