Book Review : The Last Passenger

How can one skip reading a story set on a Nazi cruise ship, afloat in the modern day Atlantic that dabbles in both the supernatural and kinda-sorta time travel? That in a nutshell is the 'The Last Passenger ' by Manuel Loureiro. The overly detailed descriotions, the history lessons, the presence of a supernaturally strong assistant,  - a deus ex machina  - everything takes me back to my days of reading a small, pulpy, fast paced thriller - to a point.

The writing is fairly quick and keeps you engrossed - no mean task considering this is a translation into English from the original in Spanish. The story is survival horror mixed with a bit of Nazis and ghosts thrown in for good measure. It takes an interesting historical background - Nazi cruise ships - and brings it into the modern day fairly seamlessly. The narrative is quite well structured and does keep the story moving along without getting hung up on big explanations - typical pulp. This is a page turner to some extent because it does a fairly decent job of following the protagonist around instead of fragmenting into mini stories.

All that said, don't go expecting a dazzling plot or a watertight narrative - there isn't one. The characters are all one dimensional and die in quite horrific ways in quite short order. The gory parts are pretty much just random blood letting. This is not a book strong with rational explanations and leaves you hanging with multiple questions.The resolution of paradoxes is bizzare, the menace portrayed feels farcical and forced and the central character is a cringeworthy cliche.

Verdict : If you are stuck at the airport or have to kill time on the plane, buy it. If you are home and cozy with all this snow we have in the Northeast US, wait for a Kindle sale. 2.5 stars for the World War 2 angle.


Don't be a rude developer

Being a developer is hard. Being a developer who has to to keep learning new tricks of the trade is harder still. Every day there is a new framework or new library or new coding paradigm that you have to pick up. It's easy to be overwhelmed by the constant struggle to improve your lot considering your day job probably has crazy deadlines. And then you go home to family, finances and poor sleep patterns. I don't need a shoulder to cry on, but, let's face it - life as a developer is tough.

What no one needs are passive aggressive developers who are constantly belittling their juniors or peers. "That design?!!. I can design that in a million different ways in my sleep". Not that I was any better a few years ago - I am pretty sure I came off as rude and dickish. That has mellowed (hopefully) with more experience and time at work. I try to be supportive of juniors and try to encourage them to find solutions to problems on their own with as little hand holding as possible. With peers and seniors, I try hard to layout why my proposed design is a good fit. This is not something I have noticed a lot in journeymen developers. Even some masters tend to be close fisted with sharing their craft. Or worse, judgmental based on a 5 minute or less interaction with peers. Not withstanding places like Stack Overflow, this is pretty much a norm.

What ends up being the worst though, are the condescending ""RTFM" spouting guys. Every time I've heard someone say something along the lines of "Go learn it yourself, I did it that way", I feel sorry. Sorry for the dozens of developers who insist that the only way to learn is in isolation and without peer involvement. Sorry that they cannot fathom spending a few hours of their time in a group of their own choosing helping on-board newer folks. This attitude is so prevalent, I'm pretty sure every developer I know has been on the other side of a "go find a manual, you dweeb" comment.

All behavior like this does is lead to poor workplaces. You fear talking to people because you fear ridicule. You tend to come up with bad designs because you never discussed it with others as you are afraid people will be nasty when shooting down your designs. All because someone was rude to you. Behavior like this multiplies in its effects and just makes for a sad workplace.

Don't be rude. It's not that difficult. Smile. Cite office hours, if you cannot help someone right away. Tell people if you are busy and when you will be free. Not everyone is a child. People will come back to you and discuss their thoughts given a chance. All discussion is worthwhile, may not be profitable every time, but definitely worth your while. It improves your design skills, improves your communication and in general, helps you build bridges. Don't kill time if you aren't free, but take time off to discuss someone's design or coding thoughts once a day.

I don't claim that it is easy helping others. There is constant noise and distractions. It can be infuriating and frustrating - especially when juniors nod happily along and then come back with the same question 30 minutes later. At times like that, I just take a deep breath and remember me as the callow developer and the satisfaction of learning something new from the tons of other people who spent their valuable time explaining some nuance of programming. The least I can do is pass those feels on.