Gerald M. Weinberg has covered the area of systems thinking, writing, and secrets of consulting with a handful of books already. In the light of his previous publications “The Aremac Project” is perhaps an odd one – it’s a thriller, not a handbook. “The Aremac Project” is a thrilling story about young geniuses, terrorism, FBI agents, bombs, a mind reading device, and above all it really is a story about a software development project. Software development is a rare subject in fiction, just Douglas Coupland comes to my mind. This is perhaps a story that could have been written by Coupland. Though Weinberg does not bend the language like Coupland does in his writing, the amount of absurdity in the story is on the same level.
If you’ve read any or some of mr Weinberg’s other books you’ll see pieces of wisdom sprinkled throughout the book. Like the “A Buffalo Story” from “The Secrects of Consulting”. “He’s like a buffalo. I can get him to do anything I want him to do, as long as he wants to do it.” And there’s a Robin Hood character, the “Bag Bandit”, who teaches beaurocrats about queueing theory and systems thinking.
The heroes of this story, the two married genius hardware and software engineers, Tess and Roger, are assignend to a federal funded anti terrorism project, with the aim to develop a mind reading device, lead by professor Wyatt. Tess and Roger are of course not informed about the true origins of this project when they sign on the project, but the implications of the project are bound to make them aware soon enough. Professor Wyatt turns out to be utterly incompetent. In fact, you could read the book and use his examples as anti patterns for project management. Professor Wyatt isn’t just an incompetent leader, he’s a dangerous programmer as well. A hack in the Aremac’s control program’s compiled code causes a massive electromagnetic jolt to be released while Tess is strapped to the machine, rendering Tess to a stable paralyzed condition. With Tess paralyzed, Roger turns his focus on helping Tess back to normal, using the Aremac technology. At the same time a group of terrorists are bombing soft targets in Chicago and the FBI is growing more and more impatient to use the Aremac. Tess and Roger are soon entangled in a very challenging software development project.
Does it end happily? To find out, you’ll have to read it yourself. If you are a swede you might be a little surprised in the end…