Book review: Memories of the Future

By Phil Plait | October 28, 2009 8:00 am

wil_memories_futureThere are any number of reasons I don’t generally do book reviews on the blog. For one, I’ve been in the writing scam^h^h^h business for a while, so now I have a metric buttload of friends who write books, and reviewing all their books would be overwhelming. Plus, what do you do if their book sucks?

But I make an exception when the book itself is exceptional. Such is the case for Memories of the Future, a review of the first few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation told from Wil Wheaton’s unique viewpoint (full disclosure: Wil is a friend and I may have just a wee lingering bit of a mancrush on him). If you don’t know — and really, why the heck are you reading my blog if you don’t — Wil played Wesley Crusher on TNG. Since then he’s made a name for himself as a writer, and it’s deserved. He’s really good at it, drawing the reader in with very personal stories and a wicked sense of humor laced with snark and webby goodness.

That all comes into play here. In Memories, he writes blow-by-blow reviews of TNG episodes that are alternately hilarious and thoughtful (the reviews, not so much the episodes). He writes both as a fan of the show, an actor on the show, and a man who is trying to honestly discuss the pros and cons of each episode. Especially cool are the times Wesley Crusher is an annoying weenie, because Wil lets it all out — excoriating the writers when called for but also admitting when he felt that his acting was still immature. It’s a refreshing honesty.

Here’s a random quote I got by opening the book at, um, random. It’s from Datalore:

After a brief encounter with soon-to-be-ex Chief Engineer Argyle, Dr. Crusher promises Data that she’ll keep the existence of his mysterious off switch to herself. Data asks her if she would want people to know about her off switch, if she had one. She laughs nervously, and we get a quick look at a bottle of Jägermeister in her office.

The absolute best part of the book is in his review of "The Naked Now", a poorly conceived story idea early in the show’s history where the writers entirely failed to build on the legacy of the original series to help smooth the way for the new one. So why is this the best?

Because months ago Wil emailed me, asking a question about supernova astrophysics that was relevant to the show. I sent him a few paragraphs of expository hilariousness, and he stuck it right in the book! It’s right there on page 27:

Wait. Stars have cores? I always thought they were balls of gas undergoing constant nuclear reactions. Man I wish I was as smart as Wesley, so I knew for sure! Luckily for us, I know someone who is as smart as Wesley, so I asked him. Ladies and gentlemen, my friend Phil Plait.

If you want to know what I wrote you’ll just have to buy the book, but I’ll note that it’s brilliant and rumors (started by me and listened to attentively by my dog) have already started buzzing about a Pulitzer. And I hate to disagree with Wil, but I’m not as smart as Wesley — I’m just written better. And don’t let him fool you: Wil knows a lot about warp travel.

Seriously though, if you are a fan of TNG then this book will make you laugh a lot. If you’re a fan of Wil’s then you probably already bought it. But while I was reading it I had a lot of fond memories jogged; I remember avidly watching the show when it aired in my first year of grad school. I’d sit with friends every week, enjoying the show immensely, in between making fun of it when needed. And as painful as some of those episodes were, because of this book — and Wil’s writing in general — some good has come of it.

Oh– Wil has put selected audio readings from the book online, so if you’re like Comic Book Guy (Worst. Analogy. Ever.) and too lazy to hold a book up, you can still listen to him reading it.

And, of course, you should read his blog. That’s how I first found him; a dear friend years ago told me I should look into this Wil Wheaton guy. I was skeptical at first, but within a few paragraphs of the first blog entry I read I was hooked. Our senses of humor are very similar, so if you like my blog you’ll like his as well.

OK, enough gushing! Stop reading this and go buy his book. And the good news? The book is only Part 1 (season 1 episodes 1 – 13). Wil, I know you’re reading this, because all you Hollywood types are vain and shallow and self-absorbed, so when does Part 2 come out? Huh? Huh?


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