I suppose I should begin by saying I’ve never watched the video podcast that inspired this book, mainly because until very recently I was held in the slimy grasp of the most horrible “broadband” ISP that has ever existed, and was subject to a seriously fucked up daily download limit — but also probably because I tend to find ninjas about as funny as pirates, or pictures of kittens with poorly spelled captions, which is to say not very.
(I do, however, find Chuck Norris pretty goddamn hysterical.)
Still, when we were approached about reviewing the new paperback release of The Ninja Handbook, and Jason pussed out couldn’t take the assignment, I volunteered — partly because I wanted to know what all the hubbub was about, but also because, as one of the names behind a webzine that wishes it had publishers begging for the chance to print mass-market printed versions of its content, I wanted to see what it takes to get your site ported onto bookshelves. Also, I was insanely jealous.
And now that I’ve read The Ninja Handbook, I’m even more insanely jealous. I’m also befuddled and a little annoyed, because, to put it as simply as possible, this shit isn’t funny.
I acknowledge this is a minority opinion. Everything I’ve read about Ask a Ninja in general, and this book specifically, has been overwhelmingly positive. But while I certainly found myself chuckling in bewilderment more than once while reading the book, at no point did I ever stop wondering who in the world would spend $14.95 on it — or who would read it more than once. In fact, I strongly suspect that most of the people who find this stuff funny probably don’t spend much time reading.
Here’s one example of what passes for humor in The Ninja Handbook:
Although the basic shape (stick-shaped) remains the same, bo staffs come in many styles, ranging from light to heavy, rigid to flexible, and short to long. The shortest recorded bo staff was a one-centimeter-long mini toothpick wielded by the minja (mini-ninja) War Whack Davis. He killed a giant with it by jumping down his throat and starting a mini tornado in his lungs. The longest recorded bo staff was a 239-foot tree trunk handled by Black Juice. He also started a tornado with his bo staff, but it was a regular-sized one and was used to gather up a coven of banshees who had taken all of the soul out of Motown.
There you go. It’s amusing, but just barely, in the same straining-to-be-clever-but-drowning-in-non-sequitirs way you’d expect if you locked the Family Guy writers in a basement with nothing but shrooms and boxed wine for a week. Nobody expects humor books to serve an actual purpose, but even by the standards of the genre, The Ninja Handbook is pushing it; the only real consolation you can take from its punishing stupidity is its absurd 320-plus page length — at least Nichols and Sarine had to exchange a little bit of elbow grease for their advance.
You, on the other hand, have no reason to exchange any of your hard-earned discretionary income for The Ninja Handbook — just point your browser at almost any humor site on the Web, and you’ll be treated to funnier content for a lot less money. I didn’t even pay for my copy, and I’d still like to Ask a Ninja for a refund.