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Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture - Stephen H. Segal

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Genre: Humour / Author: Stephen H. Segal / Publisher: Quirk Books / 224 Pages / Released: 05.10.2011

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      08.11.2011 19:13
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      If Science Fiction is your religion, then this book is your bible

      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.


      This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk You can currently pick up this slick hardback on Amazon for 1/3 off its rrp of £9.99, unless you're my sister in which case you'll probably find it in your Christmas stocking this year. You can also get it on Kindle if you're *that* kind of Geek.

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    • Product Details

      We live in the era of the geek. Computer nerds are our titans of industry; comic-book heroes are our Hollywood idols; the Internet is our night on the town. Clearly, the geeks know something that other folks don't - something we'd all do well to learn from. So here it is: "Geek Wisdom", painstakingly gathered and interpreted by a diverse team of hardcore nerds who've spent years poring over the most beloved texts of the modern-day imagination. Beginning with close to 200 of the most powerful and oft-cited quotes from movies (Do, or do not - there is no try), television (The truth is out there), comics (With great power comes great responsibility), science, the Internet, and more, "Geek Wisdom" offers illuminating insights into the eternal truths to be found therein. Yes, this collection of mini-essays is by, for, and about geeks - but it's just so surprisingly profound, the rest of us would have to be dorks not to read it.