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Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet out of Idaho Hardcover – February 15, 2000

4.1 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Teenage hackers Jesse Dailey and Eric Twilegar are the heroes of Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet out of Idaho, a thoughtful, affecting pop ethnography--and heroes is exactly what Jon Katz wants you to see them as. To the rest of the world, themselves included, they are geeks, which is a complicated thing to be these days. With the rise of the networked economy, the world and its wealth have become increasingly dependent on the expertise of Star Wars-loving, cola-swilling propellerheads everywhere. Yet at the same time, the typical geek--especially the typical adolescent geek--remains a consummate outsider, with passions for technological arcana that are both alienating and empowering.

Katz, a writer for both Rolling Stone and the profoundly geeky Web site Slashdot.org, does a fine job of mapping this ambiguous new state of affairs (the Geek Ascendancy, he calls it). But the book's heart and soul is the well-told tale of Jesse and Eric's adventurous flight from lonely, dead-end lives in Idaho Mormon country to brighter possibilities in Chicago.

Katz argues that this great escape couldn't have happened without the networks (both social and technological) that are the lifeblood of '90s geekdom, but he doesn't let his celebratory argument get in the way of the story. Although he's a tireless advocate for geeks (the last chapters retrace his impassioned advocacy for brooding teenage weirdos in the face of post-Columbine media attacks), he presents their culture warts and all, with its tendencies toward social awkwardness and arrogance recognizably intact. He doesn't demand your sympathy for his heroes and their world--but he wins it anyway, by bringing them vividly and honestly to life. --Julian Dibbell

From Publishers Weekly

While promoting his book Virtuous Reality, journalist Katz was introduced to the world of "geeks," those smart, technically savvy misfits who are ostracized by their high school peers. Katz wrote in his column on the slashdot.org Web site about the isolation, exclusion and maltreatment--from dirty looks to brutal beatings--such kids routinely face. Tens of thousands of anguished e-mails confirmed his story. One of the e-mailers was Jesse Dailey, a working-class 19-year-old trapped in rural Idaho, where he and his friend Eric Twilegar fixed computers for a living, and hacked and surfed the Web, convinced that they were losers and outcasts. Katz, also a writer for Wired and Rolling Stone, traveled to Idaho to meet the pair, intending to chronicle their lives. He wound up encouraging and sometimes assisting Jesse and Eric as they tried to improve their lives by moving to Chicago, where they sought better jobs and even considered applying to college. Sometimes intensely earnest, Katz cuts back and forth between Jesse and Eric's story and more general discussions of the geeks' condition. Over the course of the book, Jesse and Eric come to represent geeks' collective weaknesses and strengths. While the bulk of the book has broad social and educational implications (concerning the fate of bright kids who don't come from socially and educationally privileged backgrounds), it is a highly personal tale: Katz takes us inside the lives of these two young men, shows us their sense of isolation, their complete absorption in the cyberworld, their distrust of authority and institutions, and their attempts to negotiate an often hostile society. He breaks through the stereotype and humanizes this outcast group of young people. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; 1 edition (February 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037550298X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375502989
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,355,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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!
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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).
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By A Customer on February 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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.
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