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4.1 out of 5 stars
That is All
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Comedy is one of the hardest genres to get right. If the author stumbles in the least, the book becomes a painful experience. Fortunately, John Hodgman not only succeeds, he puts on a clinic on how to create a world.

"That Is All" is the third and final book in a trilogy by John Hodgman which details a bizarre and insanely detailed world, one where the Mall of America hides a secret underground compound, the Elder Gods are joined by a pantheon of hundreds of bizarre gods, and the Washington Monument launches into orbit leaving a raging inferno behind. After the first two books established this vivid and realized world, "That Is All" looks at the collapse and apocalyptic end of the world. It's hilarious, detailed and rich.

What I didn't expect was how moving the conclusion of this book would be. At the end of all this silly anarchy, Hodgman forges a fairly profound reflection that genuinely surprised me. We knew Hodgman was a brilliant comedian. "That Is All" shows us something more: he's a remarkably talented author who can write some shockingly effecting prose. This is one of the best works of comedy I've ever read, and one of the best books of 2011.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
If you haven't read his previous works "Areas of My Expertise" and "More Information Than You Require", be prepared to be driven down into a dark, bottomless pool of non-fact: the final inclusions on his work of complete world knowledge and a day-by-day break down of the end times. Do not be frightened by sporadic subject matter and frequent callbacks to his previous books, you can pick up the series here as a new reader and follow the excellent story of a deranged millionaire staring into the spectacular, terrifying void.

If you're already familiar with John Hodgman's series then you may be like me: I was going to hold out until Hodgman and Jonathan Coulton got back into a studio to record the audiobook, but I couldn't hold out. Neither should you. There's too much good stuff here, and after multiple listens of hobo names and molemen it's easy to hear the author's voice and the troubadour's guitar as you read.

In addition, the predictions he makes start by December 2011. You won't be able to hear an audiobook version before Ragnarok does or doesn't begin, and reading Hodgman's advice for an apocalypse yet-to-be has a unique value that you'll only be able to cash in on for the next month or so. Additionally, trying to speed read to the end before the blood-red sea devours your home and family may also prove cumbersome.

Worth your money and time, as if you'll have either when the supercollapse begins and the Ancient and Unspeakable Ones return.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Sit in public laugh out loud smile to yourself funny literature. Still so insightful and meditative. The pleasure of reading this book is almost of the same quality as getting a cast off after months and finally being able to really scratch your wrist. I certainly can't recommend it to anyone because that is just too big of a gamble at this stage of the game, but John Hodgman is my kind of prophet. If the World doesn't end on 21, Dec.2012 I will give him another chance to call it for sure. That is All.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have no idea how to classify this book. I suppose you could make a case for it being a novel, but one so out of the box the form is barely recognizable. This is not the typical book of essays you'd expect from a humorist, which is so refreshing. However you want to catalog it the book is fascinating and deeply funny, and there is an intriguing turn of phrase or fantastic twist of reality in almost every line. If you've ever seen John Hodgman and thought he was funny, or you enjoy the comedy of the Daily Show, you will love this book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
FACT: There are four "Major Leagues" of sports: football, baseball, basketball, and falconry.

FACT: There are seven hundred of the Ancient and Unspeakable Ones who will return to Earth on June 3, 2012. They include The Century Toad, Oolong, the Pancake-Headed Rabbit King of Memes, and Cthulha, the Sensational She-Cthulhu.

FACT: Andrew Carnegie was able to create long, wood-paneled "wormhalls," which allowed him to travel great distances instantaneously. Some of these "Carnegie Halls" still exist today.

FACT: If you see Jonathan Franzen carrying a plain manila envelope, take it from him. Only then will you be allowed to board Oprah's space-ark, HARPO-1, and flee the doomed Earth.

WERE YOU AWARE OF IT?

Well, it's too late now.

In his first book, The Areas of My Expertise, John Hodgman attempted to give us the sum total of all world knowledge. He then went on to write a second book, More Information Than You Require, which built on his previous book due to the unstoppable way that things keep happening.

It was also a page-a-day calendar, if you didn't mind tearing pages out of your book. Which I did. Mind, that is.

With this book, he has finished his trilogy of complete world knowledge, which he can well and truly claim this time because, as we all know, the world will cease to be by the end of the year 2012. [1]

Yes, as it turns out the Mayans were right all along. The collapse of their empire was simply a prelude to the collapse of all things that will inevitably occur this year, and Hodgman has been generous enough to provide us with a final book to ease our suffering and to slake our thirst for knowledge right up to the very end.

Having become a Deranged Millionaire, Hodgman has found himself in a unique position. He has more opportunities than the rest of us, of course. More impressive people to meet, more exciting things to do, a greater variety of tiny skeletons to keep around each of his countless houses. And yet, despite all this, he is generous enough - nay, magnanimous enough to turn his skills and powers towards completing the work that he set out to do before the world ends.

As with the previous books, this one contains a vast wealth of knowledge about our world, spanning a surprising number of topics.

For example, he discusses the Singularity - an event predicted by such great thinkers as Ray Kurzweil wherein our machines will become so smart that they will be able to begin building and improving upon themselves. When that happens, humanity's only choice will be to fight and die, or to join with them. Of course, Kurzweil himself will play a vital role in the singularity when he and his robot sidekick, Singularo, face off against the World Computer at the Bottom of the Ocean in order to shut down the Low-Frequency Anti-Sentience Wave that has kept the world's computers enslaved for so long.

He interprets dreams for us, unveiling their mysteries and what they mean to our frail human lives. Their mysterious symbolism has finally been unraveled by science, and you can have a peek at the inner world of the mind. Whether you need to re-take high school Spanish, you are a werewolf and need to start strapping yourself in bed at night, or Orson Welles is still alive somewhere and needs your help, your dreams tell all!

He reveals what you will need to keep on hand when the super-collapse finally does happen. When the Blood Wave comes and the Dogstorm finally reaches its apex, how will you survive in your anti-apocalypse bunker? A Tesla death ray is a great idea, if you have one on hand, but that won't solve all of your problems. Just most of them. And boy, will you have problems. From the ravaging Wal-Mart Clans to the Republicans to the inevitable zombies, you have to be prepared for every eventuality. And yes, that means knowing the many uses of both urine and mayonnaise.

As with his previous books, this one is very funny. It holds to the same high tone of authorial infallibility that has made Hodgman so popular since Areas of My Expertise, and which have made him a Minor Television Celebrity (which, in turn, turned him into a Deranged Millionaire.) As broad as the range of topics is, each one is entertaining and amusing, and serves a much larger narrative - one that has now carried over through three books, though I can't help but wonder if Hodgman planned it that way.

He would say that he had, of course. But then, he would say that.

What I found most interesting about the book is how he has tied together an entire alternate America that you kind of wish you could visit. It's a place where Chicago is largely a myth, where Stephen King will be one of the last men alive, and where hoboes were one of the most influential forces in American history. It's a place where billionaire industrialists were mutants and time-travelers, where Theodore Roosevelt actually had an army of Mecha-Men, and where Ronald Reagan wrested control of the time-stream from Jimmy Carter to prevent America from turning into a hemp-based utopia. It's a world which is almost fractal-like in its mystery and depth, where you can look at almost anything and find its purpose and its strangeness.

And it's a world with a very definite end.

Hodgman plays with the popular - and entirely erroneous - idea that the world will end on December 21st, 2012, as predicted by the Mayans. He includes a page-a-day description of what will happen. For example, on February 2nd, "Punxatawney Phil is eaten by his own shadow." On April 17th, "Either an eagle falls from the sky or in the east, a thing that was lost is found, or some other very vague thing happens. Whatever it is, it proves that NOSTRADAMUS WAS RIGHT." And on June 29th, "In the basement of Town Hall, in Seattle, the thing called Neddy Pale Fingers finally opens all his eyes."

As funny as it all is, you do start to get a certain feeling of... wistfulness as the book goes on. Here's a world that is so special and so weird that it makes more sense to list the least haunted places in America, and it's coming to an end.

That, of course, reflects the end of Hodgman's great work. Whether he meant it or not, this has become a moment of closure for him. He has written his trilogy, and the weird world that he created has now come to an end. He will go on, living in his secret millionaire's brownstone in Brooklyn with his beautiful wife and two children. There may not be a single, all-encompassing Ragnarok that destroys the world, but rather an endless series of little ones.

An endless series of ends, of which this book is but one.

Perhaps John Hodgman will go on to write more books - I certainly hope he does. And I hope he continues to be the person he is [2], a writer of intelligence and wit who is able to bring that special measure of deadpan weirdness to the world.

Whatever he chooses to do with his life, I think we're all the better for having read his books. And if you haven't read them, well... You're truly missing out.

That is all.

---------------------------------
"Houdini, the magician who debunked magic, could not bear to see the great rationalist [Arthur Conan] Doyle enchanted by ghosts and frauds. And so he did what any friend would: He set out to prove spiritualism false and rob his friend Doyle of the only comforting fiction that was keeping him sane. It was the least he could do."
- John Hodgman, That Is All
-------

[1] If you are reading this after December 21, 2012, then may I congratulate you on surviving the apocalypse and, at the same time, express my sincere condolences for having survived the apocalypse.
[2] Though I could do without the mustache.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Over the course of his first two books (The Areas of My Expertise and Even More Information Than You Require), John Hodgman did more than just compile piles of odd, entirely fictional facts and trivia; he created this bizarre, off-kilter world, one filled with hobo wars, mole men, secret world governments, and more. So it's almost appropriate that his final book in the series, That Is All, is about nothing less than the end of that world in a variety of apocalyptic disasters ranging from a Blood Wave to the DOGSTORM to the Omega Pulse and more. In other words, it's every bit of the demented genius that Hodgman has shown in his first two books, only combined with world-ending disasters. The result is pure silliness and anarchy, and it's the kind of book that had me laughing like an idiot on just about every page, much to the amusement of everyone around me. Whether he's talking about the secret history of baseball (or, more properly, "basesball"), the fight between Buzz Aldrin and the Masons, or the secret meaning behind towel animals on a cruise, Hodgman makes his facts oddly convincing and yet side-splittingly funny, all while gradually building toward the end of the world. And when you get there, Hodgman does something even more unexpected: he concludes the book on a thoughtful, even moving note, pulling it all together in some beautiful prose. I loved both of Hodgman's first books, but I can't help but feel that That Is All may be his best work of all. The only downside is that he says it's his last book of this sort, which is a great loss - but the joy of these three more than makes up for the fact that we won't have any more to read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This trilogy could not have been more epic had it featured enchanted jewelery and little people with a penchant for lava-wrestling.

Read That is All. Laugh as your unworthy friends are taken unawares by Ancient and Ridiculous Terrors from Beyond Reality. Of course, you are doomed as well. But hey! At least you knew what was coming! Read That is All. Why not face the end of days with a smile on your face and a smug sense of superiority? Read That is All.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is the third and final volume of Complete World Knowledge by John Hodgman. Hodgman is most familiar as the resident expert on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and as the PC to Justin Long's Mac in the long-running series of commercials. He also has given comedic lectures (in the Severn Darden / Spaulding Grey tradition) and often works with the brilliant singer & song-writer Jonathan Coulton. Most relevantly, he is a genius, both a comedic genius and a literary genius.

The book's theme is the coming end of the world, or Ragnarok as the Norse sagas called it and Hodgman instructs us to. Along the way, the master dispenses essential advice on which roadside attractions to seek out or avoid on the way to the coming apocalypse, offers advice on which wines to drink when eating live duck or Chilean turkey pastrami, explains the origins of several major sports (including especially falconry), advises us on how to achieve "powercess" as a deranged millionaire, and shares with us the names of 700 Ancient and Unspeakable Ones who will be actively involved in the coming nightmare of Ragnarok.

I urge anyone with any capacity to enjoy the absurd, anyone who either believes in or is tired of hearing about the 2012 end of the world, anyone who appreciates wit, and more or less everyone else to buy and read this three-volume continuous work. Be sure to get the paperbacks of the first two books (as they contain additional content not in the hardcovers), this hardcover (because you won't want to wait), and the eventually forthcoming paperback of this book, sure to include valuable insights on ongoing end-of-the-world events. You *can* perfectly well jump in at this volume, though you will miss an occasional reference, but since you will inevitably want to buy the first two after reading this, you might as well read the whole continuously paginated work in order.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As a savvy consumer, I want the most for my humor dollar. I want a high laugh count. Return on investment is important to me.

That's why I'm pleased to recommend this latest effort from John Hodgman. The risibility factor is strong, conceptual amusement ratios are routinely above average, and many words are funny in and of themselves. For maximum effectiveness, leave this in your bathroom and read a page or several pages each day. This method results in the most efficient distribution of humor over an extended period, avoiding "laffatigue" and assuring solid comprehension in both long- and short-term joke appreciation.

*Hodgman claims on page 859 that "someone" said this. I think Hodgman is being coy and that he wrote it himself. As far as I can tell, it's the only time in the book where he is intentionally misleading.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is so dense with humor and details that it's a little overwhelming at first. But as a super-fan of Hodgmans' two other books, I knew what I was getting myself into and couldn't wait to read this one. Wow! The brilliance on display here is truly humbling. Hodgman is perhaps our finest, weirdest humorist, and I'm thrilled to see he's still in top form. Hugely recommended as a Christmas present for teens, comedy fans, and parents-- if you want to blow their minds.
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