Luke Skywalker Can’t Read And Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt (book review).

December 15, 2015 | By | Reply More

Ryan Britt is an essayist who has specialised in writing on the idiosyncrasies of SF and Fantasy culture. In ‘Luke Skywalker Can’t Read And Other Geeky Truths’, Britt examines particular films and TV series from the eighties, nineties and noughties in relation to his own experiences of growing-up. From him and his father watching ‘Barbarella’ to his Mum collapsing on the sofa telling him she was on ‘impulse power’, Britt’s upbringing had a lot of geek going-on.


A lot of the perspectives Britt brings are quite refreshing. The titular essay makes an argument not only for Luke not being able to read but that this is a galaxy-wide issue, explaining why the Jedi were so quickly forgotten between ‘Revenge Of The Sith’ and ‘A New Hope’. It’s an interesting and entertaining idea and, while re-watching ‘A New Hope’ the other night, I tried to put it to the test. Sure Luke reads functional data such as that outputted by R2D2 but, if he’s that culturally bereft, where does he get the idea of a teleport when he’s moaning to C3PO that he’s stuck on Tatooine? As far as we know, such technology doesn’t exist in the ‘Star Wars’ universe and so must come from stories picked up either through reading or possibly the Holonet.

Some of the essays are quite uplifting, such as connecting with David Tennant’s tenth Doctor on Netflix while he was dealing with being unemployed. Britt seems to think though that in order to understand ‘Doctor Who’ you need quite a lot of explanation. Generations of happily engaged children and adults in the UK since the early sixties prove that assertion wrong. Annoyingly, he also gets his facts incorrect. Only one episode of ‘The Tenth Planet’ is missing, for example, whereas he claims the whole story is.

Other chapters were a little more of a stretch to engage with. The essay on the connection between hipsters and robots is tenuous at best, though I do admit to be envious of the kind of parties that Britt gets to attend in New York (in case you’re wondering, dominatrixes and drugs).

The overall effect of this book is like reading a novel by Ernest Cline only Britt doesn’t discover he’s the saviour of the world in the last third. I agreed and connected with him on a lot of his memories and viewpoints, despite growing-up in another country and support his viewpoint around the huge positives that being a ‘geek’ has to offer. On the other hand, I was also left with a feeling of ‘so what?’ once the book was over.

Overall, I found ‘Luke Skywalker Can’t Read’ to be a diverting and pleasant read but less enthusiastic than the breathless endorsements on the cover. There is work that I identified with and enjoyed but I think, next time, I would like more of the theories and cultural criticism, rather than the memoirs.

John Rivers

December 2015

(pub: Plume Books/Penguin. 208 page paperback. Price: £10.56 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-14751-757-9)

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Category: Books, Star Wars

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