Humor, Non-Fiction, Print, Review, SF

Geek Literacy: A Review of Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt

I really enjoyed this book. Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths is the first tome from former staff writer (and still occasional reviewer) Ryan Britt, a dyed-in-the-wool SF and nerd culture geek, who has also written for such publications as The New York Times and VICE. Covering everything from Sherlock Holmes to Back to the Future, Britt attempts to draw parallels between the way humans have historically viewed and critiqued Works of Great Art™ and how we view pop culture. One of the central tenets of his position is that, given a few more years and the passing of old-guard movie critics, a lot of movies that get somewhat panned will end up being viewed as classics. I agree with him 100%.

Now, you might be saying, “But Steve, Sherlock Holmes is already a classic!” This is true, but have you ever thought of Conan Doyle’s master sleuth as an early example of Science Fiction? I didn’t think I had, but as I read Britt’s essay, I had several, “Oh yeah” moments. How about Robert Zemeckis relying on a false nostalgia layered within idealized portrayals of 1950s, 1980s, and 1980’s conceptions of near-future America in order to, you guessed it, create a false nostalgia recursively contained within a never-ending false Hill Valley, California standing in for Everytown, USA? Again, it totally makes sense, and is something that you just know you were already aware of on some level, but hadn’t put into words. Britt does, and he makes it understandable in a way that is a pleasure to read.

He is that thing that is far more common than we sometimes realize – a fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones (save for Crystal Skull – he does have good taste), a self-aware, self-mocking authority on growing up in the 80s and 90s, a massive consumer of everything geek, nerd, and pop. But what Britt does better than most is articulate the connections between all these similar (they’re all part of the same cultural subset) yet disparate (film, literature, comics, fandom, SF, Action, and Detective stories) things.

For the most part, the book feels like an excellent chat with a friend over beers, discussing our favorite movies and characters. While we occasionally disagree, all the points are solid, and there’s no acrimony in the end. If you enjoy geek and pop culture, and reading about it, you’ll definitely enjoy this book. Britt’s voice is very personal, very readable, and a little authoritative, but not in that annoying “I know more about this than you do” manner most of us have experienced at some time or another (usually at a con or a book signing or a game/comic book store) – rather, it’s more like, “Here’s some things you were already thinking about, put into a cool new package.” Highly recommended.

Steve’s Rating: 9 out of 10 stars (9 / 10)

Pages: 208 (Paperback)
Publisher: Plume
Date: November 24, 2015

Ryan Britt’s author page

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