BOOK REVIEW (Jul 2014): Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind by Andy Robb

Originally, this review was going to be part of another post- All the Books I’ve Read Since YALC (to follow soon-ish). However, as I’ve been writing, I’ve realised I have far, far too much to say about this book for it to be contained in a larger piece. And that’s with me trying reeeeally hard to limit myself to 1000 words. So here follows what can only loosely be called a review (more a “self-indulgent confessional” as I’ve pre-warned Andy on Twitter).

In a previous post I proclaimed myself as a Weirdo. I would now also like to add to that. I am also a Geek. And proud. I am not, I repeat, I AM NOT A HIPSTER (although if you’re a hipster, then good for you- we probably have the same satchel). It’s less about my nerd glasses/wacky hair/often questionable dress sense combo, my aversion to sunlight, and my often socially awkward demeanour, more about the TV series/films/games/music I love, the magazines I subscribe to, my bizarre “collections”, and my habit of practising even the most mundane conversations repeatedly before I actually have them. I’m being purposefully vague, by the way. Because if I start listing things, I’ll only get distracted and end up discussing the differences in approach to paranormal research by various TV ghost-hunting teams. Or something.

Up until a couple of years ago, I would never have admitted to it. I certainly wouldn’t have imagined publicly embracing it and wearing the badge with pride. Maybe it took me longer than most to learn to love myself. But there’s also been a shift in society’s view- being a geek is no longer abnormal-in-the-bad-way. I guess, in part, it’s thanks to books like Holly Smale’s Geek Girl series and this treasure, Andy Robb’s Geekhood, that geekdom in all its diverse glory is being pulled kicking and screaming into the spotlight- a place that strikes fear into our geeky little hearts. But being a geek is becoming more acceptable, more mainstream, kinda cool. I was even asked in an interview (for the job as a receptionist in a tattoo parlour) if I was a Star Wars fan…

But rewind about 15 years and being a geek wasn’t cool. I definitely wasn’t cool. Back then, my geekiness focussed whole-heartedly on online fantasy RPG chatrooms and telnet text based games where I played as the enigmatic Ellesia Nightstar. Oh and writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan-fiction. And listening to Radiohead in the dark…

geekhood 1

Archie is fourteen years old and a geek to his core. In the world of role-playing games, he’s a Level 5 Mage, capable of summoning the Undead. In this world, things are rather different. With no rule book to navigate Life’s Big Challenges – warring parents, a crass step-father, orc-like school bullies and crap hair – he’s teetering on the brink…

Then a Beautiful Girl appears in his Geeky world… Despite the fact that the closest he’s come to an encounter with a girl is painting an Elven miniature, Archie embarks on a Daring Quest to win her heart.

You see, Geekhood speaks to me so strongly because I was a girl-Archie. Picture a table in the back of a shop in Birmingham on a Saturday afternoon surrounded by three men in their 40s playing AD&D: Chris, the DM, who lived with his mum and always supplied the ham sandwiches and hot cross buns, Roger who was quiet and ginger and wore a Buffy baseball cap, and a guy, who I seem to recall was called Dave, who looked like a dwarf, talked like a dwarf, and always played a dwarf.

And then there was me.

I’d turn up with my character sheets, my many-coloured, many-sided die and an unnecessarily booby miniature and muddle my way through whatever campaign we were playing. I admit, half the time I had no idea what I was doing and my co-players were very patient, but then my character was always getting into “hilarious” scrapes: if anyone was going to be caught out by some spell that made all their clothes disappear, it’d be me; if anyone was going to acquire the power to kill enemies with a kiss, it was me; if anyone was going to get impregnated by demon spawn, yeah you guessed it…

But then I met a boy, a real living breathing 15 year old boy. And Saturday afternoons in the back of the shop in Birmingham kinda got forgotten about, along with all those online RPGs, in favour of hanging out in the park and kissing. Oh and pretending to like garage music… *shudder*

So while a geek’s road to self-acceptance and true love may be as bumpy as Archie’s, there is still hope. I eventually stopped pretending to be “normal” and even married a fellow geek who buys me graphic novels and has a secret stash of Warhammer figures in his sock drawer. And now apparently I’m kinda cool… Who knew?!

What I’m trying to say is that if any of this makes sense to you, if you’re finding yourself nodding in agreement or smiling because you recognise part of yourself in my witterings, then you should read Geekhood. Because you will love Archie and his IM (interior monologue). You will identify with the situations he finds himself in, his emotional turmoil and his reactions and dubious decisions.

But even if this is all alien to you, if you’re wondering if I’m even speaking English anymore, then you should still read Geekhood. Because you’d have to be some kind of sociopath not to be left with that warm, happy feeling in your belly when you finish the book.

I just can’t believe I actually waited so long to read it. I mean, there’s always a worry when you’re a geek, that you get your hopes up about a book speaking to you and then it turns out to be a different kind of geekiness, one that you don’t identify with or that makes you feel inadequately geeky. I mean, I only ever got halfway through the second LotR book… However, my niece, already a huge Geekhood fan, assured me repeatedly that I’d love it. She stood next to me at the Waterstone’s stall at YALC and nodded her silent approval as I bought the book. And then we got to meet Andy, who is a totally top-notch kinda fella. I earned serious “coolest Auntie in the universe” points as I introduced myself and got a “So you’re Blondie!” in return. Writer geeks seek out other writer geeks in the magical world of Twitter, I explained to my niece wisely (and probably somewhat smugly… In fact, I was so busy being smug, I forgot to get a picture taken).

I love how I make my niece sound about eleven. She’s twenty…

geekhood 2 But yeah, in case you didn’t realise, I loved this book and can’t wait to read the second one Mission Improbable which apparently features some serious LARPing… And yeah, I have LARPing stories aplenty ready for my review of that one… Be warned!

For a daily dose of geekiness, follow Andy on twitter @ThatAndyBloke .

‘Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind’ and ‘Geekhood: Mission Improbable’ are both out now, published by Stripes Publishing.

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