REVIEW SUMMARY: Who’d have thought you get valuable life lessons from Wesley Crusher?
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Actor Wil Wheaton’s musings about the transition from actor to actor/writer/parent.
PROS: Well written; deals with life issues that matter; fun glimpses behind the acting curtain.
CONS: Some of the earlier blog excerpts are a bit amateurish when compared to the rest of the book.
BOTTOM LINE: Definitely worth the read.
Although Wil Wheaton had the good fortune to land a role on a well-respected television series at an early age, he had the distinct misfortune of being cast as a character that a huge fanbase came to loathe. Just a Geek is Wheaton’s candid memoir showing his transition from Star Trek actor to actor/writer/parent.
The book is structured around early entries from his hugely popular blog, incorporating those posts that exemplify different stages in his attitudes and perceptions regarding his own life and career. There are a decent amount of recollections about his role as Wesley Crusher, both on Star Trek: The Next Generation and the film Star Trek: Nemesis. (Most of that latter work ended up on the cutting room floor.) These memories make for fun reading for SciFi fans. There are also a fair amount of stories about conventions he’s attended, emails he’s received, and the ultimate fate of his own personal Wesley Crusher action figure.
But the casting call and convention recollections, as entertaining as they are, are really not the emphasis of the book. Instead, it’s about how the author learned to cope with the hatred spewed out by fans; how he learned the grim, harsh truth about the gears of Hollywood, and how he embraced all things geeky. The recollections are really just the vehicle he uses to do this. For example, a casting call where he saw Sean Astin, a fellow actor from Toy Soldiers who went on to star in the well-received Lord of the Rings films, was written with descriptive clarity, as if you were there feeling the same awkwardness and frustration that Wheaton felt that day. Wheaton also talks about the more mundane responsibilities of life, like setting good examples for his kids, being a good husband, and worrying about how to provide for his family. Being of the same age group and in some of the same situations, it’s hard to not relate to his experiences.
A memoir needs more than good anecdotes to make it entertaining: it needs good writing, too, and Wheaton is no slouch when it comes to telling a story. His current conversational writing style is incredibly engaging and easily digestible. Sure, some of the earlier blog post excerpts are a little heavy-handed, and he makes too-frequent use of his camel-cased alter ego “Prove to Everyone That Quitting Star Trek Wasn’t a Mistake,” but if anything, it just shows how he has grown as a writer over the years. And that is, after all, part of the point he’s trying to make with this book.
Ultimately, Just a Geek is a journal of lessons learned about growing up and being a parent. It’s about maturity and responsibility, and it’s about being happy with the person you are instead of being disappointed at how you are perceived by others. It’s definitely worth the read.