John Golden: Freelance Debugger, by Django Wexler

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Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – February 1, 2014

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) John Golden is a debugger: he goes inside the computer systems of his corporate clients to exterminate the gremlins, sprites, and other fairies that take up residence. But when he gets a frantic call from Serpentine Systems, a top-of-the-line anti-fairy security company, John finds out he’s on much more than a simple smurf-punting expedition.

With the help of his sarcastic little sister Sarah (currently incarnated in the form of a Dell Inspiron) and a paranoid system administrator, John tackles Serpentine’s fairy problem. But the rabbit hole goes deeper than he thinks, and with the security of all of company’s clients in danger, there’s more at stake this time than John’s paycheck!

Thoughts: Short and to the extremely sharp point, Django Wexler’s novella featuring a debugger who ousts fairies from computer systems makes an impressing in few words, with delightfully witty commentary from the protagonists’s discorporate computer-bound sister.

I do love the concept behind this novel. Fairies invading the virtual space made my computers, causing havoc as they interact and reroute and I swear now that they’re the cause of all the times I error messages and then can’t reproduce them when tech support’s actually watching. Damn fairy mischief. There’s a whole culture of debugger built up behind the scenes of this book, keeping this info from most people while still fighting to keep the supernatural away from technology, with fun wordplay to go along with it (direwalls instead of firewalls, for instance.) For such a short piece, Wexler manages to cram a hell of a lot into the pages, letting the story spread out behind him without needing to go into every single detail. There are hints dropping in casual conversation, enough to make the whole thing feel incredibly realistic while still keeping the focus tight on the main plot.

Is this the sort of storytelling that I’ve missed by not having read Wexler’s other books yet?

Above all else, this novella is simply fun. The prose is tight, the dialogue quick and real, and Sarah’s commentary on John’s thoughts and observations had me occasionally fighting the urge to laugh aloud (something I try to keep under wraps when I’m reading in public). The footnotes were a little odd to get used to at first, but a few pages in they start to flow well with the narrative, and they add so much to the story that I wouldn’t wish them away.

My biggest complaint seems to be one that I’ve seen in a few other reviews: it’s not long enough to satisfy! I’ll grant you that making this one story any longer would have taken much of the punch from it and spoiled some of the fun, but it’s the kind of thing you get through quickly and then wish you hadn’t, because the story’s over and there’s no more, no matter how much you want it. And believe me, I wanted more. Thankfully this doesn’t seem to be a one-shot novella, and more John Golden stories are in the works (or so I hear; please correct me if I’m wrong). I’m already looking forward to future installments!

John Golden: Freelance Debugger has been getting glowing reviews from all over, and I’m adding my voice to the mix that says it’s worth every one. It’s a taste of a larger world, one that I want to see more of, and it’s definitely bumped Wexler’s books further up my reading pile (not that they weren’t fairly high up there already). It’s everything you want in an urban fantasy novella: creativity, wit, action, and a refreshing gender balance that I don’t see as often as I’d like. Do yourself a favour and take an hour to give this a read. You’ll find yourself as hooked as the rest of us!

(Received for review from the publisher.)

6 comments on “John Golden: Freelance Debugger, by Django Wexler

  1. I’ve basically recommended this book to all my computer geek friends, those who aren’t even readers or urban fantasy fans and they all loved this book! It’s one of the more unique concepts I’ve seen in UF, which is always a plus in my books.

    @Nathan – it’s a series starter, there’s at least one other book in the works (the author was actually kind enough to let me read a draft of book 2 and it’s got a super fun gaming angle!) and I really hope he continues John Golden for as long as he has these great ideas for it.

  2. Oh yea? This sounds like a great concept and nice to hear that it’s short. I love short stories and Novellas for when I need quick reads, and I do need those from time to time. Thanks!

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