The Worst Case Scenario Almanac – History
by Joshua Piven, David Borgenicht, Piers Marchant, Melissa Wagner
I think this series has finally jumped the shark. The first Worse Case Scenario books were packed with advice on surviving all sorts of improbable disasters, like lion attack or the pressing need to jump from a moving car. While most of us rarely encounter giant pythons, it was comforting to have some sort of inkling of how to proceed and if you stood even a halfway decent chance of living to tell the tale. I think the team of authors is finally running out of death-defying advice. What advice you do get in the nine chapters is quite diluted. They’ve padded mercilessly with tables of dates, biographies of important tyrants of the era, death tolls from earthquakes, fires and battles and ruminations on whatever problems filled the news at the time.
Yes, there is advice on Bayonet Fighting, Jousting and Wagon Circling. The advice is delivered in a dry, semi-serious tone, and illustrated with neat line drawings reminiscent of a WW2 survival handbook. While some of the advice might be handy (building a street barricade, resisting passively), I have trouble imagining how often I’ll need to defeat the Spanish Armada or when I’ll be jumped by a Sabertooth Tiger. A few anachronisms creep in, like what antibiotic to use against Black Death. If I’m allowed Amoxicillin in the 1400’s, then I get an air strike with 500-pound laser-guided bombs to take out the Spanish Fleet.
Of course, a book like this is only a semiserious time filler, and the sort of thing purchased as a gift or a farewell present or for your weird brother-in-law’s birthday. Accepting that, it’s clever, and many of the facts expounded might save your butt on Jeopardy. But stay out of the Dungeon; it’s just not a healthy place.