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All the Other Things I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation
Dave Marinaccio
Pocket Books, 167 pages

All the Other Things I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation
Dave Marinaccio
Dave Marinaccio's previous book, All the Things I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek, was done to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the final episode of Star Trek. It sold more than 100,000 hard cover copies. It dealt with the author's down-to-earth philosophy on subjects ranging from skydiving to decision-making, from dealing with authority to making true friends.

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alexander von Thorn

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Some people take guidance from the Bible. Others learn from years of schooling, or travelling the globe, but really, who has time for that these days? In a generation of couch potatoes, we learn from television, and we learn the most from the best of television. And to many of us, that's Star Trek, of which The Next Generation is the highest expression. If the 179 episodes of ST:TNG form the Torah of our age, then All the Other Things I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation is the Talmud, the commentary which elaborates on the parables and explains their relevance to our day-to-day lives. Here we have a parade of role-models going through a series of situations guided by principles which are at least as relevant and helpful in the 21st century as in the 24th.

The book begins with Picard, showing a man at ease with himself (and his baldness), a trustworthy leader who trusts his subordinates, an explorer, an athlete, a scholar, a musician. The author learns from the lesson of Picard as the Arbiter of the Klingon imperial succession, and applies this wisdom in a dispute between his niece and nephew as to whether Power Ranger toys are "dolls" or "action figures". (Answer: the pink and yellow ones are "dolls".) He contrasts Picard with Dr. Soran, who is obviously flawed because he sought a challenge-free eternal happiness, where Picard was a better man for turning his back on the paradise of the Nexus in favour of the uncertain but worthwhile life of accomplishment and adventure in the temporal universe.

Riker is shown to be a great commander, two-for-two in direct conflict with Picard, and a man who leads with an open heart. Worf is also honest and unapologetic for who he is; Geordi curious and accepting. In example after example, the author draws lessons from the series and shows how to apply these in ordinary life. The crew of the Enterprise-D is shown to be a more evolved sort of humanity than we know today. Short side trips to the decks of Deep Space Nine and Voyager show the unique strengths of Benjamin Sisko and Katherine Janeway. Quark, on the other hand, shows that being likeable is not the same as being admirable; the Ferengi are an example of what humanity is evolving from.

The writing style in this book is folksy, sometimes engaging, at times ingratiating. The author often begins sentences with "hell", "aw, heck", or just "hey", and he makes very liberal use of apostrophes, referring to "'em" more often than "them", and ending gerunds with "-in'" rather than "-ing". Marinaccio goes on at length with examples from his personal life, with his family, past classmates, co-workers, and so on; sometimes he rambles a bit with personal details or just stream of consciousness narrative. In spite of this, it's a very fast read; I read this book on the subway going to and from work one day, with time to spare.

This is not a book to get for hardcore Star Trek trivia buffs. It's a fun read for anyone who is casually familiar with the Star Trek universe. The real theme of this book is that television is a place where we can learn valid lessons we can use in our own lives. For those of us who spend a large number of our waking hours in front of a television, the lesson is well-taken.

Copyright © 1998 by Alexander von Thorn

Alexander von Thorn works two jobs, at The Worldhouse (Toronto's oldest game store) and in the network control centre of UUNET Canada. In his spare time, he is active in several fan and community organizations, including the Toronto in 2003 Worldcon bid. He is also a game designer, novelist-in-training (with the Ink*Specs, the Downsview speculative fiction writing circle), feeder of one dog and two cats, and avid watcher of bad television. He rarely sleeps.


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