The I.T. Girl by Fiona Pearse

The I.T. Girl by Fiona PearseThis review is based on the March 2013 Edition. The novel has since been re-released under the title Orla’s Code.

Although the combination is (hopefully) extreme examples, the office politics and misunderstandings of task complexity that thread this novel will be familiar to anyone who has worked in IT, or indeed any specialist role in a large company. This plausible yet not mundane feeling is equally present in the social plots that run in parallel to the horrors of work.

Driven by ambition and filled with talent, Orla Hanlon has moved to London and become the first female developer at a major investment bank. Given the opportunity to produce a major new project, she feels her career plans are going well, leaving time to find suitable friends, a permanent home, and maybe even a low-maintenance relationship. But computers and people are very different things: when her project fails spectacularly she finds herself the ideal scapegoat for the wider problems in IT; and as her career starts to fray, her social life follows.

Although this novel is relatively short (145 – 192 standard pages depending on edition), Pearse has skilfully intertwined several engaging plots, creating both the feeling of a complete life and constantly increasing drama.

The only potential issue is the level of jargon used in the work sections of the novel. Although it is lighter than level of technical language found in hard sci-fi, it might weaken the immersion for readers completely unfamiliar with IT projects.

Orla is a well-realised character, with a realistic mix of strengths and flaws. She is clearly both talented and ready to work hard to capitalise on it, so the reader genuinely wants her to succeed at work and hopes she will find a life outside it. However, she has also fallen back on her talent instead of developing wider life experience, preventing her from coming across as annoyingly perfect.

The main supporting characters similarly have a good balance of positive and negative qualities. Even where the reader is expected to dislike a character, they are shown to be people reacting to a difficult situation rather than a cut-out villain.

I liked this book, especially for the portrayal of bad management. I would recommend it to readers seeking a light yet still engaging few hours of entertainment.

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