I bought My Tank is Fight at World Fantasy Con when I was looking for something to buy in the dealer's room. It appealed to my peculiar tastes: weird history, alternate history fiction, technical details of weapons and armor, and a good dose of humor. In other words, the same stuff you find in most role-playing game books these days (if you can find them). So in a rare move, I bought myself a brand-new book.
As weird history, My Tank is Fight does an admirable job of spotlighting the various weapons conceived for World War II that were impractical from the start. Divided into land, sea, and air, these devices are mostly from the Germans (with one Canadian/American exception), spawned from sheer desperation as the war waned. They can be categorized as two different types:
Bigger is Better: The same old boring weapon, only GINORMOUS. Beyond the cost of creating these monstrosities, they were too heavy to actually use (giant tanks can't cross bridges) or too obvious a target for the Allied bombers.
Combine This With That: Combining a tank with a plane, or a submarine with a tank. Yes, technically these devices could conquer two types of terrain, but they ended up being pretty terrible at traversing both.
As if all these historical details are too boring to keep an adult's attention span focused, the book has frequent jokes - some funny, some just plain sophomoric - wherein the author slips into first person. It's a little jarring, when the rest of the book is relatively somber.
Additionally, there are fiction vignettes highlighting Nazis, Russians, and an American reporter's experiences with these superweapons in an alternate history where they're actually created and used. The Russian sniper's story is interesting but too brief, with no satisfying resolution. The Nazi tank commander's story isn't really wrapped up, while the Nazi pilot's story is wrapped up but out of sequence, which muddles the narrative. Finally there's the American reporter, who is by far the most fun.
Spoiler alert as I dive into the conclusion of the book here...
Nazi Germany explodes a nuclear bomb over New York City. This seems to be taken very lightly in the fictional narrative, with the author indicating that "although the Americans wanted to immediately bomb Germany, cooler heads prevailed and they bombed Japan instead."
Sorry, I don't buy it. After America's experience with 9/11 and Iraq, a Nazi atom bomb detonating over New York seems like it would garner a much more ferocious reaction. Unfortunately, there's really not room for My Tank is Fight to explore the implications of this hugely history-altering event. The bigger news seems to be the cover-up of Nazi space exploration. In comparison to the massacre of thousands of Americans, giving a fig about a single Nazi still stuck on a German space station seems a bit trite.
Ultimately, My Tank is Fight is a breezy, entertaining read. I kept thinking, "this would be fantastic for a game!" - be it a role-playing game or a first-person shooter set in World War II, wherein the boss battles feature these preposterous super weapons. If you have an interest in alternate history or World War II history, but are too lazy to do any actual research, this is the book for you.