By Peter E. ZaleMcGraw-Hill, 2000122 pages, softcover$12.95 (U.S.)$10.35 (U.S.) at Fatbrain.comRead more about Peter Zale and his work.
In Greek myth, Helen’s face launched a thousand ships. In Peter Zale’s comic strip, another beautiful Helen launches thousands of applications and networks. For some time, the witty Zale has been drawing a syndicated comic called “Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet,” about a brilliant IT manager who also happens to be drop-dead gorgeous. Now Helen has her own book, a collection of Zale’s strips, published by McGraw-Hill.

Zale is no stranger to TechRepublic’s Web site. Since May 1999, he’s been injecting laughter into TechRepublic members’ Mondays with his humor panel, The Bleeding Edge. But his collection launches his career in a new direction.

The cover of Peter Zale’s new humor book, Techies Unite: Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet, shows Helen riding on the shoulders of the full cast.

Called Techies Unite: Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet, the book follows babe Helen, wrecker of hearts and fixer of computer networks, through her adventures with the IT department she runs, her hesitant relations with the men in her life, and encounters with her would-be employers, including Bill Gates. For example, after Helen turns down his job offer by calling Microsoft a dinosaur, Gates remarks, “You imply our extinction?” Helen replies, “No. Just your massive cold-bloodedness.” But Gates isn’t offended. “Oh! No big deal then,” he answers.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates makes Helen a job offer she can refuse.

In another section of Techies Unite, robotic software that Helen invented has taken over a company. Here, Zale demonstrates his skill at wielding the wry punch line. In one strip, Helen and her boss, Phil, are debating whether these robots can act intelligently. As one of them, rendered with a monitor for a head, passes them through the gate, Helen proves their lack of intelligence by remarking, “See? He didn’t even check our I.D.!”

Robots run amok control access to the company in this episode. But are they intelligent?

Zale’s Helen can do just about anything, except, alas, hold a meaningful relationship. Which, if I remember correctly, was also a problem that plagued Helen of Troy. The character flaw makes Internet Helen more human, and thus, touching.

One of the most difficult things about compiling a collection like this, other than deciding which strips to include and which to leave out, is organizing the sections. In this case, the divisions are maybe arbitrary—chapters are called Artificial Intelligence, Image Casting, Voyeurism, The Void, Power—there are nine in all, which is a bit much. I would have also preferred for the publishers to include some color pages. But these minor quibbles with an otherwise-entertaining book shouldn’t keep you from getting a copy. Once you own one, you, too, will become a fan of the indomitable Helen, face that broke a thousand techies’ hearts.

Mike Jackman is an editor in chief of TechProGuild and an editor of PC Troubleshooter and Windows Support Professional. He also works as a freelance Web designer and consultant. In his spare time (when he can find some), Mike’s an avid devourer and writer of science fiction, parent to two perpetually adolescent cats, and a hiking enthusiast.

If you’d like to share your opinion, please post a comment below or send the editor an e-mail.