Book review: The Last Hacker

Living in the Los Angeles wasteland can be tough – especially when you’re just some dude whose only real skill is computer hacking. So, Artie Gonzalez spends most of his days building drones, modifying his bipolar robot girlfriend, and scavenging for his next pair of Chuck Taylors. Artie watched the world end ten years ago. That was after the famous programmer Satoshi Nakamoto released the world’s first sentient artificial intelligence.

I read “The Last Hacker” (by Mark Wahlbeck) the other evening, and I enjoyed it.

It’s science fiction, and easy science fiction at that. It’s relatively easy to imagine yourself in the place of the lead character, and in the environment in which he finds himself. There were no major abstract concepts to get your head around, nor pages upon pages of technical detail or scene setting.

The plot moves relatively quickly, with a few twists and turns, and I thought it was an interesting take on a post-apocalyptic survival story, with a technical leaning.

You don’t need to be a geek to enjoy it, nor are you likely to be too frustrated if you are a geek. A couple of bits grated - one of which was the reference to a .deb as being a Linux executable, and the other was about the functionality of the Bitcoin network - but neither was sufficient to spoil my enjoyment.

I did not realise it was the first of a series (or, at least, that it was not complete in its own right). At the end, I was wanting more (good) and also feeling that the expected closure was missing (not so good). There is an ending, and it was not something I had anticipated (which is even better), just not the conclusion to which I felt it was building.

I picked it when searching for “hacker fiction”, and so I was surprised and pleased when it turned out that the “hacker” is a hacker in the old school sense of the term - someone skilled as finding ways of solving problems - rather than in the more common sense of someone who breaks into things. Sure, this hacker does break into things, but his problem-solving and creativity are foregrounded.

(The author’s own site just directs you to Amazon. And the screenshot of the cover on his site has a spelling error on his surname, which amused me.)