Alien Computer? Hell Yes!
Author: Richard Hardy
I am not a hater of technobabble. I’m perfectly happy to have my science fiction rely on information that is either completely fictional or completely over my head in technical terminology. As long as the story is good, I can live with not understanding every nit and tiddle along the way. Hey, I grew up watching Star Trek re-runs – it’s just how I roll. If you do have issues with such things, however, I’ll warn you right now that you should steer well clear of The Infinity Program by Richard Hardy.
Richard Hardy is clearly a really smart guy who knows his computers. His protagonist in The Infinity Program is Jon Graeme. Jon also knows his computers; he works as a technical writer for a tech company (of some sort – whatever). He’s the one who writes those manuals for operating systems that I will never understand. Don’t hate him for it – it’s just his job. He also loves the outdoors and as a new employee is well aware that he doesn’t quite fit in at HTPS Industries.
But Jon does make one unlikely friend – programmer extraordinaire Harry Sale. Nobody is friends with Harry. He’s eccentric, impulsive, explosive and stand-offish. He also happens to be utterly brilliant and for some reason the two men, who outwardly couldn’t be more different, find that they enjoy each other’s company. The rest of the firm is astounded. Some are a little wary of Jon, others would very much like to use this friendship to get Harry to behave.
But Jon and Harry have bigger fish to fry. Fish like alien technology and saving the world. When Harry feverishly creates a brand new, amazingly advanced computer operating system, he and Jon jump on a technobabble-alien-world-saving roller coaster. We just need to hang on and enjoy the ride.
First things first – put your disbelief high up on a shelf and leave it there for the duration of the book. You don’t need it and it will only impede your experience. Once you’ve done that, admit that no matter who you are you know nothing about the computer language and technologies in this book, so you should just stop trying. Maybe some of it is real, I have no idea and it doesn’t matter. Just go with it. After you’ve done those things you can enjoy the show. And it is a fun show. Jon is a pretty bland, vanilla good guy, but Harry is crazy enough to make the pair interesting together. Hardy does a nice job balancing the two extremes, and effectively uses Jon to force Harry to use a little bit of plain English to explain what’s happening. Jon is sort of like our technobabble translator, which is quite handy. Hardy gets the most out of it by sprinkling in enough standard alien theology and greedy, stupid and arrogant government (and corporate) officials to please the tree hugging anarchist buried inside you. (If you don’t have one of those buried inside you, you should step carefully away from the book right now.)
I plowed through The Infinity Program, thoroughly enjoying it despite not understanding approximately 20% of the terminology. It has some sections of clunky dialogue and awkward overuse of particular adjectives, but once I got into the whole silly story, those things didn’t bother me as much as they did before the book took a giant leap into the wildly implausible. It’s not so different from reading Dan Brown or Robert Ludlum – let the confusing intricacies slide and you’ll be a much happier reader. I can happily give The Infinity Program 4 stars out of 5 for being jubilant, self-indulgent mind candy. Enjoy!
— S. Millinocket
My thanks to Emily Hollingsworth and Camel Press for the advance review copy of this book