Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: A History of Weapons: Crossbows, Caltrops, Catapults & Lots of Other Things that Can Seriously Mess You Up

You wouldn't think a survey of historical weapons would make for page turning hilarity, and yet that's exactly what I found with John O'Bryan's A History Of Weapons. I suppose it all comes down to writing style. O'Bryan just kept me smiling and learning as he took me from prehistoric weapons to the Colt Revolver.

Like the Daily Show O'Bryan uses cuss words at just the right time to make me smile like a teenager. Keep that in mind if you want to buy this book as a gift.

So, what did I learn? Well, for one thing, people are amazingly gifted at devising ways of killing each other. I also have an appreciation for how seemingly all cultures, from the Knights of the Crudades to Shaolin Monks, got in on the creative (read: brutal and deadly) weapons business. Even cultures who never had access to metal weren't lacking gruesome war making tools.

Picking a favorite weapon of the bunch isn't easy. As I mentioned I'm quite impressed by the simplicity and power of the ancient sling (the kind used to kill Goliath). If I had to pick another favorite it would probably be the Tessen (disclaimer: I have yet to watch any YouTube videos where a Tessen is demonstrated. Perhaps after seeing it in action I'll change my mind.)

The Tessen looks like a traditional Chinese fan, the kind that you expect to see ladies unfold and use to cool off. Unlike your grandma's fan, this one has metal ribs and sharp points. It was a Samuri's backup / every day carry weapon of choice. It looked harmless enough, but apparently could be used as both a bashing and slicing weapon. What can I say, I have an affinity for clever designs, and making a weapon that goes everywhere and is ignored until needed is my idea of clever.

I know this book won't be for everyone, but I for one found once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down.

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