It was a beautiful seventy-degree night in late August. At two a.m., a young woman wearing one red sneaker, one orange sneaker, jeans, and a big, baggy button-down shirt stood in front of the public computer terminal in the empty lobby of her temporary dorm. She squinted, studying the screen. “Choose your username,” it said.
Her first day at MIT —- and already a test.
Breaking and Entering: The Extraordinary Story of a Hacker Called “Alien” by Jeremy N. Smith is a strange book. It is the biography of a hacker, but it is not written in the style of a biography. Instead, it reads more like a thriller, with short, easy-to-read sentences and a lot of dialogue. The book does not spend time on broad cultural issues nor does it seek to place the narrative within a larger historical context. Aficionados of non-fiction are used to well-sourced exact quotes, and this book is certainly not in that mold. If you insist that non-fiction should not contain whole conversations (that were not recorded) from the 1980s or (speculation about?) what someone was thinking in the 1990s, this is not the book for you. If you think that all perspectives of a nonfiction narrative should be included, this isn’t the book for you. It holds on tight to the limited perspective of its central subject: the hacker “Alien.” I didn’t mind that.