Review: How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack

How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (And They Will)How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack
by Chuck Sambuchino

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack / 978-1-580-08463-5

I'm a big fan of the "Zombie Survival Guide" - I must have read my copy at least three times. It's incredibly funny and incredibly immersive, largely because it takes itself so seriously. Literally, the Zombie Survival Guide handbook is *THE* last word in zombie survival guides. Sure, zombies don't actually exist, but if some misguided soul whipped up a zombie virus in a lab tomorrow, everything in that survival guide would instantly be true, and inordinately useful. And it's that lavish attention to detail, and utter devotion to the no-nonsense spirit of survival handbooks that makes the Zombie Survival Guide so thoroughly awesome.

However, in the rush to cash in on the trend, "How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack" tripped and fell headlong into the mud. The serious tone that is so crucial for this sort of guide is only halfheartedly attempted, and in most cases it's thrown to the wind entirely: the section on animal protectors, for instance, is titled "A Big %&*! Dog". (Apart from the juvenile "ha-ha, profanity!", it doesn't even work as a title. As an addendum modifier to 'big', the only words that really fit are a three letter word, or a four letter word with 'ing' appended. A four letter word without 'ing' doesn't fit there; it breaks flow. The author can't even get profanity right. *sigh*) The book also breaks the cardinal sin of trying to be funny with footnotes - I have never, ever seen this work, outside of maybe a Dave Barry book. Putting an asterisk in the text and then tossing in "* You may be totally screwed," as the 'note' at the bottom of the page isn't funny - it's lazy. Why not just write "Insert joke here"?

When the book isn't desperately trying-and-failing to be funny, it spends the rest of the time trying-and-failing to mimic the survival guide tone - it feels like the author has never read a survival guide before. Gone is the carefully measured tone and the lavishly outlined instructions - all the pointers and tips are flung out willy-nilly in a quick, casual, conversational tone. It's because of this strip-mining approach to survival guide writing that "How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack" is literally 106 pages long, with a full-page picture of a garden gnome every third page. Why didn't they just make this a pamphlet? Then you could at least distribute them for giggles at the grocery store.

I didn't find this book funny, and I doubt it will amuse the guests as a coffee table book. Really, all it made me do was want to dig through the Zombie Survival Handbook again for the fourth time.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine

~ Ana Mardoll

View all my reviews


John Magnum said...

Whoa whoa whoa--the footnotes in Terry Pratchett books aren't funny to you? (Or you haven't read Terry Pratchett's books?) Oh no!

Ana Mardoll said...

I haven't actually read Pratchett yet, though he's on my list. (I've seen two movies based on his books and was very partial to The Hogfather.)

A well-placed footnote is a joy to read -- Douglas Adams did some very nice ones in the published Hitchhiker books. But a sloppily-done, lazy, and unfunny one is worse than no joke at all because it forces you to bounce your eyes up and down the page in expectation of something amusing, and that expectation is each time disappointed. Sigh. :(

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