Customer Reviews: Badass: The Birth of a Legend: Spine-Crushing Tales of the Most Merciless Gods, Monsters, Heroes, Villains, and Mythical Creatures Ever Envisioned (Badass Series)
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on April 4, 2011
As a student of awesomely hilarious accounts of historical and mythological hijinks, I was one of the first in line when Badass: The Birth of a Legend was released. I immediately skipped out on work to read it. Unfortunately, right at that moment I was attacked by ninjas. Shurikens to the left of me, katanas to the right, I jumped up and ran like the wind. The ninjas pursued, but I turned a corner and was face to face with a clan of Norwegian berserkers! Before I could pray to Krom for help, I was caught in an epic showdown between these legendary warrior classes. I thought to myself, "what would author, Ben Thompson, do in this situation?" I thus sat down and started taking notes on the expletives uttered by the various battlers when they were kicked in the sternums, the ribcage, the stomach and the buttocks. Suddenly, a maurading band of pygmy warriors appeared in the melee. I shielded myself from their poison blow-darts with the book. I was the sole survivor of that terrifying ordeal.

With my life newly saved, I returned home with my treasured book, Badass: The Birth of a Legend, and despite the pinhole from the darts and the stains from the poison, that book sits in a place of honor upon the tank of my toilet. I read selections from it every time I poop.
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on March 20, 2011
One of my favorite books of 2009 was Badass -- A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, and Military Commanders to Ever Live by Ben Thompson. While this site isn't technically a "review" site I still review the occasional thing that catches my attention, and I reviewed the hell out of this book because I loved it. So when I received an email from the Marketing Coordinator at HarperCollins offering me an advanced review copy of Ben's latest, Badass: The Birth of a Legend -- Spine-Crushing Tales of the Most Merciless Gods, Monsters, Heroes, Villains, and Mythical Creatures Ever Envisioned, you know I friggin' jumped at the opportunity!

What Thompson has delivered this time around is an object of almost literary perfection.

Here's the book description from the publisher:

Since the beginning of human history people have created myths, tall tales, superheroes, and arch-villains--men and women who embarked on insane adventures, performed extraordinary feats of unparalleled awesomeness, and overcame all odds to violently smite their foes into bloody pulp. In Badass: The Birth of a Legend, Ben Thompson compiles these fantastical tales from the beginning of time to today and tells them in the completely over-the-top manner in which they were intended, including:

* Rama: The Indian god-king who led an army of monkeys against the King of All Demons
* Thor: The Viking god of thunder and awesome hair, who crushed the skulls of giants with a ridiculously huge hammer
* Beowulf: An Anglo-Saxon hero so hardcore he could arm-wrestle monsters' joints out of their sockets
* Moby-Dick: The hate-filled literary behemoth who obliterated ship hulls with his face
* Skuld: The Norse necromancer queen who summoned a horde of zombie berserkers
* Dirty Harry Callahan: The prototypical modern-day antihero and very embodiment of badass

The book is divided into four sections. The first is Gods, Goddesses, and other Kickass Celestial Beings. Second is Heroes, Heroines, and Over-the-Top do-Gooders. Third is Villains, Sorcerors, Antiheroes, and Psychotic Merciless Bastards. Finally, we have Monsters, Fiends, Hellspawn, and Worse.

Look, I'm not going to sit here and say this book is for everyone. If you're one of those people who take everything, especially yourself, too seriously, you probably won't dig it. If you hate adventure, spurn fun, and never rolled a 20-sider in pursuit of glory and plunder, you probably won't get it. If you can't look at a picture of Gerard Butler as King Leonidas in 300 screaming and not giggle maniacally before muttering, "Awesome!" then the book might not be for you. But if heroic, mythological stuff like this is your bread and butter, if these stories referenced by the personalities detailed in the book are what started you down your path as a reader, and you get a kick out of truly over-the-top hyperbole and pop cultural references, then you'll love it. For me, as a guy who as a youth pored through the original 1st Edition D&D Deities and Demigods book imagining my characters fighting all the badasses listed there (and who to this day thinks could write a book titled Everything I Needed to Know About Life I Learned Playing Dungeons and Dragons with a completely straight face), this thing is like a trigger for all of those memories, taken to the next level of awesome.

For example, here is an excerpt from the chapter on Diomedes, the King of Argos, who fought in the Trojan War. Guys like Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, et al tend to get all the press from that war, but Thompson makes his case for Diomedes performing "towering acts of bone-crunching awesomeness on par with the greatest deeds of any of those mighty warriors." As everyone surely knows, the Gods and Goddesses themselves involved themselves in the 10-year Trojan War. Diomedes was favored by Athena, but only because he was so mighty. When he was putting an ass-whooping on one of Aphrodite's favorites, she appeared and ordered him to halt. He took a swing at her and sent her back to her crib wounded and bawling. Apollo then intervened, and while Diomedes didn't harm the God he still attacked relentlessly until Apollo left the field. That's when we hit a passage I read over and over again, where Thompson talked about Diomedes' relentless tendency to simply not care whom he faces when it's time to throw down:

Never was this more intensely awesome than when Diomedes, the mortal son of some moderately important guy, went straight-up against Ares, the Greek God of War, in mortal combat. That's right, this guy was so utterly fearless that he fought the deity responsible for warlike bloodshed, and the being whose sole job is to decide who won victory in battle. Diomedes didn't care. As soon as he saw Ares' chariot smiting Greeks alongside the Trojans, the king of Argos rushed over to face him. Amazingly, this wasn't even a hopeless battle -- as Diomedes was charging in to do battle with Ares himself, Athena warped down into Diomedes' chariot, guided his arm, and the Greek hero threw an epic spear that wounded the God of War, sending Ares running back to Olympus crying and howling like a punk bitch. The only analogy I can really make here is that this is like playing a game of D&D, deciding to have your character attack the Dungeon Master, and winning.

If that analogy doesn't make you howl, then you just don't get it. If you do, then you know just how truly great this stuff is.

Here is another one, talking about Medea, who is most known for her role in the legendary pursuit of the Golden Fleece by Jason and his Argonauts.

Medea is the sort of hardcore chick that would have spent much of her time in mythological Greece gracing the covers of the most brutal and horrific editions of US Weekly ever published. Her life had all the juicy intrigue -- love, sex, betrayal, revenge, divorce, occult dealings, and bad-hair days -- and she capped it all off with a brutally overdeveloped love for murder, violence, and flammable substances so profound that if "setting people on fire" were a Facebook status, Medea would have "Like"d it.

Besides being a book that seems like it was written just for me, Thompson delivers a work that proudly displays his own real love for the subject matter, with a twinkle-in-the-eye that makes it obvious he knows just how ridiculous his approach is. Still, that approach is backed up with scholarship; the bibliography is immense, and collects many works I'd not heard of before. For all the hyperbole the details of these subjects' exploits aren't made up by Thompson -- they are truly representatives of centuries of folklore and myth. It makes me want to pursue some of those books he references, even as it makes me queue up all the movies in my collection that involve heroes kicking ass and taking names.

As for near perfection, as much as I may be amused by the inclusion of dudes like Captain James T. Kirk, or B.A. Baracus, among the heroes, their presence in place of the noticeably absent Conan of Cimmeria is inexcusable. Hopefully that glaring oversight will be rectified in the next book, which I sure hope is on its way.
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on May 2, 2011
This is absolutely not a book intended for the serious student of mythology. One can hardly expect to understand the totality of intricacies of the characters presented in the 40 short vignette. However, this book does have many important redeeming qualities.

This book has the potential to get an otherwise uninterested reader excited about mythology. This is interesting in the sense that the book seems to be merely a vehicle for the author's comedy. I often found myself laughing at some of his more obscure references which had little to do with the character being described. However, it is a very easy book to dip into a little at a time and by placing modern myths from movies and video games next to ancient gods and heroes goads the reader to bring the same level of inquiry to them both. While the myths that he discusses (which I am familiar with) are generally accurate, the author is uncompromising in the way that he retells the stories with flamboyant and attention grabbing language. This makes him an excellent storyteller as he has to compete with television and other media that increasingly caters to the attention deficit among us. It was fun read for me as well seeing how an academic outsider reacts to many of the outlandish elements (when they are taken literally) that are present in these legends.

Most importantly, this book is entertainment, but in the hands of, say, a teenager who only knows of Rama from the summon materia, it can be an important first step to the deep well of wisdom that mythology provides. If you buy this book, I recommend that you really take some time to look through the bibliography and find some of the author's sources for more information and accuracy about the characters that grab your attention.
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on August 9, 2011
Thompson doesn't disappoint! I absolutely loved the first collection (which features tales of actual historical figures, vs the mythical ones here), and was very excited to see he had come out with another! I can see some people's criticisms of the book and series over-all; if you are looking for a straight-up or even just slightly comical set of biographies for some of the greatest people, creatures, legends and deities who ever lived, this may not be for you. If you're in the mood to read a funny book, featuring aforementioned beings, that uses hyperbole as well as time-defying phrases and scenarios (along the lines of Gengis Khan raiding a 7-Eleven -- not actual excerpt, just an example)than this is for you! It had me laughing out loud several times throughout the book! And of course the artwork by awesome contemporary illustrators like Steve Belledin adds a whole other level Badass-itude!
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on January 6, 2014
Ben Thompson is a rather unique author. He doesn't play with words in the common way authors do, he plays with them in the way common people do. And he uses his collection of words to tell the tales of beings, fictional and nonfictional alike, as the should be -- in your face, slapping any vestige of fail and wussiness out of your brain, and with a dash of very direct low-brow humor to go along with it. There is no subtlety here -- Ben gives you the story straight up, with a sidecar of mini-myths mixed in with some high-octane trivia that may or may not be pertinent to the article but is always related (somehow). If you intend to read this, you had best be ready for it.

Birth of a Legend, Ben's second book, is all about the fictional badasses to roam Existence and punch faces. You have a good array of things to read about in this one -- divine beings, good guys, bad guys, and even a smorgasbord of mythical creatures. I have been reading it at the rate of one article at a time, and since I purchased it I have not yet finished, but I am pretty sure I'll loop back on this book again after I do Badass Ultimate Deathmatch (his third book).

Recommended to anyone who has stomach for direct action, no-nonsense storytelling, and the kind of humor that college kids wish they could pull off.
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on December 26, 2013
I bought this book after buying and reading the original 'Badass' by Ben Thompson. The stories were all entertaining to read, as well as humorous, without being insulting (it's hard to insult an atheist regarding gods/goddesses). I still have it in my bathroom for guests.
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on January 18, 2012
Do you like history. Do you like mythology. Do you like listening to a guy talk about it as if it's the most kickass thing ever to exist. This might be the book for you. Ben Thompson creators of the "Badass of the Week" website defiantly loves his history....maybe a little to much. The research that has went into this book and his other Badass book is astounding and as far as I was able to find accurate. His writing is defiantly a little jarring at first but it is refreshing when compared to those standard dry dusty history and mythology books of old.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes history, mythology, or is trying to teach unwilling high school kids the fore mentioned topics.

Warning: the words Kickass, balls, and Awesome are used quite often and frequently.
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on July 19, 2013
I purchased this book and the "Badass Ultimate Deathmatch" book as a gift for my husband because he enjoyed Ben Thompson's 1st book so much. He was so excited to receive it and I have to admit I started reading it before he could even get a chance. After he is finished he already has two of his brothers asking to borrow it. I don't think I have every seen a book, let alone three (Badass/Birth of a Legend/Ulitmate Deathmatch), that has so many grown men chomping at the bit to read. Great for boys of all ages and us fearless girls too. Ben Thompson's style of writing is what I like to call "guy language". It combines facts with a fun and witty style of delivery that speaks to the smarty-pants in all of us. Fun and educational!
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on July 22, 2011
Listen....I know that as a history teacher and overall history nerd I should not like these books. Well that is what the stuffed shirt ivory tower d-bags want us all to think. This book is simply hilarious and I feel that it does a great job of telling history for history lovers and non history lovers. The language is juvenile but that is what makes it so great for an uninterested teen, they get the language and they may finally find this stuff interesting! I would get in heaps of trouble to actually teach this book because of the language but I hope that all my students who don't like history would pick up this book and see if this gives them another view.
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on August 30, 2011
I should start by admitting that I began reading this book with WAY too high expectations, based mainly on the original BADASS.

HOWEVER, this book is AWESOME... there is no denying that .. and I loved every page of it. However, I am not sure I am willing to say it is better than the first BADASS.

How can I put this into words?

This book is kind of like Chuck Norris riding a dragon while drinking a beer, whereas the first BADASS was like Chuck Norris riding a dragon while melting the faces of an endless horde of demons ... while his beard drinks a beer.

I think that's clear enough ... right?
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