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Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: A Book by Patton Oswalt Hardcover – January 4, 2011

3.7 out of 5 stars 117 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Comedian Oswalt (The King of Queens, Caprica) offers up a collection of colorful essays ranging in topic from his experiences working at a movie theater to sends-ups of eccentric relatives, including a grandmother who gives exceedingly odd birthday gifts. To delve into the book is to take a tour of Oswalt’s delightfully offbeat mind: he shares with readers what he was doing to procrastinate while writing certain chapters, suggests some truly morbid greeting cards, and parodies the vampire craze in comic-book form. The title is a reference to Oswalt’s theory that creative teens gravitate toward three subjects for their early stories: zombies, spaceships, or wastelands. Oswalt found himself drawn toward wastelands, a natural choice for a comedian who likes to poke fun at society. Oswalt is a wonderfully descriptive writer, vividly evoking his zombielike coworker at the theater, a grim Canadian comedy club, and the wanderings of his teen imagination with sharp, sardonic prose. --Kristine Huntley

Review

“Further proof that Patton Oswalt is way funnier than I am, which is either high praise or an insult. Your call.” (Judd Apatow)

“Patton Oswalt is a brilliant rarity; a relentlessly creative and original comic who is also a superb writer. If you don’t buy this book you are a fool and I will, I swear, fight you.” (Conan O'Brien)

“Funny, thoughtful stuff. Patton alternates the spit-take hilarity of a great stand-up with the quiet, mordant insight that clearly helped make him one. Which is amazing, ‘cause he’s an idiot.” (Joss Whedon)

“Fans of Patton Oswalt’s standup comedy have always known he was a born writer at heart, and now here’s the proof. This is a surprisingly affecting, sincere and daresay vulnerable collection of essays, all keenly observed, always very funny.” (Dave Eggers)

“I don’t know what’s sharper, Oswalt’s brains or Oswalt’s tongue.”
Sarah Vowell

“I have impeccable taste, and I only converse with the following three: God, the Devil, and Patton Oswalt. All three have opened for me. This book is a funny tragedy. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll convert to Pattonism. If you do not love this book, remember, I know where you live in your mother’s basement.”
Harlan Ellison

“Perfect—I can describe Patton’s book the same way I describe his stand up—brilliant and prolific, I am slackjawed, amazed, and left feeling both inspired and fraudulent.”
Sarah Silverman

“Patton Oswalt is among the funniest on-stage talking humans I am aware of, so it annoys me deeply that he is also an incredibly talented writer. It annoys me, but it does not surprise me. Every sentence in this book is funny (except for the sad ones), but it also brims with Oswalt-ian smarts and surprising poignancy.”
John Hodgman

"[A] very funny book by the Funniest Man Alive." (GQ)

"Funny and occasionally heartbreaking . . . a cerebral and somewhat surreal tour through the thought processes of Patton Oswalt. It is an inspired and unique work, operating well outside the realm of the disposable comedy memoir." (AintItCoolNews.com)

"A believable portrait of a witty, vulnerable funnyman. The autobiographical passages ... have the detail and emotional nuance of fine short stories." (Entertainment Weekly)

"[Oswalt] brings that postmodern sensibility to his debut book, a wildly diverse collection of essays that careens from sincere introspection to inventive comedic material that would fit seamlessly into one of his sets. . . The humor comes from his sharp storytelling and sardonic wit. ... He populates these stories with expertly drawn characters, and infuses them with a limitless supply of cultural references and deft turns of phrase." (Boston Globe)

"[Oswalt] proves he can pen a compellingly entertaining fast read." (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

"To delve into this book is to take a tour of Oswalt's delightfully offbeat mind. . . . Oswalt is a wonderfully descriptive writer." (Booklist)

“[Oswalt] brings insight and passion to his subjects that lift the book above hipster snark to the level of something you’ll want to reread and savor. . . . He also shines alight on a side of Los Angeles that you don’t often see or hear about, but thatyou’ll want to visit after devouring this hilarious, incisive read." (Penthouse)

"Hilarious." (Lincoln Journal-Star)

"A thoughtful,hilarious, quasi-memoir that puts the standard-issue comedy-routine-in-book-formto shame." (SPIN)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439149089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439149089
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #755,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kenneth N. Bikoff on January 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love Patton's work, whether it be his standup or Reno 911! or his movies, but this book disappointed me. The stories of his life were interesting, but the presentation of a few other elements of the book -- the graphic part of it and the cards -- seemed odd and out of place. I know they pertained to his life, as well, but they didn't seem to fit other parts of the book. Is it worth a read? Sure, just for the life stories that are part of the equation. But not every piece seems to fit. Also, the graphic part of it was tough to read on a Kindle, although that's not Patton's fault, and the star rating doesn't have anything to do with that.
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Patton Oswalt is a brilliant comedian. His intelligence has always shown through in his stand-up; not only will he insert references that shows he's well-read and well-versed in history, but they each have a narrative that flows well from the beginning of a bit to the end. His essays are much the same, and it's clear that the man can write.

Unfortunately, the material itself isn't quite up to snuff. One of the things that I've always loved about his stand-up is how he never seems to care what people think about him. He has a frenetic in-your-face delivery style that was married to such confident stage presence. If he sticks to stand-up, we'll be talking about him in the same breath as Bill Hicks and George Carlin down the road. His book, however, has this painfully self-conscious feeling to it. His writing style isn't nearly as crisp as his stand-up delivery. Granted, it's a function of the medium, but that doesn't explain all of it away. Much of this is auto-biographical which lends an almost tedious air to some of the stories, like you're hearing them from your boring, half-drunk uncle at a holiday party.

The best way to sum up this book is this: remember his bit about how he had to take a science class in college called "physics for poets" and he ceaselessly mocked the "head-in-the-clouds" mentality of the English majors? It sounds like one of those people wrote this instead of the short, angry man who yelled at the professor about an incorrect Star Trek reference on the test. I wasn't asking for 200 pages of his caustic wit (okay, I was), but I can't fathom how none of what makes him a brilliant stand-up comedian made it into this book.

But at least it wasn't about wedding deejays...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As said before, if you enjoy Patton's flavor of comedy, you'll almost certainly enjoy both the tone and content of this book.
It is not a book of jokes...but it is very funny. Patton is a very talented writer and does an excellent job of painting a picture of what was going on around him during some important and formative years of his life.
It is not a very long book. I was a bit disappointed at the short little line of dots on my Kindle. Given the quality of the content, however, I'm not disappointed in the book as a whole.
Speaking of the Kindle, the Kindle formatting of this book is...not great. I wish somebody would put a bit more effort into making sure there aren't any misplaced hard line breaks and such.
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Format: Hardcover
I really like Patton oswalt but this book was not that great. I thought it was going to be a funny memoir and half of it was. The problem was that the other half was brutally terrible.
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When I'd heard Patton Oswalt was coming out with a book, I was truly excited. I'm a big fan of the guy's stand-up, and just assumed he'd bring the same sort of geek-centric humor to the page. Sadly this hodgepodge of depressing reminiscences, elitist posturing (most glaringly represented by his countless references to bands like Fugazi - the music geek's Citizen Kane in that all proclaim their greatness yet so very few have actually even listened to a single song by the band), and ill-conceived philosophical rantings. What I expected to be a fun read proved to be one of the few books I've read this year that I couldn't even be bothered to finish.
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Format: Hardcover
You know the feeling you get when someone says a non sequitur, and you're trying to figure out if it's a joke? I had that feeling while reading (ok, skimming) this whole book. I admit the titular "Zombie Spaceship Wasteland" chapter was a clever analysis of geek teenage life. But the rest of it just felt like a big waste of time. Maybe his material just doesn't translate well to the printed page, or maybe I just needed a few more drinks.
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The essays in the first half of this book are a snapshot of why Patton Oswalt is one of my favorite comedians. He tells anecdotes about his life and each one is funny but he also always manages to make the telling clever, moving and even profound.

Had he kept that up through the entire book, this would have been a classic for all time. Unfortunately, the second half of the book stutters and falls, ending with ridiculous movie treatments that by his own admission were simply writing practice. It shows.

Back to the first part. The individual essays are a long-form prose in the style of his comedy, where he acts as a sort of nerd-sage who sees and experiences much of his life through the lens of popular science fiction. The flagship essay Zombie Spaceship Wasteland is literally one way to view the world and personality types. In my day job, I once took a test where people were assigned working style types (driver, analytical, amiable, etc.) Then we were told how to interact with each type. It was one of the few courses I've taken that has stayed with me through life. In the same way, I could see Oswalt's take on categorizing people as a way to help proud nerds understand the world.

In the second half of the book, Oswalt phones it in with absurd film summaries (treatments) that mock the poorly-written script ideas he has seen. The concept is interesting, as people who think their ideas are great when they actually stink is a field ripe for hilarity. Unfortunately, these get old quickly and each one becomes more Hollywood-insider-ish.

The decline from the first part of the book to the second reminded me of how I feel about Will Ferrell.
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