REVIEW: John Golden: Freelance Debugger by Django Wexler

Thursday , 9, October 2014 Leave a comment

coverHere’s an unusual mix: cyberpunk and fairy tales. The “faeries” in this story are virtual entities that live inside computer systems. And the protagonist’s job consists keeping systems safe.

The first third of the book could be the diary of a present day computer security expert. A company wants to hire his services and here’s where we find the first odd thing, the company’s business is security. “It’s got to be a bit embarrassing for a security company to get itself infested.

After a quick inspection he suspects that the real problem is located in a certain area but when he tries to access it the client refuses. He gets paid for what he’s done and that should be it. Of course, he won’t just walk away.

“It’s a little reckless,” Sarah said. “But, though it pains me to say so, I haven’t got anything better. Except of course that we could just walk away and do nothing, since there’s no chance of getting paid for any of this.”

“Leaving millions of systems open to fairy infestation,” I said.

“Meaning more work for us!” Sarah sighed. “All right, all right. I suppose we can’t just leave it.”

“What if John gets into the second burrow and the creature is more than he can handle?” Delphi said.

“Then we’re in deep trouble,” I said.

It should be noted, by the way, that the author never tries to overwhelm the reader with technobabble. Everything is very clear and understandable. The protagonist even has a sidekick who inserts comments – in the form of footnotes – that sometimes clarify the technical aspects of what’s going on.

“It’s a big system,” she said in my ear. “A proper analysis is going to take a while. But I can already tell you there’s definitely a burrow here somewhere, and not a friendly one.”

“Not a grazer[25], then?”

—[25] A benign category of fairy that skims bandwidth and cycles for its own purposes but does no other damage.—

There are many other times when said sidekick is just disdainful towards the protagonist. Perhaps this is supposed to convey what a modern woman she is.

If John has a fault—and let’s not kid ourselves, he has plenty of faults—it is a tendency, in tense situations, to think that he’s James Bond. I think the exchange of pretend-casual banter is an alpha male cool-vs-cool sort of thing.—

There is yet another odd thing that I should mention about this unusual book. No less than five other books about the protagonist are mentioned in John Golden: Freelance Debugger. But of all of them I could only find John Golden and the Heroes of Mazaroth, which was published in August 2014.

The others (John Golden and the Devil’s Advocate, John Golden and Portia’s Solution, John Golden and the Hundred Duck-Sized Horses (And One Horse-Sized Duck), John Golden and the Heroes of ProgressQuest), apparently, remain unpublished.

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