Ryan Britt is the role model I didn’t know I needed. I would end the review there, but then I couldn’t really call it a review which is kind of the whole reason I got the book early in the first place. Nor would I be able to let you know why this book was so good. Now before we get into what made this book so enjoyable, lets take a look at the summary from the publisher:
Pop Culture and sci-fi guru Ryan Britt has never met a monster, alien, wizard, or superhero that didn’t need further analysis.
Essayist Ryan Britt got a sex education from dirty pictures of dinosaurs, made out with Jar-Jar Binks at midnight, and figured out how to kick depression with a Doctor Who Netflix-binge. Alternating between personal anecdote, hilarious insight, and smart analysis, Luke Skywalker Can’t Read contends that Barbarella is good for you, that monster movies are just romantic comedies with commitment issues, that Dracula and Sherlock Holmes are total hipsters, and, most shockingly, shows how virtually everyone in the Star Wars universe is functionally illiterate.
Romp through time and space, from the circus sideshows of 100 years ago to the Comic Cons of today, from darkest corners of the Galaxy to the comfort of your couch. For anyone who pretended their flashlight was a lightsaber, stood in line for a movie at midnight, or dreamed they were abducted by aliens, Luke Skywalker Can’t Read is full of answers to questions you haven’t thought to ask, and perfect for readers of Chuck Klosterman, Rob Sheffield, and Ernest Cline.
Ryan Britt, the author of Luke Skywalker Can’t Read: and Other Geeky Truths, has been published by the likes of like The New York Times and VICE, and was also a staff writer for sci-fi super-site Tor.com, where he remains a contributor. The book itself is essentially a collection of nerdy thoughts in the form of essays that run the gamut from Star Wars (obviously) to Sherlock Holmes with Lord of the Rings and Back to the Future thrown in for good measure, which means it’s right in my wheelhouse.
This book was great. Each essay was a fun read whether you know a lot about the subject matter (in my case Star Wars) or no next to nothing about it (Doctor Who). Britt does a good job providing enough expository information about the topics to make the humorous point of his essays make sense. Each essay offers a unique perspective on some of nerd cultures most popular franchises. In Regeneration No. 9, Britt talks about how the idea of regeneration in Doctor Who helped him deal with a bout of depression.
In the titular essay Luke Skywalker Can’t Read he argues that everyone in the Star Wars universe is illiterate because we are never shown anyone actually reading. Instead, they almost always use holograms to pass information along. He does point out that there is some reading in Star Wars, but these letters are task-oriented. For instance, the pilots in Star Wars appear to be literate because they have to read the labels in their cockpits as well as the translation of the beeps and boops of their R2 units, but a vast majority of the different societies throughout the galaxy are out of luck. From there we get a look at the paradoxes of Back to the Future, and an essay about how J. R. R. Tolkien originally only planned on writing The Hobbit and not Lord of the Rings and what the world would be like if he followed through and never wrote one of the most popular works of fantasy ever.
Overall, Ryan Britt is putting out a really fun and interesting collection of essays that nerd culture fans of all types can get something out of it. I was familiar with about three quarters of the subjects and enjoyed each essay. All of the essays have some personal stories intertwined that give you a sense that you are just hanging out with this guy who ponders the great mysteries of the fictional realm and is sharing his insights. Luke Skywalker Can’t Read: and Other Geeky Truths hits the shelves on November 24, 2015, and I highly recommend picking up a copy.