on February 27, 2000
Some Amazon reviewers have argued that "Geeks" is simply about two disenfranchised kids and that their geek-ness is only incidental to the story. I couldn't disagree more. The story of Jesse and Eric, while profoundly moving, is only illustrative of the larger movement about which Katz is writing. Geeks are in the ascendance in our culture -- despite the fact that that culture looks down upon them and makes many of their lives nearly unbearable. That is the interesting central theme of the book. Their exile from the mainstream world has helped spur their technological savvy, which the rest of the world now needs to survive. It is the ultimate revenge of the nerds. "Geeks" describes the nascent changing of the guard that can be seen everywhere (with differing results): in the bellies of American corporations; in American high schools; in the Dow Jones; at the University of Chicago; and in journalism. Usually, one can only write intelligently about such an event after it has long past; Katz is writing about it now. Thanks.
on March 9, 2000
Mr. Katz is a generation removed from most of contemporary Geekdom, but his perspicacious comments and critical observations on our society show that his distance only makes his view clearer. I would count him as one of the best commentators of our time on pop culture.
This book is supposedly about two young men from Idaho who, by their intelligence and pluck, as well as their Geekhood, make their way out of a bad situation to one where a good future is possible. It is about them, and their story is important. It is also about Geekdom in general and our society's reaction to it. It is about being an outcast in a world with some stupid values. It is about the power of ideas. It is about the importance of individuality. It is about the positive and negative sides of such intelligence.
Many of us had read Katz's articles on Slashdot, particularly those concerning the aftermath of the Columbine shootings. Months later, those articles are still important, and the snippets of them contained in this book are entirely relevant to the story of Jesse and Eric. They are concurrent phenomena, and the book is stronger for including them.
I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in Geekdom, pop culture, outcasts in high school, and understanding 20-somethings (and teenagers) in general. Katz is a solid, compelling writer, and this book is fantastic.
And I'm not even a Geek!
on February 18, 2000
The book "Geeks" arrived in the mail at 2:30 this afternoon. It is now 5:45. The last page has been turned, and I'm sitting here trying to get a grip on my emotions. The story of Jesse and Eric is resonating within me like no other ever has. I confess that I pretty much broke down when I turned to page 184 (I won't spoil what happens). In many ways my life has been an almost exact parallel with Jesse's and Eric's, and it was a powerfully moving and personal experience to read their story. I strongly recommend this book to other Geeks, and also their parents.
I'm an older geek (32) who came to terms with the alienation and isolation common to our ilk many years ago. I think the thing that helped me hang on during the darkest days of my childhood was a letter I received from Carl Sagan when I was about 12 or 13. A family friend had written to him with a description of me and my plight. The letter of encouragment and understanding I received from him showed me that I was not alone.
The tragedy at Columbine hit especially close to home for me, since Columbine is literally a couple of miles from where I live. While what they did was horrific and tragic I can understand in some way what those two had gone through. This book has given me the urge to reach out to young geeks in an effort to show them that there are others who understand. I'm not quite sure how to go about this yet, but I have some ideas.
on March 7, 2000
Okay, this is a completely biased review, because Jon's a friend of mine, but that's not going to stop me from pointing out what a powerful book this is. On the surface, it's a simple story about two geeks named Jesse and Eric who escape from Nowheresville, Idaho, and, thanks to their computer skills and their friendship with Jon, begin a new life in Chicago. But the story is deeper, wierder, more interesting than that - it's really about escape and self-invention. It's the stuff Bob Dylan would have written about, if he were twenty years younger and had any interest in geeks. Jesse and Eric's story may never be set to music, but it's gonna make a great movie (rights have already been acquired by New Line).
on February 19, 2000
When a friend recommended this, I was worried that "Geeks" might be a computer book, for people who know what DOS and "byte" mean. But it isn't: it's a very human story of two kids stuck in a dreary little town who use their brains, hearts and computer skills to break free. Anyone who's ever felt like an outsider will understand and root for them (and there's a nice little surprise towards the end), whether you are technologically savvy or not. Katz really gets into their lives and minds, and he helps us understand a generation of kids who are ready to rule the world, even if they still can't get a date.
on March 27, 2000
In my forty plus years since attending high school in Montana I have read a lot of books and this one has found a place in my permanent collection, right along side Angela's Ashes and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Although the latter has more in common with respect to the impact of technology upon society there are many similarities between this book and the former as well. If you are interested in rising from the depth of poverty Angela's Ashes is a good source. If you are interested in rising from the depths of rejection Geeks is your answer. All three narratives are written in the first person and unselfishly offer personal experience to describe compelling depth into the human condition. Although Jon Katz primarily describes the experiences of two young upstarts in the Internet revolution, one brief passage reads like the confessions of St. Austin. I have used this comparison as a means of expressing my view that this book will stand as a catalist for future generations to reflect upon the latest paradigm shift in communication. It is a must read for anyone even vaguely interested in where the technology is taking us.
on April 2, 2000
I've taken if upon myself to become a one-woman task force in an effort to encourage educators, parents and kids to read this book.
It addresses the lost members of our youth, those labeled geek, freak, outcast, weirdo and oddball; the kids who most need someone to reach out and assure them that high school is but one, small segment of their entire lives,and if there seems no place for them there, a place most definitely exists in the world. In fact, it is their time. In the wake of Columbine we must acknowledge that our kids are in need -- of our support, reassurance, nurturing. These quiet, oddball kids are usually the brightest, most creative, intense, thoughtful people, and rather than allow that unique voice to be squelched, we must encourage them to grow and be strong in their individuality.
GEEKS will help parents and educators to understand, and will show kids that there is a world out there waiting to embrace them with open arms. At this time in the world, this book should be required reading.
Anyone who truly cares about the well being and future of our youth cannot afford NOT to read it.
on April 27, 2000
I highly recommend Geeks. The story is about two teenage geeks. The message is about alienation, redemption and assimilation. Fascinating because of its engaging characters and its insights into so-called "geek culture", the book is enlightening, particularly to parents of adolescents, on an entirely different level. Our society nurtures only certain "types" while others "types" may provide the keys to the future of our culture. Although I share the view of several previous reviewers that the style of writing is somewhat breathless at times, the story being told and the message being delivered are important issues of our time.
on February 17, 2000
"Geeks" is one of those books that you won't be able to put down. As soon as I got it I curled up next to the fireplace, started reading it and couldn't put it down until I was finished.
Using a journalistic, yet very intimate approach, JonKatz does an excellent job of showing people who a geek really is, why a geek acts the way (s)he does, and what a geek stands for in general.
I hope that parents and teachers will use this book as a tool to understand the "geek children" they may encounter. Take a fair look at this book before you think of anyone as anti-social because they like to write computer programs, play with computer games, or go on the internet for extended periods of time.
This book shows even more how geeks are going to be a major part of the future and hopefully people will take the time to understand them instead of ostracizing them for thinking that they are weird and anti-social.
on February 18, 2000
Katz has a great grasp on the culture and a great writing style . . . the book is moving without being sappy, easy to read yet intelligent, and very thought provoking . . . highly, highly recommended to anyone, whether they consider themselves geeks or not. there is somethig here for everyone.