The Year Of The Geek by James Clarke (book review).

I did think when I was shown this book, ‘The Year Of The Geek’ by James Clarke, that it was supposed to be like a diary and you had to read one page a day. It’s not. At least this way, you won’t have to wait until next year for me to finish reading the book in context. For the 365 days shown in this book, each is treated as a landmark for when someone was born, maybe died and consequent career highlights, the start of a TV series or film or a singular event of interest and all with graphic representations and occasional graph.

If you’re up on your geek, some of the info you’ll either know or want to correct. There is a lot of good info here but the occasional thing will make you sit up and say that’s wrong. If anything, it’s a test of your own geekiness just to know how right or wrong he is. I did smile sweetly at the Aurum publicist that this book was facing someone who is an ultimate geek for odd trivia.

Clarke cites ‘The Dark Knight Returns (1986) as showing the moral compass of super-heroes being askew, totally forgetting that it was the ‘Watchmen’ (1986-1987) that led the way, more so as it was in preparation in 1985. I was also puzzled why the illustration of ‘The Bionic Woman’ was based on Michelle Ryan rather than Lindsay Wagner. The 2008 series might have cost more but only lasted a season compared to the original three seasons. It’s also a shame that there was no index to cross-check things but ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ barely got a mention.

Interestingly, a lot of the key points aren’t always where something started but when they ended. I suspect Clarke had to think about what to put in some dates. Equally, I’m puzzled why there is no indication that some things happened on the same date but in a different year. To the uninformed, they might just walk away thinking this is all these is rather than think what about so-and-so, etc. Don’t treat this book as being totally inclusive as it does go beyond our genre into other subjects like computer games and there’s several items on anime.

Occasionally information is given but with no reference to where it belongs to, like with the ‘Planetary Sentience’. To us deep geeks, that’s easy but I do wonder if some of the upcoming geeks can place things so easily.

I was surprised that in the miniaturisation piece there was no mention of ‘Fantastic Voyage’ or even Ant-Man. One thing he is definitely wrong about, Richard Williams’ animation film, ‘The Thief And The Cobbler’, was completed and released and still available on DVD. Nor for that matter why Spike wasn’t included in the members of the Scooby Gang and the number of kills he did for them in ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’. It would have been interesting to have had a comparison of just how many of their significant ‘Bads’ killed.

The Sam Jones 1987 pilot of ‘The Spirit’ never made series under the Will Eisner entry. Likewise, the reason and missed fact about the original 1969 version of ‘The Guardians Of The Galaxy’ looking nothing like the recent version is largely because it was set in the future where the planets of the Solar System had been colonised.

The ‘Spider-Man’ entry is a little odd. Although there is a disclaimer that allegiances vary from issue to issue, I’m still puzzled why Eddie Brock is classed as an ally more so as Venom isn’t included as a villain. Then again, as several other ‘heroes’ who were only supporting characters are also deceased, this just adds to the confusion.

Likewise, why would Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 novel ‘The Sirens Of Titan’ be included in an entry about Mars when it’s a satellite of Saturn? It’s not as though these things are difficult to check. Then again, Clarke also thinks Chekov was in the opening season of the original ‘Star Trek’. The popularity of the 1987 series ‘Captain Power And The Soldiers Of The Future’ might also be because J. Michael Stracynski wrote 14 of the episodes.

With the ‘Torchwood’ entry, he has Mickey Smith classed as a scientist. He might have posed as one undercover for an episode but he definitely wasn’t one by qualification. Clarke also seems a little confused about how many regenerations Time Lords have. Yes, it is thirteen, assuming no energy is wasted repairing a current body and in his second thirteen, the Doctor has wasted one of those. So far, only the Doctor and Master have been given an extra cycle of regenerations. It’s also not the first time that a Time Lord has regenerated into a woman. There’s been two others including Missy. I can’t get more geeky than that.

Under the Gerry Anderson piece, he cites him as the creator of the rolling background when in fact it was Derek Meddings who designed it based on the old silent movies stage technique.

I have to say 10 mistakes in 365 isn’t as bad as I’ve seen elsewhere. If anything, I’m more critical of some of the letter and page colouring. Black and grey, black and brown and black and bright blue caused indistinctiveness often by not being in direct light and I’d hate to be colour-blind.

I can see this book becoming a popular gift handed out in a couple months time so don’t treat it as a pariah if it ends up in your stocking.

GF Willmetts

October 2017

(pub: Aurum Press/Quarto. 233 page illustrated medium hardback. Price: £18.00, $25.00 (US), $32.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78131-692-4)

check out website: www.QuartoKnows.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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