A while back I reviewed the incredibly awesome How to Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against the Badasses Who Ran This Country by Daniel O’Brien. I was hoping to find something else in that vein, and that’s when I remembered that I have a sizable stack of ebooks that I’ve never gotten around to reading because I tend to forget I have them… and among that stack was this book. Seemed to be just the thing, even if this book had no actual historical content to it. You see, I agree with Jake Kalish in that the idea of the imaginary fight is quite possibly one of the most important mental exercises in the whole of human history. As he puts it, if you don’t believe it, “get into a discussion of faith sometime. Imaginary fights motivate myriad differences in religious belief: Jesus vs. Yahweh vs. Allah vs. Man. God vs. the Devil vs. little old you. And what’ll happen when Christ comes down to separate the sinners from the saints? Judgment Day (No, I’m not talking Terminator 2: Judgment Day, although that’s good too) is an imaginary fight of the utmost consequence, with awfully predictable winners.” He goes on to call out the politics of the Cold War, the conflict in Iraq, and Star Wars as some of the greatest imaginary battles of the latter half of the 20th century.
Reading this introduction, I was completely on board, ready to go, fully excited by the sheer list of conflicts lined up for my consideration and amusement. Here are just some of the battles that awaited: Adam vs. Charles Darwin; European Dragon vs. Asian Dragon; Muhammad Ali vs. Bruce Lee; Donald Duck vs. Daffy Duck; Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy vs. Bert and Ernie; Michael “The Godfather” Corleone vs. Tony “Scarface” Montana; Han Solo vs. Indiana Jones; Hobbits vs. The Seven Dwarfs vs. Smurfs; Rocky vs. Rambo; Thomas Edison vs. MacGyver; Gandalf vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi; Insomniac vs. Narcoleptic; and Voltaire vs. Voltron. Sounds great, right? Let’s face it, some of these are just fun to consider.
Or rather, they were… until this book ruined it for us readers.
Each fight has the “tell of the tape,” where you get the pros and cons of each fighter in the form of witty remarks that aren’t nearly as witty as the author would like to believe. Then in most of the fights, a panel of experts from across the internet has weighed in with their insightful / snarky commentary. A considerable portion of that is actually worth reading for both the insightful and the snarky. And finally, the bout is decided, usually in a short, unsatisfying, and anticlimactic end result. Each fight is like this. It builds up the hype, then it lets the fun out of it.
No matter who wins any of these fights, the reader loses. And yet, it’s not a total loss.