Saturday, December 29, 2007

Nerdiest of 2007

With just three more posts left in the year and the topic for the next two already taken it's time for the traditional "Best of the previous year" post. But for me that would not be particularly entertaining. I read two books that were released in 2007 (one of which was a gift) and saying Making Money was the best book of the year simply because I like Terry Pratchett more than Stephen Colbert isn't really that helpful. I'm in a similar boat with movies where I have seen about a dozen 2007 releases but several of those were for Rifftrax commentaries and I wouldn't call them "best of" anything.

The problem is that I'm a cheapskate and I stick to older media. So rather than this being a "Best of Stuff Released In 2007" I'm making it a "Best of Stuff I First Encountered In 2007 (With Some Caveats)". It's a bit more longwinded than I'd like but that's the way it is.

Nerdiest Book - I'm going to skip over the fifty-five books I read as I went through the Hugo winners since I want to keep them out of this and that narrows my list considerably. So I'm going with Herodotus's The Histories (clearly demonstrating that I'm going for books older than 2007). I had been intending to read this book for a long time and had never gotten around to it. The release of 300 put me in a mood to immerse myself in Greek history before I was subjected to massive quantities of pop culture versions of it.

Herodotus is a gold mine of the way of life for people in the 5th century BCE. Even if he's not accurate he covers as many stories about the scope of the world as one could expect to exist. It's even got a handy guide on how to make a goblet out of your enemies' skulls. I read the Penguin Classics release and found that the translation flowed very well.

Nerdiest Comic Book - Sometimes I'm in the mood for something dark and brooding and sometimes I want something light and energetic. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All Star Superman falls squarely in the second category. It's a celebration of everything that has made Superman into an icon and easily the best Superman story since Alan Moore's Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. It's heavily mired in nostalgia which can be a flaw in many comic books but in this case I think its important since it is about that golden age of Superman. I'm eagerly awaiting the second volume which will finish the series but I don't see it arriving any time soon.

Nerdiest Game - I played a lot of very good games this year but when it's all said and done I've got to stick with 1960: The Making of the President. The board game features a great deal of history and it immerses the players in the struggles of campaigning. It also features a system where the momentum of the election swings back and forth often making the outcome in doubt until the votes are counted. It's even well balanced; in the more than a dozen plays that we've had there has yet to be a clear indication of an advantage for the Kennedy or Nixon player.

Nerdiest Video Game - Since I picked a board game out for the Nerdiest Game in general I'm going to make it hard on myself and pick a separate Nerdiest Video Game and here is where it really sticks me. I have played close to a hundred new games in the past year and picking out just one is painful. I'm going to fall back on the term "nerdiest" and say Bioshock is it. Besides the technology (which always drives nerdiness) there's the soundtrack, the atmosphere, and the direct ties to one of the nerdiest games of all time System Shock 2. The game play isn't as refined as it could be but the other aspects of it are high quality. If all you want is game play then substitute in Super Mario Galaxy.

Nerdiest Movie - I've seen a lot of awful movies this year but not a lot of great ones (I usually see the big movies at the beginning of the year but I watched the great 2006 movies in 2006). The nerdiest one I've seen in 2007 has to be Stardust. Perhaps it didn't live up to its potential but it was an exceptional adaptation of Neil Gaiman that managed to retain a lot of the properties of his writing.

Nerdiest Television - There's a lot of good, nerdy television this year but I have to give the nod to the single greatest chunk of Dr. Who I've seen (and I've seen most of the surviving episodes). The new series has had its up and downs but "Blink" was absolutely brilliant. Okay, the monsters of the week didn't make an awful lot of sense if you thought out about it too long but they were there for atmosphere. This is the episode that twenty years from now the children who watched it will be remembering how they couldn't sleep with the lights off for a week after seeing it.