Book Review

Building them one laser gun at a time

I just finished P.W. Singer‘s latest book, Wired for War, the other day, and I’ve spent the past couple of days thinking over what I’d just read. Through my work at io9, I’ve also written up a review for the book, but I had some thoughts that I wanted to write down for here as well.

Wired for War is an inherently geeky book, one that looks at how the world is becoming one where science fiction is rapidly becoming reality, a topic that fascinates me. The lyrics of Jonathan Coulton‘s song The Future Soon seem very appropriate, as there are a ton of references to numerous Science fiction works throughout the book:

It’s gonna be the future soon
I’ve never seen it quite so clear
And when my heart is breaking I can close my eyes and it’s already here

In a very interesting way, the recent introduction of robotics is a signal of things to come in the coming years, and Singer really highlights that in this book. While looking at the blurb, a casual browser might thing that this book is just about the robots on the front lines, this book covers so much more than that – it goes into depth to not only the robots that are on the battlefields, but how they are constructed, how the military utilizes them and how the technology is progressing. From there, he looks at what the battlefields themselves will look like, taking into consideration global economics and trends, and what will be happening between now and 2025. At times, I think that he gets a little alarmist, but the picture that is painted is frightening and wholly plausible.

What I found fascinating, even more so than the robots themselves, was the ways that the military has been wholly prepared for a revolution in this way. With the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, there were no robots on the line. Now, there are thousands, ranging from the Wall-E looking PackBot (ironically produced by the same company that makes the Roomba, iRobot)to the familiar MQ-1Predators to numerous others. Part of Singer’s examination looked as the military hierarchy, and how that is essentially at odds with how the current generation of soldiers thinks and works in the digital age. Components of these robots, such as the controls, are modeled after play station controllers, but even more than that, there seems to be a far looser collaboration, rather than a strict chain of command when it comes to soldiers in these units. Singer recounts several instances of where Generals talk directly to privates, and where enlisted men are flying alongside officers and having trouble getting orders and clear chains of information across. Clearly, the military needs to catch up with the electronics trend.

This has gotten me thinking, along with my Master’s studies, where I learned much about the evolution of warfare. Generally speaking, there are three generations of war – Massed infantry, firearms and maneuver warfare. Theorists have been predicting that a fourth generation is emerging, and where some people, such as Col. Thomas Hammes, who wrote the Sling and the Stone, think of urban warfare as the next generation, I believe that the introduction of computers will be the defining factor in this instance. To be sure, urban warfare plays into this, but the impact of computers and the advances in communications and coordination that they allow provide a far bigger impact than the actual battlefield surroundings. Singer looks at the possibility of much of warfare becoming automated, as robots have already proven that they can be more accurate and place less lives at risk. Instead of a soldier dying, an expensive machine is sent back to be rebuilt.

But to what extent is this a good thing? I don’t want to seem like I like the possibility of soldiers getting killed in combat, I don’t, but in a culture that is already heavily against war because of false expectations that technology alone can sanitize war. On one level, yes, but that is a very superficial one, and it doesn’t address some of the bigger issues. Singer notes that at some point in the future, people will go to war because their televisions tell them to, a very disturbing notion. War needs to be brutal, it needs to be painful, and we need to learn from our experiences with it. Just after the First World War, there was a peace summit in Paris in 1919, where the negotiators attempted to make war a thing of the past. Unfortunately they failed, and allowed for the Second World War, but with all of this technology, war becomes easier, and that is something that really shouldn’t be the case.

The book also looks at the future of robotics, one of the more science fictional elements of the book. It is predicted that humanoid robots will join the battlefield in the next ten or so years, alongside flesh-and-blood soldiers, that leaders might have robotic AI aides, and that the very nature of leadership is changing with instant communications. Like anyone who is a fan of science fiction, Singer also looks at the possibility of a robotic revolution, such as what has been seen in the Terminator, Battlestar Galactica and the Matrix, where machines come to know that they can be better than humans and push us aside. While this is taken a bit with a grain of salt, it’s certainly a concern, and even some soldiers note that they’re working on something that might end up causing problems for their grand kids. If robots do rise up, I don’t know that we’d have a chance.

Something that I also found interesting was the perceptions that the military has for the drone pilots and crews. Fighter pilots and others think that the profession is extremely nerdy or geeky, and as a result, turn their noses up at it. The squadron commander of the first predator drone flight group recounted how he was literally kicking and screaming at his assignment, but after a little while, he grew to enjoy it. This brings up some interesting points about the military and perceptions of masculinity, and how that could also be changing, to some degree. Honestly, this book has me thinking that being able to pilot one of those planes would be a very interesting job. It is certainly at the cutting edge of technology and warfighting.

This is an interesting, scary and relevant book that Singer has put together. It is exceptionally organized and researched, with interviews from high ranking officers from around the world, to the enlisted men who operate them, to the people who build and design military robots. And it’s chalk full of science fiction references, even opening with the line: Robots are frakin’ cool.

So say we all.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

The first four pages of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, (at least in my edition, the 2005 paperback) is a list of praise and quotes from reviews as to the quality of this novel. Coming across this, and the size of the book, is extremely daunting to a reader, and the prospect of watching to see if a novel comes to the level of quality so proclaimed is a challenge in and of itself.

Susanne Clarke has fashioned a masterpiece of English literature, one that throws back to a Victorian style, rich in prose and story, and is easily one of the greatest works of fantasy literature that I have ever read, rivaling some of the great classics of the genre, from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a complicated, extraordinary and exceptional work, and I am very pleased to have read.

The story is one that is complicated and fascinating. It begins in 1806, and tells the tale of two magicians who come forward in England with the intent to return English magic to a nation that has long been without it. Mr. Norrell is the first to come forward, and begins to bring magic back into the world. He is shortly thereafter joined by a fellow magician under his tutorage, Jonathan Strange, and they begin to study and practice their new craft. Thus begins a tale of friendship, rivalries, prophecy and history. Some of the greatest themes of literature are present here, but the story plays out in a truly original manner. There is the story of the differences between the master and apprentice, and within that context we see a number of themes; old verses new, tradition verses innovation.

This story takes place during the Napoleonic wars, which play an integral part of the direction of the characters. Interwoven throughout the story are well known figures: King George II, Lord Wellington, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, Lord Byron, and others, which give this story a rich historical context that borders on alternative history, but in a manner that far surpasses other known authors of the genre, such as Harry Turtledove, but in a way that far surpasses his works. Indeed, Clarke seems to pay as much attention to detail as J.R.R. Tolkien in his own works, with precise and detailed language to describe the events of the story.

The story takes place throughout England and continental Europe, and feels like it. From the dialogue to the characters and to the descriptions, it is a quintessential product of England, and draws upon its long history and literature. Oftentimes, I would find myself reading and feeling much like I was back in the country, something that I have longed for much lately. I know of a number of the locations in the book, as well as a good deal of the history of this time, and Clarke’s novel falls well within the context of the time and history here.

This book is a very complicated one, and having finished it only a short while ago, I am still processing all that has happened. It is written far differently from most other books – much as in the style of Jane Austin, from what I’ve read and it takes some time to get used to. Indeed, I read this book in two parts – I had started reading it almost a year or two ago, and put it aside to read something more accessible. Returning to it just a little while ago, I found that once I got into the story and characters, the pages flew by. But beyond the normal story here is a book that is rich with story. Throughout the pages there are footnotes of references to the author’s world, giving the readers insights into the surrounding history that helps to shape this story. A number of these footnotes could be an entire story within themselves, and Clarke has singlehandedly created her own mythology that not only stands well on its own, but is so detailed that one could almost mistake it for a mythological history in and of itself.

This book is a stunning debut of a new author. Looking back over the first couple of pages of praise that has been bestowed upon this book, I can see why it has been rated so highly by reviewers and fellow authors of the genre, and I am thrilled to say that this novel lives up to all expectations. Clarke has brought forth a complicated, yet intriguing, read to the fantasy genre, one that is most likely destined to become a classic, and one that, despite its real world historical contexts, is highly original, innovative and entertaining, one that I am sure to return to, and highly recommend to all fans of the genre, or a good read in general.

Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor

To be very honest, I’ve largely given up hope that there’ll be a truly unique Star Wars novel, something that would surprise and be truly delightful. Over the past twenty-odd years, hundreds of the books have been published, and since high school, I’ve devoured them, and have really enjoyed the entire franchise as a whole. That being said, the books from the last couple of years have really lost their spark.

I’ve never been sure what it was that they were missing, but whatever it was, Shadows of Mindor has it. From the beginning of the project, I’ve heard author Matthew Stover talk about how he wanted to make this book a bit of a homage to some of the earlier novels, such as The Adventures of Han Solo and The Adventures of Lando Calrissian. I’ve read both sets of trilogies, but never really got into them to the same extent that I got into the Del Rey books.

Allusions to these books are fairly clear – there is quite a bit of fairly over the top action, tongue in cheek humor and a lot of similes throughout the text, not to mention a number of references to the two trilogies, but also to a number of other Star Wars books, including Shatterpoint, which Stover also penned.

This book isn’t a copy of the older, somewhat cheesy novels. What Stover does do, however, is shed the overall seriousness and determination that a lot of recent books have clung to, and had some fun while writing this. For the first time in a very long time, I read a book that had the characters speaking in their own voices that really pulled me back to those earlier days when I would be sneaking books during class. In short, this book brought back the nostalgia factor for me.

In the universe, this is likewise a fun read because we haven’t seen a whole lot of books that take place in the post-ROTJ period, at least the first year or so, and it was nice to see some of the aftermath.

Unfortunately, this is one of the inherent weaknesses of the book, at least up until the last pages, because this is the type of book upon which the entire franchise could have taken a number of cues from – there is an enormous amount of characterization here that could have easily brought the entire series up a notch (the Bantam Spectra era, while fun, was all over the place as far as storylines/characters goes). Unfortunately, this book is slid into the existing storyline, and it’ll basically just sit there.

To some extent, Star Wars books have gotten away from some of the roots. The original trilogy of films was a homage to the old action movies and sci-fi serials, and this is evident in the text. In the years since its release, it’s gotten old, and goes to bed early, and doesn’t have any fun partying. Stover has kicked the franchise out of bed (or at least the lit part, for a couple hours anyway) and dragged it off to a bar for a round of drinks and at least one fight. It’s a rejuvenation that I think is very needed. This book is Fun, with a capital F, and knows it.

This is not to say that the Star Wars franchise is getting too old for it’s own good – a majority of the books that have come out recently are quite good, but at points, daunting. There are big, epic series that have little connection to the original films and themes, and at times take themselves far too seriously. Stover has sidestepped that and gone for a vastly different direction (the reveal at the end is something that I won’t reveal) that really sets this book in a class of its own.

It’s far too early at this stage to say whether this will become a favorite of mine, but it has resolidified Stover as one of my favorite authors that has worked with the franchise. There are only a couple of authors here that have really exemplified their storytelling with the Star Wars universe, and like each of his other books, Stover has outdone himself once again. I can only hope that he’ll be around to shake up things once again.

The Tragic Life of Charles Schultz

I don’t go to the library nearly enough to get books – my own reading list generally precludes me from this, and any book that I really want to read, I tend to end up buying. But, every now and then, I’ll see something interesting worth reading, and will pick it up on a whim. This was the case with the first authorized biography of Charles Schultz, by David Michealis, called Schultz and Peanuts, which was released late last year.

The biography is wonderfully complete and extremely detailed, spanning the famed creator of Peanuts life from beginning to end. In addition to just talking about his life, this book is a discussion of how his life impacted his creation, and shows just how much of Schultz is revealed within the classic panels that ultimately defined his life.

Schultz was born in November of 1922, and was the only child of Dena and Carl Schultz. His early childhood seemed to be one of loneliness, isolation and insecurity – all themes which would be prevalent in Peanuts. He was extremely attached to his mother, and was devastated when she died when he was twenty-one years old. It was during his early life that he began to draw, through his time in the army to a course where he began to draw small cartoons. Li’l Folks began in June of 1947, to limited success, but which would slowly grow to be an enormous multi-media platform that would lead Schultz from his humble beginnings to becoming one of the highest paid entertainers in the United States.

In addition to an examination of Schultz’s life, this book serves as a sort of literary critique of Peanuts itself. Each character is examined, their personalities and lives compared to Schultz’s and storylines are looked at within the same context. I’ve never read over the entirety of Peanuts, but this look has really given me an extremely detailed look not only at the evolution of the comic, but its inspirations and the meanings behind each panel.

What struck me the most about Schultz was the degree to which he and Peanuts were intertwined. While he denied that he utilized his own life and his children in the comic strip, it is very clear that was just not the case, intentionally or otherwise. From the start, he seemed to be destined for art, and looking back across his life, Peanuts is the only accomplishment for which he was entirely dedicated to – his purpose was singular, but perfect. The end result is a cartoon that is widely considered one of the greatest works of American art/literature, certainly one of the greatest comics, for which we owe much of our nation’s character to. Ironically, I have been reading about NASA and the lunar missions recently, and Schultz’s influences are felt there as well, as the Apollo 10 Lander (which was the test craft to circle and evaluate landing sites for Apollo 11, which did land on the moon) was named Snoopy and the Command Capsule was named Charlie Brown. Schultz also designed the mission patch for the first Skylab mission, featuring Snoopy and the names of the three crewmen. (My review for Homesteading Space can be found here.)

While Peanuts is a widely known work, its creator isn’t – this biography allows for an unparallel look at his life. In many respects, Schultz was Charlie Brown. Throughout the book, individual strips are presented, often highlighting elements of Schultz’s personality at various stages of his life. Characters are examined, picked apart and revealed through their creator to largely be an extension of his own life and personality. In a way, it is extremely fitting that not only was Peanuts not allowed to continue after his retirement, the last strip and his death occurred on the same day.

Schultz’s life was not an unhappy or miserable one – it was he that was unhappy and miserable for much of his life. He was self-deprecating, a little vain and incredibly insecure – not unlike his famed creation. He seemed to suffer from many phobias, and clung to people throughout his life, all the while maintaining a mild-mannered and quiet presence. His first marriage, which lasted twenty or so years, pitted him against his wife, who was far more assertive and combative, while his second was far more mutually friendly. Ironically, for a creator known for his portrayal of children, Schultz seemed to be fairly distant from his own, leaving the raising of his family to Joyce (his first wife), who dominated the house and family.

Reading through the book, I was interested to find that there are a number of elements of Schultz’s personality that match my own – to a point. I’ve illustrated the desire to change some aspects of this, and looking at Schultz’s life, one can see the effects of his personality upon the direction of his life and the people around him.

In the end, there is no doubt that Schultz had created something wonderful, tragic and heartwarming. Peanuts is arguably one the quintessential American tales, rife with meaning throughout, something that inspired generations of people around the world for its simplicity and brilliant storytelling. This was Schultz’s legacy to the world – unhappy, lonely, but enlightening.

Homesteading Space

The University of Nebraska Press has undertaken a huge series that I have been paying close attention to over the past year – the Outward Odyssey Series, which examines the human endeavors into outer space. The latest installment, Homesteading Space turns to a relatively unknown element, but crucial element of our trips to orbit, Skylab. Like the prior books, Into that Silent Sea, In the Shadow of the Moon and To A Distant Day, we are not only treated to a wealth of information about the technical aspects of the program, but the implications and human element of it.

Skylab was launched in 1973 after a number of years in development alongside the Apollo Program. While Mercury, Gemini and Apollo all had a singular purpose (to see if people could reach space and survive, to see if people could exist in space and if people could reach the moon, land and return), Skylab diverged from this main mission of lunar exploration and was essentially the start of the modern space program with vast implications: it was designed to see whether people could life in outer space. This mission has influenced our advances into orbit since – with the construction of the space shuttle, Mir and the International Space Station, and future missions to the Moon and to Mars, each owes (or will owe) much to the Skylab mission.

Skylab was interesting. As noted in the opening of the book, it was built from pre-existing parts, scraped from other programs and components. The station itself was part of the Saturn Rocket, an empty fuel tank, that was refitted and placed into orbit. From there, three crews were sent up and conducted a huge number of experiments that helped to see the effects of zero gravity on the human body during extended amounts of time (each of these crews set records for their time in space). Additionally, they were the first to conduct dedicated experiments and observations on the sun and while in the presence of zero gravity. The first solar flares were witnessed via the Apollo Telescope Mount, and a wealth of information about the Earth’s atmosphere as well.

Homesteading Space is not just about the scientific knowledge that was obtained in orbit – this is the story of the astronauts who conducted the experiments, who lived in space for weeks or months at a time, and how they coped. Skylab provided an enormous opportunity for individual cooperation and perseverance, for there were numerous problems that could have easily prevented the program from happening at all. But, each time, the astronauts and their ground support were able to overcome each problem and continue onwards.

The station was almost doomed from the start – upon its launch, solar coverings and shielding was stripped from the station, leaving it unlivable until a solution (essentially an umbrella) was improvised to protect the living quarters. The solar panels were crippled and power was limited. The first space walks were essentially rescue missions to save the station. On the second mission, two thrusters from the command module broke, leaving NASA to quickly plan a rescue mission from the ground as well as a solution for reentry with the remaining thrusters (no rescue was launched, and the crew returned safely).

The astronauts themselves were also the center of attention, and from this reading, it seems like they had quite a bit of fun in orbit. A number of jokes were played with the zero gravity, from contests and acrobatics, to leaving space suits stuffed and floating around the station for the next crew to find. This book helps to exemplify the role to which the astronauts have played in space, and their importance to the program, and does so wonderfully.

The book is not without its flaws, however. At points, it is repetitive, as I would come across the same story of astronauts losing items and then finding them in an air vent numerous times. A number of other details throughout are replicated, as are long passages from diaries and communications logs, which were likewise reprinted in the back of the book as an appendix. While these passages do provide some insight into the astronauts’ lives, it broke up the flow of the reading. Where I noted that the last book, To A Distant Day, was very short, this one seems to overcompensate and could have been stripped down a little more than it was. However, this is really the only major flaw here, and as a result, there is a rich amount of information about the Skylab program, almost literally minute by minute at points.

Homesteading Space highlights a crucial crossroads for the space program, the point between the drive to reach the moon, and the beginning of a new era. Skylab was caught in between Apollo and the Space Shuttle, and serves as a link to the two, drawing from knowledge that was obtained during the lunar missions, and influencing the future of spaceflight and habitation. The next book is due out next year, about Satellites, but I’m more excited for the following installment, Footsteps in the Dust, about the remaining lunar missions. This series is superior, detailed, exciting and enlightening, and provides a huge ray of hope for what’s to come next for us.

A Little History of the World

In history, context is vital. Events seldom make sense when presented individually, and often, the only way to fully understand, comprehend and appreciate any given event in history is to know the chain of events that led to it. Learning about the Second World War is difficult without at least a basic knowledge of the First World War and how that was influenced by the Industrial revolution. Context is vital.

Over the weekend, I picked up a book that I’ve long wanted to read, shown to me by a friend several years ago when it was first translated into English: A Little History of the World. First written and published in 1936 (written in six weeks – SIX), this book covers a staggering amount of history, starting from the very beginnings of human history and culture, from the prehistoric eras, and running up through to the dropping of the atomic bombs in 1945. Needless to say, in 284 pages, this is not a book rife with specific details, names and dates. Rather, this is an extremely broad look at how human history progressed.

While there are plenty of details lacking, this book is not intended as a grand work of history. It’s written simply, for a younger audience, to tell the tale of our existence – it helps to provide a broad context for our history to anyone who is mildly interested in the subject, and at this, the book succeeds wonderfully. As a student of history, I can appreciate the task at hand, and having read through the book in a day, I was astounded at just how much information is here. Almost every major era of human history is covered, and linked to the next – reading over the pages, we move from the Egyptian dynasties to ancient Babylon, to Greece, to Rome, to the Middle Ages and so on, up through to the present day. Most of the major events in the world are touched upon, but only so much to move the story along from point to point.

While there is a high degree to completeness to this volume, there are aspects of history that are not examined, even lightly – the American Civil War is talked about briefly, but only in the context of the role of Slavery (which is really not the right way to examine the war) nor is the European involvements in Africa really looked at, except in the context of the buildup to the First World War. This book is largely a view of the world through Western eyes, and talk from the Americas and Asia aren’t really examined as much, which is a disappointment, not out of any sort of nationalistic sense, but to the degree to which some of the major events in US history have played in the world – the Great Depression is not mentioned (although the history here really ends after the end of the First World War), but there is very little about the history of Central and South America or Africa. Reading the preface, it was mentioned that Gombrich intended to expand the book with the translation of an English version that would have talked more about Shakespeare, the Bill of Rights and the English Civil War, but he passed away before he was able to do this. I would have been interested to see how he would have characterized the rest of the 20th century, with the incredible changes and advancements that we have experienced since the end of the Second World War.

That being said, this book is a good examination of the world from a very high level – while smaller details are largely not talked about (specific important battles, such as Marathon, Waterloo, etc, are mentioned), the notion of how all these events fit together is the dominant one – specific knowledge of battles is not really necessary at most points, save when they are truly decisive historically, changing the course of nation’s histories. In my day of reading the book, I feel that I have a somewhat better understanding about how parts of the world fit together – while I knew most of the details of what had gone on, there were points in history where I was fuzzy on the broad details. This is a book that I wish I had read when I was in middle or high school, because of the broad examination here.

An interesting point that I found here was the voice to which Gombrich takes throughout – very light, and while military matters are covered frequently, warfare is never glorified – the preface notes that the publication of the book in Germany was halted because it was deemed too pacifist in Nazi Germany.

On an aesthetic level, the book is easy to read – the language is simple, intended for somewhat older children, and is divided into forty short chapters, each with a specific section of history. One of the most interesting parts here is the illustrations at the beginning of each chapter – a simple woodcut that is best representative of the theme or period of the chapter, which is very characteristic of the work here – it adds beauty and a bit of elegance to the pages here.

I loved every minute and every page of this book. While this is the broadest possible view of human history, it is done with skill and grace, with an impartial voice throughout, that points out our successes and our flaws as a race, with an incredible amount of wisdom behind it. To best describe this book is an introduction of history, from which any reader would be inspired to find more about any aspect of history that they so wished. I’m now going to make it a point to seek out his second major work, The Story of Art. In the meantime, this will become a treasured addition to my own library of books.

The title of this book can be somewhat misleading – A Simple History of the World might be more accurate, but A History of the World would be the best, because Gombrich has done a nearly impossible task – distilled the world’s history into a concise, yet interesting story that is optimistic, critical and inspiring.

American Nerd: The Story of My People

My copy of American Nerd came in last night, and it proved to be a fairly short read, only 222 pages, which took me the better part of my evening to get through. While it is very short and somewhat abbreviated, it proves to be an interesting read that brings up some interesting points about American Nerd culture.

Ben Nugent’s book seeks to examine the roots and definition of the Nerd. In doing so, he teases out two large factors in culture that have helped bring about the popular nerd image, and that’s isolation from the main population and an affinity for rules and structure. From my own experiences and observations, these are relatively accurate assertions that these elements do help to influence those who call themselves nerds or geeks.

Nugent’s book looks to history for some of the background on the subject. What I found most fascinating was his take on elements of the progressive movement on society and how this has some root causes for nerds and for why they are generally abused by popular culture in general. One thing that is made clear – nerd/geek culture is created, in part, by isolation from the rest of the population. Nugent goes back to the 1880s to the first Ohio school that introduced mandatory physical education, through to Theodore Roosevelt and building of a ‘all American’ sort of culture. Athletics in schools, by nature are exclusionary – they seperate out the weaker, meeker and smaller. There are many tales of the nerds/geeks in high school being picked off one by one by one in dodge ball.

One aspect of this is duality, a theme that comes up multiple times throughout the book, and through different means. Nugent brings up several racial and social theories to help explain this. One example of this is how he examines and compares geeks vs. jocks. Jocks tend to draw more from the animal side of the spectrum, tend to be more empathic and emotional while geeks tend to veer more towards the machine side, where logic and reason take precedent. The animal, emotional and empathic side of things, because of the progressive movement, has become the more accepted social position in the US.

While the book does take a good look at the background history of nerds in the US, there are serious flaws in the book’s structure. It bounces from history to social theory to biography and guide to nerdom, with very little overall flow. While the book brings up a number of points, is up to date (items such as Robot Chicken, Freaks and Geeks, Battlestar Galactica and other geek fare) and is fun to read – it doesn’t get drowned by the bulk and density of some historical events.

This book is too short and doesn’t go far enough to examine the history and cultural factors in nerd/geek subculture. The history is abbreviated and the methodology is inconsistent. There is no bibliography, despite his criticism of another book of not having one, although there are some footnotes throughout the book.

While it purports to examine the story of Nerds in the US, there are some very obvious gaps here that undermine the history. There is no discussion of the rise of computers – I don’t believe that Steve Jobs is mentioned with the creation of Apple computers, nor is NASA talked about, which seems like a huge thing to overlook when talking about geek/nerd history. Nor is there any discussion on the impact of Sci-Fi films during the 70s and 80s. There’s some talk about Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, a little more about Dungeons & Dragons, but there’s precious little talk about the impact of these huge juggernauts on the geek/nerd community. While it’s unreasonable to expect that this book would be anything comprehensive (or any book on history, for that matter), leaving things out such as this seems to be a gross oversight.

To some extent, this book feels uncompleted. There are short sections that cover a broad range of subjects, so it feels like it covers a lot of ground. This is good, but unfortunately, it only seems to cover the surface of much of the issue. That being said, it is an interesting read. It’s certainly a book that can be expected as nerd-culture has gotten far more popular in recent years.

The best thing that we have here is a good definition of the term, of the entire population that’s out there. It’s a good start, and hopefully, we’ll be seeing some more work in this aspect of history soon.