Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: Barbarians: A Handbook for Aspiring Savages!

Have you ever longed to wield the rough-hewn battle-axe or snug fur underpants of the mighty barbarian warrior? Or would you be surprised to learn that many barbarians continue to walk among us in modern day? (I have actually just learned that apparently ALL Australians are, in fact, barbarians. Hopefully I fall into the “high-functioning” category or the rest of what I write won’t make a whole lot of sense). Well, regardless of whether you need to know about barbarians for educational or personal reasons, Barbarians: A Handbook for Aspiring Savages has got you covered. And thanks to our new friends at Insight Editions, we have a copy!

You can check it out at Insight’s site here, or to find out what I (as an honorary barbarian) thought... join me after the jump!

A collaboration between Sr. Byron Clavicle and barbarian savage Grute Skullbasher (who pops his grizzled head in every now and then to deliver wizened advice such as:”To the hell fires with ‘sources’! By will of Crom, I break your glasses!”), this well-researched text claims to be a leading source on barbarian anthropology. Clavicle and Grute may have also had a little help from writer Benjamin Chadwick and illustrator Joshua Kemble but that could be just a hearsay. A man will confess to a lot of crazy things when bound to the Tree of Woe.

Barbarians is a book that would sit comfortably alongside the likes of Robert Hamburger’s heartwarming classic Real Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja Book (although it lacks the overarching second-level narrative of that particular tome), or even The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It fits into that narrow branch of faux-non-fiction that I can best describe as “smartasses bullshitting about real world stuff”. This is straight out (made-up) facts about barbarians, and it’s consistently funny, filled with a barrage of wild speculation and weird non-sequiturs. Not to mention about a zillion witty pop-culture references, most of which should hit their mark if you were a child of the savage eighties.

Areas of study included (but are certainly not limited to): a broad sampling of barbarian tribes (including Eternians and Republicans), Barbarian fashions, combat, cusine, music, and a comprehensive guide to barbarians in modern life (of which there are apparently plenty. I am totally behind a book which teaches you how to swing a sword from a toilet.To further communicate these savage excesses the book is peppered with lively black and white illustrations by Joshua Kemble that feature plenty of comical flexing, grunting, dismembering, and oiled up pecs.

In fact the whole package is attractively designed and this is an extremely eye-catching red hardcover. You only have to take a look at Insight’s site to see that there is a very high standard of design that carries across all of their releases. They are consistently responsible for some of the most appealing looking books I have seen, including the beautiful Book of Cain and Mail-Order Mysteries, which we have reviewed here in the past.

With so much covered here, the constant cleaver-to-the-face of comedy can become a little bit exhausting, but fear not - it’s definitely the sort of book that you can open up, read a random chapter of, have a laugh, and then take a break from it. I’m sure it’s perfectly standard barbarian tradition to read things in short bursts, so there’s plenty to enjoy whether you brave it all in one hit, enjoy it in parts, or slowly struggle to interpret individual words. I personally preferred the shorter, sharper gag sections to the longer text pieces, but there is such a huge variety on offer here that you’ll easily gravitate towards the parts you like.

One of my favourite parts were the detailed Appendices which take up the last 35 pages of the book. Among other things, these include a very comprehensive list of actual barbarian films which have all been humorously (yet accurately) reviewed. For me, this is the most practical addition to the handbook and it roused a few deeply buried barbarian memories and provided me with a list of worthy titles to attempt to get my hands on. There’s even tips on how to produce your own barbarian film, which sounds like something that all of us should aspire to do.

I really feel like this is one of those situations where I don’t have to work too hard to recommend this one. If you’re the sort of person that this will appeal to then you were already convinced when you saw the brilliant cover (much like I was). All I can really do is assure you that the text (and the humour) live up to the cover’s promise and you should have a great time flicking through it, and perhaps even pick up a few pointers along the way.

Thanks, Insight (and Clavicle, Grute, Ben and Josh)! I’ll be scouring the Craiglist “Brutal Encounters” section for sure!

1 comment:

  1. Geez, I've been reading the book and that's a pretty on point review. I wish I could, but I really have nothing to add to the review. What he said.