The Infinity Program
by Richard H. Hardy
Reviewed by Adam Armstrong
Technology has really brought the human race a long way in the past hundred years or so. We have extended our life expectancy due to medical breakthroughs and our ability to track them. We have opened up worldwide communication, so scientists can share their findings thus speeding up the process. We can travel around the globe in hours. And we can see what our coworkers are having for lunch and/or what banal complaints they have. Technology may very well save us completely…or damn us all.
Jon Graeme is about to start his new job as a technical writer. On his first day he encounters the eccentric programmer Harry Sale (as Harry is nearly run over saving a kitten). Jon hears quite a few bad stories about Harry but befriends him quickly. Right off the bat we are straining to understand why these two are friends. Jon feels more like a hanger-on or groupie to the world-class code-writer. Harry just seems like a jerk to Jon and it makes the reader wonder why Jon puts up with him. As their friendship grows the two go into the mountains, Harry goes fishing and Jon goes hiking. Harry gives up quickly and wanders into a cave where he trips and falls into a pit. Down in the pit something gets hold of Harry and changes him.
The two return to their office work, which is explained in a bit too much detail, only Harry has something else on his mind. Harry begins to work around the clock on a brand new operating system that will change the way computing is done in the future. Neglecting all other duties, Harry is promptly fired. Jon is warned to stay away from Harry but he and a woman who is infatuated by Harry, Lettie, help Harry load his program at home. Jon talks Harry back into a job and tries to talk Lettie into dating him. Harry returns to work to load his new OS on the supercomputer. But Harry isn't interested in normal computing--he has found a way to change the world forever.
While there are some interesting ideas here, the book is plagued with problems. For whatever reason various things are repeated. I noticed this a few times in the book. I'm not sure if it was something left over from an earlier version that wasn't edited out or if the author forgot and put the same thing in twice. The description of how the technical documents should go or how the computer works drag on and on. If you are a technical writer (like the author) or a computer buff this might be of some interest but I think the general public will get bored with it. The general reading public does seem to like reading about work but only in the general sense. Hardy tends to go on too much about something he is obviously passionate about and an expert in, but the Cliff Notes version would have been sufficient.
I found the love triangle awkward and unnecessary. Developing the relationship between Jon and Lettie would have been enough without having Harry throw into the mix. Jon first went out on a limb to form a friendship with Harry that is strained at best and then he shows a childish devotion to Lettie that is almost disturbing. Instead of painting Jon as a loyal, sympathetic friend, he comes off as a pathetic weirdo that wants to be liked at any cost. Not a bad idea for a protagonist, just hard for the readers to root for. Also I found the bag guy, Meyers, to be a caricature of bullies and "dumb jocks." An antagonist that was Harry's intellectual equal would have been more intriguing.
There seems to be some sort of confusion as to what time period the story takes place. There are a few references making us believe it is set in the present day but then again people in the story use answering machines and floppy disks. Not to mention that there is either no Human Resources department at the fictional company or the story predates anti-sexual harassment laws (which would put it before 1975 and most of the technology used in the book came after 1975).
The Infinity Program brings up some valid concerns on the future of mankind but it does so in a clumsy, outdated manner. If you’re a technical writer, computer buff, or just a general nerd, there are some aspects of the book that will appeal to you. The rest of the reading public may want to wait until Mr. Hardy's sophomore attempt.
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