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[humorix] Review: "Stranger in a Slashdot Land"
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- Date: Sat, 05 Jun 1999 21:46:23 -0500
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Review: "Stranger in a Slashdot Land"
Jon Splatz, firstname.lastname@example.org
June 5, 1999
Roberta Feinlein's book "Stranger in a Slashdot Land" is an
original, creative, and fascinating story about the
conflicts of entering a new community and a new culture.
As a testament to the sheer quality of this book, I can
heartily say that it is hands-down far better than my own
recently published work, "Business @ The Speed of Windows".
(US$19.95 at Amazon, order now!)
As a pundit and a writer, I'm often called upon to review
books. I've discovered through my long and rich career
that many fictional books (especially sci-fi) are merely
rehashes of previous ideas, mixed together in a long-winded
body of text by an author who is paid by the word and not
by quality or skill.
However, Roberta Feinlein's latest work, "Stranger in a
Slashdot Land" (US$24.95 softcover, Faux Press) is
different. It's a wholly original, creative, fascinating
story loosely based on the experiences of the author. This
book shares nothing in common with other books of the same
genre; indeed, it stands on its own.
The book begins with the childhood of the main character,
Patricia H. Burke (PHB). At age five her parents die in a
tragic boating accident; she is sent by the State to live
with new foster parents in Redmound, WA. Her foster
parents both work in the Marketing Department of
Monopolysoft, a newly formed but wildly successful software
Pat had been a country girl living in the rural Cascades,
but after her parents' death she is thrust into the
turbulent suburban culture of Monopolysoft. It's a classic
struggle; instead of a Boy Raised by Wolves, it's a Girl
Raised By Marketers.
The astute reader can probably begin to see what happens
next. At age 18 she "escapes" from the oppressive culture
of Redmound to attend college. However, the Marketers have
left their mark on her; she is forever a product of all
that is Money Grubbing and Evil.
Pat understands little about the underlying functionality
of computers, she doesn't understand the Geek culture, she
doesn't comprehend much outside the realm of Marketing and
Monopolysoft and Redmound. Her comprehension, and that of
many Redmoundians, centers around the concept of
"mrokking", a term in the Monopolysoft vernacular that
means "finding ways to make money from something". As her
foster dad once explained to her, "Mrokking is a
fundamental talent that separates the rich Marketers and
Execs from the poor underclass of Geeks. Gill Wates, the
Ultimate Marketer, completely understands how to engineer
crappy software to make the most money from lemmings. He
mroks software fully."
At college, away from her foster parents, she steers away
from Business pursuits and settles for a Liberal Arts
degree. However, the urge to "mrok" is too strong; she
realizes that Liberal Arts will not satisfy her hunger for
finding ways to make money. She switches her major to
Marketing, graduates with high honors, and quickly becomes
an employee of -- you guessed it -- Monopolysoft.
A few years later she is assigned to a team to analyze the
threat from a newly emerging competitor, Finux and "Nude
Source" software, and to strategize ways to defeat it. It
is here that the main conflict of the book presents itself;
the story becomes her versus the Geeks. It is decided by
the team that she is best suited to infiltrate the Geek
community, to work with the Geeks, to act and think like a
Geek, to become a Geek, so as to accumulate knowledge and
understanding of these new, strange, and seemingly
unstoppable enemies of Monopolysoft. In short, she must
enter the Land of Slashdot. She must "mrok" the Geek
Pat finds herself alone in a strange land, with no roadmap,
no friends, and no guides except for the bizarre "Slang
File" compiled by Head Geek Deric S. Rayburn.
During her forays into the Land of Slashdot, Pat must
overcome many obstacles and challenges from the Geeks who
eye her wearily from the beginning. Her mannerisms, her
overuse of buzzwords, and her subtle use of "mrokking"
immediately make her suspect, and later, as she redoubles
her efforts to become a Geek, she finds herself as an
outcast, a person listed on everybody's Usenet killfile and
email spam filter.
The epic struggle of Monopolysoft vs. Dotheads, of Suits
vs. Geeks, of money vs. morals, is the thread that binds
this book together to make it my choice as Geek Book of the
Year. I find that I can empathize with many of the actions
and concepts in this book. My email inbox, full of flaming
messages reminding me that I'm not really a Geek or an
accepted part of the Slashdot community, shows that I'm
partly a Stanger in a Slashdot Land just like P.H.B.
Of course, unlike Pat I'm not an employee for an evil
multinational corporation that refuses to give
contractually obligated refunds for their operating
systems. But even though this book is written from the
perspective of a M-soft marketer and is published by a
subsidiary company of Microsoft, I still give it score of
10 out of 10.
Buy this book. Better yet, buy this book from Amazon so I
get a cut of the commission, money that I desperately need
to pay for my national book tour to promote my own book
(which you should also buy).
Write me at email@example.com
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