Alex Moskalyuk writes "For 17 years, a British programmer who calls herself Verity Stob has been entertaining the readers of Dr. Dobbs Journal, EXE and The Register with her witty humor and variety of writing styles, which has now been collected into book form. In the foreword to the book, Danny O'Brien from NTK says that before the days of Dilbert, Futurama, User Friendly and Slashdot, the market for geek humor was dangerously under-served. So Verity attempted to add a little humor." Read on for the rest of Moskalyuk's review.
Stob's writing is hard to categorize. It's both humor and satire, sometimes just overwhelmingly funny and sometimes barely causing a chuckle. It's British, so some things passed way over my head. Since she started her writing back in 1998, there are references to mainframes, Unisys systems and the days when you would call tech support and instantly get a human being on the other end. Nevertheless, the book is entertaining, although it's more of a coffee table book, where you can pick it up and start on any page, than book where you'd go chapter-by-chapter.
Her humor is original and versatile. Poems, stories, scripts, hacked diaries, parodies -- the book has them all: after all, it's a collection of the best of her writing. She's an experienced C++ programmer who had been in the Windows world for a while, so frequently the jokes relate to C++ peculiarities. Such as Thirteen ways to loathe VB (written in 2000):
Calling functions and accessing arrays. In most languages you can distinguish between a call to function F with parameter 3 an a reference to an array F with index 3, because one is written F(3) and the other F. In Visual Basic they're both written F(3). Yes.
Her 2001 article for DDJ is actually nothing but a screenshot of a page called Dotdotdot with the subtitle Where nerds go on and on and on and... followed by a paragraph-long article titled Microsoft does something and a bunch of upset comments from the readers including a poster spelling out Look at me! in large letters in the first post.
Or her parody of George Orwell's 1984 which talks about Way After 1984 and describes Winston Smith's typical day:
As he entered the lobby, a breeze stirred the 60-foot banner suspended high above from the roof. The three oh-so-familiar slogans of the Ministry were printed across the banner in large letters: REGISTRATION NOT LEGISLATION MONOPOLISATION IS INNOVATION WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO TODAY?
See another sample of her writing, which those who've had to go through code reviews will especially appreciate.
The book is organized chronologically, with Verity's early writings listed first, and some of the unpublished material included at the end of the book. Overall, it's a pretty good and entertaining read, although in many cases the chapters made me scratch my head trying to get to the point of the joke. It's especially difficult with parodies, since if you don't quite know what is being parodied, it's hard to get the joke. The Register has another review and those British journalists called it painfully funny.
You can purchase The Best of Verity Stob from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.