The Ideal Order: Book Review

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Hey all,

Through Rebelscum I occasionally get asked to get involved in the non-Star Wars side of LEGO. Yes! They do make something else than Star Wars. Who knew? Anyway, I was asked to review The Ideal Order by Christoph Bartneck, who lives over the ditch from me in New Zealand (or Middle Zealand to us dads of KFOLs.) Christoph is an AFOL of a magnitude higher than I ever expected existed (aside from the LEGO Professionals). Check out his website for some interesting LEGO robotic concept models, a video on his lifesize Unikitty MOC and a link to his minifigure guides (also available to purchase), which I hope to review soon.

Anyway, on with the show.

[HR][/HR]
"Dr. Rob Park’s life is out of order. His estranged wife is leaving him, the relationship to his daughters is strained and his academic career is at a dead end. He escapes into the cult of LEGO and the study of classification systems. By sorting his collection of LEGO bricks he reconnects to his daughters and he maintains his sobriety while maneuvering in the bizarre world of academia. Prof. Dr. Smith and his newly found Adult Fans Of LEGO help him to find a new structure for himself, his brick collection and his family."
When you start reading this you won't be surprised why Dr Rob has headed down the dark path of LEGO collecting - he's miserable at home, has a b****y wife and doesn't seem to be getting anywhere at work either. Plus he has irritable bowel syndrome and an imaginary friend. Basically he's a big of a whinger. His descent in to AFOLism is one of convenience that leads him away from his family, all with the excuse that LEGO will bring him closer to his daughter and his estranged wife. However his two girls don't understand why daddy is more focused on sorting LEGO bricks than building sets and his wife (who has issues of her own) is sick of seeing boxes of LEGO arrive with the daily post. I hope this doesn't sound entirely familiar to you but I expect that aspects will hit home.

The book is a bit of a slow read, which is odd considering it only spans a week or two in Dr Rob's life. But perhaps that it's because some of the subject matter is a little too close to the mark (for me anyway) and reading large sections becomes emotionally wearing? This stilted form of reading broke up any forward plot momentum I should have enjoyed.

Like any good writing class will teach you there are four environments in the book: Dr Rob's house which is a fairly miserable location (especially when his wife is being passive aggressive - and then later physically abusive), the university where he works and has numerous conversations about ways to manage his email account's inbox (I did learn a few things here), the LUG which allows him to unwind and enjoy talking shop (many of the conversations are funny in an cheese way) and the toilet at the university where we (in great detail) get to learn about the effect that the last cup of coffee had on his digestive tract and where Dr Rob gets lectured by his invisible boss on the pros and cons of various categorisaton systems.

The dialogue is fairly hard to read at times and wallows in hyperbole and tangential conversations (some of which are rather amusing at times). Many of the conversations don't have a natural cadence, and make the flow rather formal. Much of the language patterns used also ring of a writer whose use of English is secondary, rather than their first language. I've got no problem with this but perhaps getting an editor to look over it would have helped.

A lot of The Ideal Order is aimed at categorising LEGO bricks, and the look at the history of taxonomy is detailed and long-winded. I can't say that the book has helped me sort my bricks better - but they are all in their original boxes so don't need sorting. If you are a biologist or work in IT architecture I'd say that you'll understand a greater deal of the content of The Ideal Order than I did. I have a decent level of interest in both but most of the discussions between Dr Rob and his phantom mentor went clear across the top of my head.

Was the book any good? It's certainly better than anything I could do. The Ideal Order was independently written and published through Amazon's CreateSpace self-publishing and distribution system, so there was no editorial input. Some professional advice wouldn't have hurt, particularly in concern to the book's title which suggests a rather martial mid-twentieth century European plot, if you get what I mean.

Did I enjoy it? Largely "maybe" because there were times when I found that I'd been reading for an hour or so, and had a few chuckles along the way. There are some sections - particularly when his wife is acting unfavourably - that you feel the author has put a bit too much personal experience in the book, and it makes you wince with sympathy. That's not a bad thing though and if a book makes you think about your own situation it's working on some level. There are also quite a few interesting Easter eggs scattered in the book - ones that only AFOLs would spot. But the book is written by an AFOL for AFOLs so it's not that much of a surprise though. Some of the conversations between Dr Rob and his LUG friends are nostalgic - reminiscing about the glory of the Galaxy Explorer is one conversation that I muttered "oh yes" too quite a few times. I was given this book by the author and to be honest I would not have bought it under my own steam as the subject matter wouldn't have a great appeal to me. I would recommend The Ideal Order to a fellow AFOL who is looking for inspiration on how to organise a large assortment of loose bricks, and if I was in the situation I'd look to it too.

If this book sounds interesting you can support the author by ordering a paper or digital copy direct from your local branch of Amazon.
 
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So I was chatting with the author and he's cleared up the character who I thought was an imaginary friend because his office was in a faculty toilet:

"Well, the story behind the lavatory professor is an actual true story of an academic at the John Abbott College. They really gave him such an office. And he was fine with it. Academia is crazy."

There you go!
 
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interesting... I definitely have been known to "escape" my own life recently into the world of Star Wars legos... THE FORCE AWAKENS opened a pandora's box -- it seems. ;)
 
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interesting... I definitely have been known to "escape" my own life recently into the world of Star Wars legos... THE FORCE AWAKENS opened a pandora's box -- it seems. ;)
 
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interesting... I definitely have been known to "escape" my own life recently into the world of Star Wars legos... THE FORCE AWAKENS opened a pandora's box -- it seems. ;)
HEARD DAT. My wallet is still empty... but it sure was fun. I loved all the Lego TFA sets I got.
 
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I think that's why so many adults come out of their Dark Age and get back into LEGO again - escapism
 
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