Throughout the book, Ben refers to himself as an enthusiast, and there is a sincerity in his writing that really convinces us that this is the case. One of the modded systems is Ben's own Sinclair machine which has had a small form factor board modded into it and which is, we have to say, a very slick job.
Unlike so many more mainstream accounts of the PC enthusiast hobby, there's no finger-pointing or 'look at these weirdos and their PCs' vibe: there's a genuine admiration shown for the guys producing this stuff, and a clear knowledge of the subject matter. This is not the kind of mainstream book you'll pick up and roll your eyes at - it is relevant and engaging to people as hardcore as us.
In fact, Ben comes up with one of the best definitions of 'PC enthusiast' that we've ever read.
"For us, PCs aren't about writing up reports or online banking. In fact, for some of us they're not even about playing the latest games... To us, PCs are a hobby, where you can explore new areas of technology, see what they're capable of, and have the very latest thing in your own home. When it comes down to it, it's no more unexplainable than collecting stamps, building radio-controlled cars, or any other hobby."
We absolutely agree.
So what is it?
Actually defining what exactly the book is, and thereby evaluating it against an appropriate yardstick, is kind of difficult. It's not quite a history book, although a good part of the book covers the background of the enthusiast scene. It's not quite a how-to, even though parts of the book make up a fairly comprehensive guide to assembling and installing kit. It's not a buyer's guide, since any kind of buying data in print is invariably out of date by the time you've bought it.
In all honestly, it's more of a coffee table book. It's the kind of thing you can keep around and show to people (especially if you happen to be one of the chaps featured in it). Leave it around, and when relatives ask you what you've been doing for the past 10 hours in your bedroom, you can answer - "Making my PC look something like this."
In fact, it makes a great 'present' book - ask for it for your next birthday or something. If, like me, your other half flat out refuses to let you buy more computer kit, you can at least still get something relevant to your hobby.
All in all, the book is a great read, and certainly awesome eye candy. It's not comprehensive - to cover every awesome mod in existence would be well beyond the scope of the book, and is rather what the internet is for. However, the stuff that's in here is very, very cool and the text makes for intelligent reading too. Definitely one to put on the shopping list.
We have two copies of the book to give away - turn over the page for details of how you can win. If you're not lucky enough to win a free copy, you can grab the book for £14.99 from Play.com
. The book is published by Ilex press