Geek Wisdom by Stephen H Segal

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Geek Wisdom by Stephen H Segal

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: If Science Fiction is your religion, then this book is your bible, with sacred teachings from everything from Star Wars to Ghostbusters. Fun, insightful and easy to read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 334 Date: October 2011
Publisher: Quirk
ISBN: 978-1594745270

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I am by no means a fully fledged geek, but on the Big Bang scale I'm probably more of a Leonard than a Penny. I was weaned on Star Trek , chose Hitchhiker’s Guide... as my reading aloud piece for a Year 7 exam, and think it would be more than a little fun to take a trip to Comic Con. At the same time, there are gaping holes in my knowledge. My first celeb crush might have been Blake’s 7’s Villa but I've never seen a Batman film, never read a comic book, never quite understood what all the Star Wars fuss was about. If Sci Fi is a religion, then this is the book that can fill me in one the stories, the parables, the rules, as it were, of geekdom. I had to have it.

There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don't

Geek Wisdom (subtitle: the sacred teachings of nerd culture) is a collection of mini-essays, and I do mean mini, with each no longer than one page. Picking out quotes from a wide range of sources, each one explains the context for what was said, and tries to extrapolate how it applies to the bigger picture of life in general. Perhaps most interesting for me was to find out where said quotes came from in the first place, so it's handy that the speaker and their film / show / whatever are referenced each time.

I love it when a plan comes together

There must be in the region of 200 quotes in the book, but the definition of nerd culture is clearly personal to the selection of authors who feature as it includes some source I wouldn't have considered, while omitting others in a perhaps surprising way. Hamlet, The Silence of the Lambs and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory fall into the former category while I guess Blake’s 7 was a little too British for them (though Hitchhiker’s... and Doctor Who both feature). Beyond the actual choice of quotes comes a further area that could cause disagreement: the interpretation of the words of wisdom might be entirely at odds with how you've always seen them before. For something to shake up your view of the universe so radically is quite an accomplishment, but if there's anything we’ve learnt from those comic book store scenes in Big Bang it's that nerds love a good argument, so perhaps it's no bad thing after all.

Specialization is for insects

In some ways, this was never going to be a cohesive read due to its fragmented structure, which can only be addressed so far by vague groupings into chapters (wisdom about the self / relationships / humankind / conflict and so on). Adding to this is the different approach shown by the different authors (though with chapters presented anonymously, it's impossible to tell who contributed what). For example, the Worst Episode Ever / Bazinga entry spends a great deal of time focusing on the character whose catchphrase consists of the second part, even drilling down as far as his favourite strategy game (rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock), though this doesn’t have much to do with said catchphrase. In other words, the title merely serves to introduce us to the character, who we then look at in more detail. In contrast, later on in I can kill you with my brain, the interpretation is much more abstract and fails to make reference to the specific character who said it (and the not unrelated fact that she was telepathic). Even the footnote segues into an anecdote about another of Firefly’s actors, utterly ignoring River Tam / Summer Glau.

I'll control-alt-delete you

Ultimately, I liked rather than loved this book and it was things like the seemingly incomplete index that contributed to this. For me as a girl, I see this as a book to have on stand by – perhaps on a bedside table – for when you want something short to read as the essays are independent of one and other and there's nothing to be gained by reading them either in order or en masse. For blokes, I can see this as a toilet book, and I mean that in a good way. It's an interesting book but I did find some of the sources a little odd, and some of the quotes a little obscure. Maybe I'm not the geek I thought I was. Not that that matters – this book is as much suited to those who know nothing as those who know it all. Take a look. You might learn something. The way things are looking now, it really is the geek who shall inherit the earth.

Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book.

If this book appeals then do have a look at Bookbag's Science Fiction Picks

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