07 August 2009

Sunken Treasures

Wil Wheaton
Grade: B-

I have very mixed feelings about Sunken Treasures. Don’t get me wrong, each entry, in and of itself rawked (with one notable exception), yet as a whole, I was left with the feeling I had not quite gotten what I paid for. Since what I paid for was a $5 DRM-free PDF, what I was expecting as yet remains undefined. Also, if I didn't already know I was a little in love with Wil Wheaton, the DRM-free-ness of his book would've sold me.

Start with the bad. One of the portions of Wil Wheaton’s writing I do not get behind are his production diaries. Hollywood and TV magic hold little interest for me and while I can see where people do enjoy them, personally if I’d known that 34 of 84 pages of Sunken Treasures was going to be production notes from Criminal Minds I probably would have skipped on the purchase. This might have something to do with the fact that I’ve never really gotten behind Criminal Minds as a show. The review and notes from “Datalore” were in fact awesome* so I may be grading on a rather unfair curve here. There was nothing necessarily wrong with the entry, but it ranked a solid ‘meh’ on my scale of interests.

*As soon as Memories of the Future comes out I’m buying that puppy.

Now onto the good fantastic. One of my favourite stories from WilWheaton.net is the story of “The Trade” and I think most of why I like it translates well to why I like a lot of his writing. In it, an 8-year-old Wheaton is convinced by an older acquaintance to trade away his Death Star with Cool Trash Compactor Monster. In return, Wheaton received a Land Speeder and five bucks. Anyone who cannot already see the unfairness of this trade should avoid WilWheaton.net, Slashdot, io9, wookieepedia and this blog amongst (many) other places. While the story has a nice emotional impact in its own right, where it really succeeds is in drawing on the reader’s own experiences. Who hasn’t been convinced to give up something of great value for much less than its worth? I was six when a cousin, five years my elder, conned me out of my remote-controlled pony. I don’t remember what I got out of the deal, but the fact that I remember Captain Hoofsy* to this day probably says a lot about how bummed I was about the results. I hadn’t thought about the great Captain in a very long time, but Wheaton’s tale dug into my brain and dug out a gem from my past.

*I was six, Captain Hoofsy is a great name when you’re six.

A lot of his writing, a lot of his reminiscences, are like this and it is where Wheaton really succeeds as a writer in my opinion. He’s just a guy who grew up in approximately the same time I did. While I wasn’t attending auditions after school and listening to a Walkman with Susan Sarandon, I did spend my fair share of quarters on pinball machines and Space Invaders. Wheaton’s life is not my life. After a moment where I felt ‘Oh jeez, I know exactly how you felt’ there would come moment when you realize that this was not a usual childhood, and this is not a life I can relate to. Moments with his family such as “See a Little Light” and “Remember This” show a family life that I can envy without feeling an urge to vomit. They are true, heartfelt and, while sentimental, lack the sentimentality of someone who is trying way too hard.

The ultimate message I got from Sunken Treasures is that the basics of life are the same. We all played as kids, whether in arcades after school or on the set of major motion pictures. We’re all proud to see our families succeed and grieve when those we love pass on. Wil Wheaton doesn’t preach. He tells the story in such a way that you follow along in your own mind with your own life’s experiences. I don’t think any two people will have the same reaction to his work. Our reaction comes from the emotional tint we’ve given our own similar memories.

Sunken Treasures is the Hot Cocoa Box Sampler (as the subtitle tells you) and you get a little of everything. While it didn’t touch my soul, it does make me yearn for Happiest Day of Our Lives, which I will be buying somewhere in the copious amount of time I have between now and starting grad school.

If the whole book had been like the first 50 pages I’d have no hesitation in saying this was a fantastic read and everyone should go buy it right this very moment. As it is, know that nearly half your buy is production notes; and while it’s not really my cup of cocoa, I’m sure for many it will be the best aspect of the book. I did read the whole thing, so that counts for something.

I give the first half a solid A (only nudity gets an A+ Mr. Wheaton, remember this for Memories of the Future), and the second half an A for writing style and a D for being pertinent to my interests.

So this is where I plug for my "Hate the Wesley, Love the Wil" shirt. In a very small way.

1 comment:

  1. i traded the droid building factory for the hoth playset, because i was so in love with the probe droid. it was big! it was articulated! but the droid factory was in fact, much cooler overall.