Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Book Club: My Tank is Fight!

My Tank is Fight! Deranged Inventions of WWII
Zack Parsons 2006
Illustrations by Mike Doscher and Josh Hass
SomethingAwful.com and Citadel Press, Kensington Publishing Corp., New York, New York

This is a great book. It's the first "pulp history" book I've ever heard of, and it is awesome. Zack Parsons writes somewhat regularly for SomethingAwful.com, which he describes as a "cult humor web site". He's written a series of articles, the first of which was titled the same as this book, that each describe two or three of the really strange stuff designed, invented, and/or built during World War II.

I joined the mailing list for this book when it was still in early preparation, and read with eager anticipation each of the monthly updates. When the book was available for pre-order from Amazon, I joined the pre-order bandwagon to help convince the publisher that there really was a decent market out there for this book.

My wait was rewarded last Thursday when this book arrived. I finished it today, laughing almost all the way through. Each of the 19 chapters is built using the same structure: an overview of an invention, development history, technical mumbo jumbo, variants, and analysis, followed by the fictional hypothetical deployment history and the novel-like What Fight Have Been section wherein one or more of four recurring characters encounters the invention in its natural habitat. Parsons' unique and very funny brand of humor comes through in every section of every chapter.

Parsons manages to combine humor with a serious analysis of military technology, even if every analysis eventually comes to the same conclusion: "bad idea". He also manages to convey the wouldn't-that-be-kickass attitude of a nerdy 15-year-old with a level-headed acknowledgment of the horror that was Hitler's Third Reich. There were occasional welcome reminders that, had the Germans actually wasted time and resources on something as monstrosly asinine as the P. 1000 Ratte or the Type XI-B U-Cruiser, the war in Europe might have been shortened by days or weeks as fewer combat-proven tanks, aircraft, and ships could have been built.

The novel-like fictional What Fight Have Been sections are consistent with each other, as four main characters are followed through the course of the war - a Russian sniper, an American civilian reporter, a German top fighter ace and a German tank commander. The fanciful hypothetical deployment histories provide the backdrop for the characters' encounters with each oddball machine, and include such memorable scenarios as an Otto Skorzeny-led commando assault on 10 Downing Street and a Soviet attack blunted by overwhelming bombardment from the Landkruezer Midgardschlange.

The only downsides to this book are its length (too short! I want more!) and the overwhelming presence of German inventions - only two inventions, of the 19, are not Nazi in origin - the HMS Habbakuk ice-based aircraft carrier and the M1932 Christie flying tank. Parsons' SomethingAwful articles have included a few more American, British and even Japanese inventions, which will hopefully make an appearance in a sequel. Yes, I really want to read the sequel. Zack, if you ever read this - where's the sequel!?!

Today's SA update is by Zack Parsons, so you could go there an get an idea of a portion of his sense of humour.

I wrote this yesterday (Monday), but Blogger failed to post the picture I have of the cover of the book. It's still failing to do that today - cheerfully telling me my picture has been uploaded when it clearly has not - so I'm going to stop arguing with it and just post this. Assume all references to "today" in the above actually refer to Monday.


TheBrummell said...

I wanted to include the SA articles Parsons' wrote that led to this book. Here are the links, for my own future reference (and anyone else who wants a look)

My Tank is Fight
January 12 2003
My Tank Fires Bullets That Weigh a Ton
January 31 2003
My Tank Has Armor Plate to Save Me From Hate
March 3 2003 (my 25th birthday!)
My Tank Has a Great Big Gun
August 24 2003
My Tank is AWESOME!
March 14 2004
My Tank is Flight
November 15 2004
My Tank is Fright
January 3 2005
My Tank Has Hugest Treads
February 18 2005
My Cake is Bake
May 27 2005

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