The Worse-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht (book review).

April 30, 2019 | By | Reply More

Now here’s a book that should be on every writer’s shelves although I doubt if it would stay there for long because it’s a research medium for survival so practically everyone needs it for those hazardous situations. Writers Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht have talked to 68 consultants and several sources for expert opinions for their book, ‘The Worse-Case Scenario Survival Handbook’.

I do wish that the experts names were actually put with the relevant piece rather than en bulke at the back of the book as it would be more reassuring as to who was giving the advice. Here, you get the answers to all kinds of disasters and how to get through them. I’m not quite sure how often snakes get loose on aeroplanes, but even that is covered.

The book is divided into 7 chapters dealing with transport, animals, fights with various weapons, assorted jumps, technology, critical and potential fatal disasters right around to adventures. You get it all in basic English, although the book is American so don’t expect to come across some scenarios in quite the same way when it comes to the likes of trains as the British variety doesn’t have windows that are capable of being opened in the carriages.

I did learn a few new words and meanings from this book including gaslighting. I’m still wondering about fear of clowns being included although they do clarify between good and bad varieties but nothing about custard foam pies. Something that is worrying is showing how to land in a dumpster but more from the point of view that someone is likely to try out how to do it correctly. Even so, it looks risky unless you know for sure that the dumpster contains boxes to absorb the impact and not bricks.

Something that is very topical and should be very worrying for those who’ve computerised your homes is what happens if it gets hacked. I’m just glad there is no indication that it has control of your gas-fed cookers. Imagine them being turned on without igniting the flame. Be careful what you hook it into that could be hacked. There is also a guide against cyber-bullying.

I was surprised that you’re shown how to do a tracheotomy and yet the Heimlich manoeuvre is mentioned only in passing in the same piece. Which do you think would be the most likely you would encounter and need to be shown to do it properly with diagrams? Did I say there are lots of useful diagrams in this book?

Likewise, although we’ve yet to have to survive a nuclear blast fallout, I would have thought most radios using CPUs would have been fried and unable to work.

Probably the most extreme thing show is hacking off a trapped arm or leg. Considering you’re likely to faint every 30 seconds, it does make me wonder how many people can do this in 15 minutes in a, hopefully, only once in a lifetime situation.

If I was to be critical of this book then it would be more to do with seeing alternative solutions just so you aren’t locked into only one way. As I continued, I decided that might not be a good idea as you want something that works without getting confused by choice.

There is so much covered here that I started wondering if anything had been left out. Then it did occur to me, what happens if you’re trapped in a lift (an elevator for you folk across the pond) or how to use a parachute at short notice, although you are shown how to piggyback if both your parachutes fail.

The authors do remind from time to time that things in films aren’t always true to life and there are many myths with this that should have been covered. It might be interesting to have a follow-up book pointing out things shown in films that wouldn’t happen that way in real life and not to use as examples.

As I said at the beginning of this review, this is a useful source book for writers in how to find solutions but I do wonder if I would use it as a stepping stone to see if I could spot a different way to resolve the issue without resorting to brute force. I suspect the same would also apply to non-writers. It’s also of a size that you can keep in your coat pocket if you’re moving into any places where these situations could come up.

GF Willmetts

April 2019

(pub: Chronicle Books. 315 page illustrated A5 hardback. Price: £12.99 (UK), $18.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-4521-7218-7)

check out websites: and

Tags: , ,

Category: Books, Culture

Warning: Use of undefined constant php - assumed 'php' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/40/d502808907/htdocs/clickandbuilds/sfcrowsnest/wp-content/themes/wp-davinciV4.6/single.php on line 65

About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

Leave a Reply