Geek Sublime: Writing Fiction, Coding Software by Vikram Chandra (Faber, £14.99)
Is computer coding a creative act of the same stamp as writing a novel? It might feel that way if, like Vikram Chandra, you’re both a coder and a novelist. A coding painter would probably see different analogies. But Chandra is too astute not to recognise this, and his book is not so much an attempt to align coding and fiction writing in parallel as it is a literate and insightful meditation on two activities that both retain an air of mystery to non-practitioners.
The digressions into tantra and Sanskrit grammar won’t be to everyone’s taste. And Chandra’s book is often at its most compelling not when he is talking about literature or Indian philosophy but when he is dissecting the unappealing ambience of Silicon Valley. His analysis of the frat-boy culture is unsparing and dismaying, and doubtless it takes an outsider—Chandra was raised in India—to notice these things. But not as much of an outsider as you might imagine: the diligent and competitive ethos of Indian education has produced so many IT leaders, such as Vinod Khosla of Sun Microsystems, that the Valley speaks of an “Indian mafia.” If you’ve ever wondered why online culture can be so aggressive, snide and misogynistic, you’ll wonder less once you’ve heard about the men who created it.