I remember being absolutely fascinated with The Anarchist’s Cookbook as a kid in junior high: “Dude, you can get high by smoking the scrapings from three hundred banana skins! We should totally try that!” Just walking around with that book—and I’ll admit, my memory is spotty regarding any content besides questionably accurate drug and bomb-making recipes—I just felt a little more dangerous. Which is a pretty rad thing for a thirteen year-old to feel. The truth was, I was a non-threatening nerd of monstrous proportions, but in 7th grade, you’ll take what you can get.
Consider, then, Shadowliving Tactical Manual to be The Anarchist’s Cookbook for grownups. Like the title suggests, it contains step-by-step instructions and how-to suggestions on just how one goes about living under the radar, in all manners and forms. It’s divided into sections (Wilderness Survival, Self-Defense, Privacy, and Frugal Living) and each section has a ton of subsections, the majority of them going into great detail. It’s generally a pretty fascinating read. There’s everything from how to give false positives in drug tests (and what over the counter drugs to use) to what the most cost-effective bullets are to buy for your handgun, to how to encrypt written messages into images over the computer using stenography programs, to a listing of generic, fake Social Security numbers that can be used. It’s the details that are the great parts about this book.
Some of the material comes across as pretty obvious (yeah, right, to avoid debt and live frugally, don’t get yourself a credit card), but I guess it was just a question of Santiago getting through the obvious material in order to be able to delve into the minutiae: where to hide your stash, how to apply fake burns and scars to conceal your identity. Hell, the Self-Defense section has a subheading entirely devoted to Improvised Weapons, my favorites include a cat (“If it’s not declawed, throw the cat in their face.”) and a yo-yo (“Throw at their head, swing or hammer at vital areas with it.”).
My biggest complaints are editorial ones. For one, it looks like the entire document was dumped straight from Word into whatever layout program the dude used. It’s all in Times Roman, all in bold, all in the same font size. That may come across, at best, as me being a total design nerd and, at worst, an elitist, but the layout really could’ve used some jazz to make it more visually appealing and to delineate some of the information. More importantly, the author really should have had a friend edit this thing before he had it printed. Santiago is apparently terrified of commas. It’s really not a huge deal, but it does get to the point where some of the linear qualities of the writing become totally muddled:
“The first type of guns I’m going to discuss are handguns that come in basically in two kinds revolvers and semi-automatics.”
“Like I said before checks and credit cards should be avoided for maximum privacy however if you must use checks or credit cards follow these rules.”
Again, it’s not a huge deal, but when you couple that with these huge blocks of text, the readability does somewhat suffer. Still, when taken a whole, it’s a fascinating piece of work and one that the author has obviously invested a ton of sweat and hours into. It is, like the title suggests, a manual—a little overwhelming when read straight through, but really captivating when perused leisurely, in small bits.
And as far as the content and overall scope of the book goes (and a selling point for any thirteen-year-olds out there), I’m pretty sure that Shadowliving Tactical Manual is destined, especially in this day and age, to raise a few eyebrows in an FBI office somewhere. Nice job. –Keith Rosson (No mailorder, but you can contact the author at: [email protected] or order the book at: lulu.com/content/2695362)