Review of Sunken Treasures: Wil Wheaton’s Hot Cocoa Box Sampler

I found this book for the Kindle for only $2.99, and since I’m a big Wil Wheaton fan it was an easy pick.  This is a book that Wheaton created and self-published, mainly to hand out at convention.   If you don’t have a Kindle it appears to be $21.95 in paperback.  I’m not going to recommend it for $22 — I suggest you buy any of Wheaton’s other books.  But for $2.99 this book is exactly what it’s billed as: a sampler of Wheaton’s work.  It’s a short, but fun read.

I really enjoy Wheaton’s books because 1) he’s led a pretty interesting life if you’re at all interested in Star Trek or acting or blogging; and 2) he writes in a really down-to-earth, regular guy kind of way.  And most of all, because in his writing, at least in Just A Geek (reviewed here) you really see him struggle to define his career and who he is.  And I can relate to that.

Some background information: Wheaton became a successful child actor when he starred in Stand By Me. A few years later he was cast as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), which, depending how old you were at the time, was huge.  Today a new Star Trek series is almost a given but at the time, the idea of recreating Star Trek was a pretty big deal.

Whether because of the writing or the acting, Wesley Crusher became the most reviled character on an otherwise much-loved show.  I will point out that with the exception of Patrick Stewart, no actors on that show were highly regarded for their acting, and I think none have gone on to other acting careers.  But Wheaton as Wesley Crusher was the worst of the worst.  From his hair to his one-piece outfits to his ridiculous storylines, he was just all-around bad.

Most of this wasn’t his fault, and to be fair he basically grew up on the show.  The real problem came after TNG ended.  Wheaton says he was “too recognizable for other work” but not a big enough star to get by on name recognition.  So,  unable to really break into acting, he was expected to attend Star Trek conventions where, sadly, he was the least-liked  guest. Thus he grew to hate Star Trek and everything associated with it.

Fast forward ten years, and during this time he’s gotten married, has two stepsons, a successful blog, and a growing writing career.  And as his writing has taken off, his acting seems to be as well, with roles on Eureka, The Guild, The Big Bang Theory, and others.  But he still struggles to get past the failed acting career and is love-hate relationship with the show where he spent ten years of his life.

Sunken Treasures is a collection of excerpts from Wheaton’s blog, WWdN, and his previous books, Dancing Barefoot, Just a Geek, The Happiest Days of Our Lives, and Memories of the Future. The first three are memoir-combined-with-blog-post kinds of books, and Memories is actually where Wheaton watches old TNG episodes, reviews them, makes fun of them, and grades them.  At the same time he is reliving his memories of being on the show, so it’s a real insider’s perspective.  And pretty hilarious too.  Sunken Treasures includes one chapter from Memories, a review of the episode “DataLore” where Data meets his evil twin brother.

Some of Sunken Treasures I’d read already;  it has a couple of the best pieces from Just a Geek if you haven’t read it.  In one excerpt, Wheaton is thinking about his decision to become a writer instead of an actor; and in another, Wheaton visits a TNG exhibit in Las Vegas and is struck by how much he loved the show, even though for years he thought he hated it.  I wonder how well this piece works out of the context of Just a Geek though.

The book also includes some very short fiction excerpts and a diary from Wheaton’s guest stint on a TV show, Criminal Minds.  If you’re at all interested in what it’s like to film a television show, you’ll enjoy this piece.  It went on a bit long for me but still was interesting backstage stuff.

Where Wheaton annoys me a little is when he talks about the craft of acting as if he’s Sir Laurence Olivier rather than someone filming a guest appearance on a crime show.  But I can’t fault him for putting 100% into each role, even if he maybe takes it a bit seriously.  I can’t say I put that much enthusiasm into my work every day.

At $2.99, if you’re curious, this is a great way to read a little of Wheaton’s work and get a feel for what he’s about (and, it’s one of the few books on Kindle that is actually lendable, so you can share it with a friend). I also recommend checking out his blog.

  2 comments for “Review of Sunken Treasures: Wil Wheaton’s Hot Cocoa Box Sampler

  1. May 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    What’s interesting to note is the stark difference between the price of the eBook and the paperback. I wonder if Wheaton is one of those bloggers who’d rather sell electronically than expect his audience to splurge for a print copy…

    • May 16, 2011 at 9:37 am

      I think in this case it’s more related to the cost of publication. Wheaton describes how he self-printed the electronic version. The print version was probably a very small release since it was essentially created for handout at conferences so would cost more per copy.

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