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The Ninja Handbook 111

Aeonite writes "Equal parts ninja geekery and pop-cultural satire, The Ninja Handbook falls into that odd category of book that presents fiction as reality. Numerous Guides to Piracy have been published, and more than a few authors have taken a crack at Zombie Survival Guides, the most popular spin-off being the zombie novel World War Z, which is now on its way towards Hollywood. Of course, the creators of the Ask a Ninja website have taken the opposite tack here, having first staked their claim as an Internet video sensation before moving on to "old media."" Keep reading below to find out what secret moves Michael learned from this book.
The Ninja Handbook
author Douglas Sarine and Kent Nichols
pages 336
publisher Three Rivers Press
rating 9
reviewer Michael Fiegel
ISBN 978-0-307-40580-7
summary An old media incarnation of the popular Ask a Ninja website
Ask A Ninja is not the first Ninja website to turn bookish; the first "Ninja Handbook" to hit the shelves was Robert Hamburger's Real Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja Book, published on July 1, 2004 based on the website which hit its peak of popularity way back in 2002. Then there was my own Ninja Burger Honorable Employee Handbook, published in late May of 2006 based on a website started as a goof in June of 2000. Both of those books were published by Citadel Press, and in that light also worth mentioning here is the New York Times bestseller The Alphabet of Manliness, written by one Maddox, purportedly a pirate.

The Ninja Handbook, however, is entirely about ninja. Branded as an "Official Product of the International Order of Ninjas," it's an exploration of the lessons a non-ninja, or nonja, needs to learn in order to become a ninja. Of course, the book is subtitled "This Book Looks Forward To Killing You Soon," so one might expect that the lessons to be taught aren't quite so easy, or ordinary.

The book is nominally broken up into seven sections, although the content is random enough, and the humor fluid enough, that any attempt at organization seems futile at best. In many ways the book's sense of humor drifts about in the same general area as the Real Ultimate Power Book. However, that book's focus on what might best be called "12-year-old humor" (i.e.,guitar-wailing, excrement jokes, and Hippos) is decidedly different from the Ask a Ninja book which never breaks character. Ninjas are not "sweet" and "totally cool" in this book; they are savage killers with a made-up ancient history of the sort likely to send Wikipedia editors into reversion-driven nervous breakdowns.

Section 1 offers introductory advice and information about ninja, including how to form a ninja clan and make a clan flag. Section 2 teaches the Path to nearly ninja-hood, broken up into subsections that cover (in turn) the Nonja (non-ninja), those who are Ninjaish, the Ninjalike, the "Whooooooooo," (the sound of a gentle breeze) and then the I.T.A.N. ("Is That A Ninja?"). Along the way The Ninja teaches (or at least briefly mentions) the ninja basics: the ninja code, requirements to being a ninja, safe sword use, shuriken, pirates, mythical beasts, invisible scrolls, and smoke bombs, among many other topics. There are also plenty of sidewise pokes at Google Maps, Vampire Pumpkins, Fox News, A-Ha, Billy Joel, Woody Allen, and the like, the pop culture references sometimes plain to see, and at other times buried beneath in the subtext.

After a very short Section 3 (almost entirely comprised of Ninja Merit Badges, which as one might expect are all solid black), Section 4 teaches Ninja Skills, including Jumping, Spinning, Punching, Stabbing and Kicking, the latter illustrated via a list of 100 different kicks including "10 Piggies of Pain," "Driving Miss Daisy" and "Palace of Endless Toes." The book then dives headlong into the realm of the bizarre, with Section 5 covering "The Worlds" as in other dimensions and realms of existence, as well as magic and myth. The latter section does manage to clamber back out of the primordial stew onto solid ground when it looks at ninja movies, with a particularly hard look at Batman (not a ninja, as it turns out).

Since the reader has survived this far, Section 6 welcomes him or her to the International Order of Ninja, covering the top brass of the organization, ninja internships, and a bit of ninja rap music. Section 7 then introduces the new ninja to their Mission, an endless quest wherein they follow in the footsteps of the many ninja who have come before them. How many? There is an illustration of a ninja riding a pterodactyl, if that's any help. A lengthy timeline and a one page non-glossary close out the book on an abrupt note.

Obviously, this is a book designed for people who like ninja, but more than that it's a book for those who enjoy a mix of intelligent humor and surreal, near-stream-of-consciousness nonsense. The book is not for everyone; it does have a very scattershot feel in places, particularly if you're not prepared to read it all the way through. While there are jokes on every page, this is not a Mystery Science Theater 3000 sort of book where you can turn it on in the middle of an episode and immediately fall into synch with the humor. But while any individual joke (or page) on its own might be somewhat hard to swallow, taken as a whole the entire piece allows you to immerse yourself in an imaginary world somewhere next door to the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

In that regard, the general tone of the book is best compared with the likes of a John Hodgman, whose book The Areas of My Expertise included a list of 700 Hobo names which he dutifully recited in the audio book version (N.B., The Ninja Handbook is also being released in audio book format). On its own, out of context, such a list is merely awkward and possibly irritating to read (or listen to). But in context, as a part of an entire book full of similar ludicrousness, it's the sort of thing you can just immerse yourself in, and appreciate on a ninja Zen level. The same might be said of the Ask a Ninja video series as well: watch one episode, and you probably won't "get it," but give yourself time to watch them all, and it all suddenly makes sense.

Unless you're a pirate, of course, since pirates and ninja don't get along. As I write this, it's the eve of International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), and I'm beginning preparations for the opposing Day of the Ninja (December 5), entering its 6th year. What is it about pirates and ninja that attracts fans and sells books? Whatever it is, there's obviously something to the whole "ninja vs pirate" thing, and The Ninja Handbook represents a strong argument for the continuation of the funny fad. Obviously Three Rivers Press agrees; according to Publishers Marketplace, the book was sold to Crown Publishing (a division of Random House) for "six figures." That'll buy a lot of shuriken.

You can purchase The Ninja Handbook from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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The Ninja Handbook

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  • Ask a Ninja (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 22, 2008 @02:26PM (#25108163)
    Q: Why don't I ever get laid?

    A: Because you are a fucking nerd. Comb the shit out of your beard and find a girl.
  • 1st p0st!?! (Score:5, Funny)

    by turtleAJ ( 910000 ) on Monday September 22, 2008 @02:27PM (#25108197)
    Thanks to my Ninja skills, I've been waiting silently, un-discovered in this article for two days now.
  • ahhh crap.. i say vanish, not sexy no jitsu...

    how do i change back now?

  • Obviously not written by a ninja. Nothing more than pirate propaganda. Real ninjas have no need for books as they already know everything.
  • "You can purchase The Ninja Handbook from amazon.com from amazon.com."

    So why would I want The Ninja Handbook from amazon.com from amazon.com? Do amazon.com ninja employees have better tips?

  • I think that any ninja reference that doesn't include ninjas wailing on guitars is probably a work of fiction. If I can picture an actor who would be perfect for the part of a ninja, it would probably be Jack Black and KG, because they can do cock pushups and they beat the devil in guitar wailing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 22, 2008 @02:34PM (#25108355)

    I bought this book online because it's next to impossible to find. When I opened the box from Amazon, it was empty! Later that day, I happened to go to my bookshelf to get another book, and lo and behold, there it was, sitting there unnoticed. Sneaky bastard.

  • World War Z (Score:4, Insightful)

    by killmenow ( 184444 ) on Monday September 22, 2008 @02:54PM (#25108691)
    Numerous Guides to Piracy have been published, and more than a few authors have taken a crack at Zombie Survival Guides, the most popular spin-off being the zombie novel World War Z, which is now on its way towards Hollywood. And for damn good reason. It's a hella good book. No doubt Hollywood will fuck it up.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PCM2 ( 4486 )

      It's a hella good book. No doubt Hollywood will fuck it up.

      It was a mediocre book that was obviously written with a movie deal in mind. So the movie ought to be OK. (Is this where I'm supposed to say "there, fixed that for you"?)

      • Mediocre?! Would you have preferred more zombie gore and less examination of the human condition? Whatever, man. To each his own I suppose.

        As far as I can tell, it was most definitely NOT written with a movie deal in mind. The production company that bought the rights to it has been scratching its collective head for over a year just trying to figure out how the hell to make a workable movie out of it. It's not written in a way that readily translates to film.

        It seems to me the only way it was "wr
      • by radarjd ( 931774 )

        It was a mediocre book that was obviously written with a movie deal in mind.

        Not with an (typical) American movie in mind -- it is sparse on fight scenes. There is arguably only one out and out fight against the zombies. The rest of the book is a series of anecdotes from the survivors about their particular niches of the War. I don't see too many Hollywood movies where people sit and describe their reflections on the war.

        I personally think it'll be extremely difficult to turn it into a movie with losing its essential character and merely ripping some broadly painted ideas and a

        • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

          I personally think it'll be extremely difficult to turn it into a movie with losing its essential character and merely ripping some broadly painted ideas and a few very specific references.

          And nobody could be planning that. ;-)

          Seriously, the friend who loaned it to me thought it was brilliant, I thought it was pretty thin and unenlightening. If not a "movie book" then an airplane novel at best. But, as someone else said, to each his own.

    • Max Brooks wrote both the Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, which are kind of like sequels. The Guide explains the background of the infection while World War Z provides a narrative. It's a damn good book, and Hollywood better NOT fuck it up.

    • And for damn good reason. It's a hella good book. No doubt Hollywood will fuck it up.

      The screenplay is being written by J. Michael Straczynski, who has a lengthy history of writing good stories. There's always the possibility of half the script being replaced by explosions, but assuming that that doesn't happen, the movie should be good.

    • ... is "To Serve Man". Delicious.

  • I.T.A.N. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Drooling Iguana ( 61479 ) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:01PM (#25108817)

    It's actually very easy to tell if someone's a ninja. Just ask yourself two questions: 1) Am I aware of the alleged ninja's presence in any way? and 2) Am I dead?

    From there the answer should be obvious.

  • Ninjas have become boring. I couldn't muster more than a single "Arr!" on Talk Like A Pirate Day. Vampires have lost their bite. Even robots are all same old same old, or they look like us now.

    We need a new, interesting character archetype before even cybernetic lesbian assassins lose their luster.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:07PM (#25108903)
    Arg, 'tis valuable intelligence on the ways of the scurvy ninja! Off to me Amazon account, mateys!
  • Everything in the book is a lie or a deception, because Ninjas never give away their secrets.

    • Hah, that's what we want you to think, dirty pirates.
    • Ninjas have to know their history and the basic methods, so this book of course is needed for that. By the time a ninja actually gets to work, they will make it will appear that they are using ordinary methods to accomplish their goals. You'll think they were elsewhere when something happened, you'll think their opponent merely had an accident, you'll think someone merely used a gun before making a lucky escape, or you'll think O.J. did it.
  • by Channard ( 693317 ) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:10PM (#25108933) Journal
    Sure, this book sounds cool, but for my money, Ask A Ninja can't get any better than this segment [youtube.com] where the Ninja interviewed Jon Heder and Will Ferrell about 'Blades of Glory'. While they do try to get in the joke, they're just so fantastically bewildered. You can imagine how the day was going.. journalist asking tedious questions 1, journalist asking tedious questions 2. Etc.. etc.. then all of a sudden.. Ninja out of nowhere!
    • by TheBig1 ( 966884 )
      Will Ferrell seemed to hold his own quite well, although I admit Jon could have done better. 8-)

  • I would think a more appropriate December date for it would be the 7th.
  • The TRUE Ninja handbook can never be found.

    It slips silently into the shelves of the library, never to be seen again.
  • I heard that the deluxe boxed set comes with the Master Ninja Theme Song. [youtube.com]
  • by Joebert ( 946227 ) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:52PM (#25109641) Homepage
    Last time I opened a Ninja book Chuck Norris' fist flew out of it and stopped just far enough away from my face for me to read the words "Don't even think about it" tattoo'd across all 25 of his knuckles.

    I'm not making that mistake again.
    • Which just goes to show that Chuck Norris should take the warning seriously, before he runs out of fists.

      It does seem rather harsh, though, putting his dismembered fist inside of a book. But Ninja are not known for their compassion...

  • While not being familiar with all of this, I assure you it lives in the shadow of Grandmaster Ashida Kim, who has made his ninja training available for free:

    http://ashidakim.com/stb.html [ashidakim.com]

    Just in the off chance that you take that book seriously, I suggest you ruin it with his Sentry Removal Techniques video series:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCNRh9M9OAI [youtube.com]

    Worth a watch just for the many degrees of awesome - the music, the editing - Everything.

  • I am amazed that Chuck Norris has allowed this to happen. Thank goodness we all live in a benevolent Chucktocracy.

  • that ask a ninja guy is so fake. first of all, ninjas don't talk loudly. in fact, they don't talk at all, and they certainly don't appear on youtube videos. ninjas do not negotiate or give interviews, they kill. furthermore, ninjas do not have "clans", "bosses" or "merit badges" (even black ones). ninjas are not black, they are invisible.

  • ....they just kill people a little more slowly.

    My day job is as a network analyst for a Big Company. Until a few years ago (50th birthday), I taught martial arts in the evenings.

    While not a Ninja...we teach Karate, BJJ, Aikido, Muy Thai, and straight up Western boxing...I have a fair amount of skill.

    Also used to fight full contact, so it was not unusual to show up for work with things bruised or broken. One morning, an IT secretary saw some bruises on my forearms and asked how it happened. When I explained,

    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

      Mako? Wow. When I was a kid I really liked him -- he was a fine actor. Hadn't seen him on TV in many years.. seems he passed away a couple years ago :(

  • So they can go out and make the rest of our lives a complete Ninja Dorking hell.


  • I learned my ninja skills in the 1980's via mail order Ninja books like ones Ashida Kim [ashidakim.com] wrote. He wants you to steal this Ninja book [ashidakim.com] because everyone else has stolen it and he released it into the public domain to get even at the dummy corporations that protected the publishers that sold his book and never game him his fair share or any money at all from it. He will gladly sell you ebooks and paper books for money to learn how to be a real ninja.

    If you want to learn how to be a real pirate, you can join up

  • IANAN, but I'm pretty sure they'd be pissed if they found out about this book.

    Order it while you can.

  • Ninjitsu is considered a dead form of the martial arts. It is neither combat effective nor practical in modern applications. Your modern practitioners are steeped in a world of fantasy and Hollywood. It is well known in the mixed martial arts world that Ninjitsu is a huge joke.
    • I concur with "Anonymous Coward." The MMA isn't a true test of martial prowess. It is a sport. Someone entering into a Ninja Dojo will by nature take their art more seriously. It has always been geared towards practicality.
  • I'm just going to babble on here; no one's going to read this and it's more for the defense attorney of whatever trial I get into. I personally purchased this book, and while I haven't read it, I can say with full honesty that I give the cover 5/5. A spectacular piece of imagery encompassing everything ninja about a ninja handbook. Also, being a vampire pigeon, I am very excited to hear about the vampire pumpkins, and look forward to eating them soon. Finally, some more ninjaness. It seems like pirates ar
  • just read this

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"