Okay, I'll admit it, I'm a geek. A total, Magic/D&D/Pathfinder playing, Doctor Who/Star Trek/anime watching, fantasy/scifi/manga reading, geek. I've never been to a convention, but I go to the Renaissance Festival* every year, and the bookcases in my den/office are covered in dragon statues.**
So nothing in this book was much of a surprise to me. Except some woman at Dragon*Con telling the author that Daleks are a Doctor Who/Stargate crossover creation (whaaaat? And I think he believed her). Honestly, for most of the book Ethan seemed just really uncomfortable. He was somebody who is totally not comfortable in his own skin and just sort of stands around and gawks at people, somebody who doesn't want to do something he enjoys because of how other people might view him. When he does participate, such as in LARPing, he seems to unconsciously limit himself (like with the silly shirt he did a bad job on as his costume) so that he can remain separate from the actual geeky stuff going on.
Although Ethan is supposedly exploring various facets of geekdom (D&D, LARPing, SCA, WoW, etc), this book is more of a look at his personal "journey" from a messed-up child/teenagerhood to his unfocused, disjointed single life as a forty-something man who wants to reconnect with how he felt when he was playing D&D with his friends. Either book could
be interesting on its own, but I thought this book was too unfocused to really be good reading. Ethan would jump from a scholarly look at the history of roleplaying games to a personal recollection of how his girlfriend wouldn't let him play with his Lord of the Rings figures and back again.
I think it's silly. I don't think geeky stuff needs analyzing any differently than various other forms of entertainment or hobbies do. I think if you enjoy something, you should do it, whether it is dressing up for Rocky Horror Picture Show nights or dressing up to run around in the woods and bonk people with foam swords. Everybody has their own personal reasons for choosing their own hobbies and I don't think you can make blanket statements about the escapism that roleplaying affords because it doesn't work the same way for everybody.
Even then, when he is trying to make blanket statements, Ethan is really wishy-washy, and doesn't really come to a conclusion. It made me wonder why he wrote a whole book on it if he wasn't going to actually conclude something about his journey.
*This is not as geeky as it sounds. In my town they still manage to imbue a certain white trash sensibility on even the Renaissance Festival. It mixes well with the hemp and dreadlocks of the employees.
** But not the bookcases in the hallway. Those are currently covered in the small collection of "bears reading books" statues that I didn't even know I had till I unpacked a box from my childhood bedroom.