Book Review – Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse by James Wesley Rawles

Book Review – Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse by James Wesley Rawles

This series by survivalist expert James Wesley Rawles is on the must read list of many preppers.  The series follows people as they struggle to adapt to the “new normal” without easy access to supplies.  Some of them are preppers, so they are better prepared to handle the crisis, while others are woefully unprepared to handle the changes, despite warning signs that the economy was about to collapse.

When the Dow Jones average had slumped its first 1,900 points, Todd Gray made his “mobilization” calls to the six members of his retreat group still living in the Chicago area. He followed up with a multiple-addressee e-mail message. There was no need to call Kevin Lendel.He had been coming over for dinner and extended conversations for the past three evenings. Most of the group members agreed to attempt to make their way to the Grays’ home in Idaho as soon as possible.

This is one of the best novels in the genre for those really looking to learn about what they should be doing now for the time when disaster strikes.  Many of the lessons are great lessons regardless of whether the SHTF situation is EMP, financial, technological failure, or just about any kind of disaster that will result in the breakdown of society in any country – in this series, it is referred to as “The Crunch”.  And if you think you know what it takes to survive, you will probably discover a lot of things you didn’t even think of.  Sometimes the description in these “teaching moments” gets a bit bogged down, but the amount of knowledge passed through more than makes up for it.

There are a ton of characters, and many of them you will be able to revisit later in the series, which is really nice for those who have invested time in these characters.  There are moments you will be reading and think “wait a minute, is this the same guy from the last book who did XYZ?” and chances are it is! With so many characters though, the story can sometimes get slow going as we learn backgrounds of the characters.  They also bring colorful dialogue along with them.

Most of the coffee—all except for a small “emergency” reserve—ran out in January. Lisa Nelson was the one most vocal about it. As she was making one of her last cups of coffee with a miniature packet of Taster’s Choice that she’d scrounged out of an MRE, she quipped, “I was mentally prepared for a world without electricity, or refrigeration, or gasoline. I was ready for the rioting, the worthless greenbacks, and the umpteen uncertainties. But life without French Roast? Now that’s a tragedy of epic proportions.”

One bonus about this series is that the novels happen simultaneously, rather than being true sequels.   While characters make appearances in multiple novels, these books aren’t chronological like many sequels are, following the same set of characters from beginning to end.  This means you can pick up any of the novels and read in any order, or you can start from the beginning – you may enjoy this approach simply because of the characters that make later guest appearances in subsequent books.

While most of the action takes place in the US, one of the sub-plots takes place in Afghanistan which serves as a nice counterpoint, and also gives some perspective of what is happening in the US that the other characters aren’t necessarily “in the know” about.  The fourth book Expatriates also ventures to Australia and the Phillipines.  In the fifth book, Liberators, much of the plot takes place in Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada, giving Canadian fans a nice perspective of this kind of situation in Canada.

It also goes into great detail into what causes The Crunch in this series.  The financial information and how the economy in the US could collapse will definitely get many people really thinking about the possibility that this could really happen, something which the author of the series feels is inevitable.

When the Crunch came, it did not arrive without warning. By the turn of the century, Federal spending was out of control, and the debt and deficit problems were insurmountable. By 2008, with the global credit market in freefall, bank runs and huge Federal bailouts were becoming more frequent. Collectively, the bailouts were a massive, unstoppable hemorrhage of red ink. The debt and deficit numbers compounded at frightening rates. But it was too agonizing to confront them, so they were ignored. A report by the Congressional Budget Office was alarming. It said that just to pay the interest on the national debt for the year, it would take 100 percent of the year’s individual income tax revenue, 100 percent of corporate and excise taxes, and 41 percent of Social Security payroll taxes. Just before the Crunch, interest on the national debt was consuming 96 percent of government revenue.

Later books in the series go into detail about rebuilding society and the government, as everyone – and the country – attempts to recover from The Crunch.

Book Review – Apocalypse Drift by Joe Nobody

Book Review – Apocalypse Drift by Joe Nobody

This was the first book I read by “Joe Nobody”, a pseudonym for the author of a series of post-apocalyptic novels.

The novel features both a strong storyline and really strong characters you feel invested into.  The “collapse of society” in this novel is brought about by the financial collapse of the US.  And what a collapse it is.  It is brought about by Chinese hackers breaking into the IRS system, filing fake tax returns resulting in the country going bankrupt.

“A few hours ago, it became evident that something was terribly wrong with the IRS’s tax processing system.  We believe there is a strong possibility that we are experiencing some sort of cyber-attack.”

Secretary Palmer’s first thought was “So, why are you troubling me with this?” Rather than ask why they hadn’t immediately contacted the FBI, she decided to hear them out.  “Go ahead/”

It was Abbot’s turn to talk, “Ma’am, this report indicates that tax returns generating over 210 billion dollars’ worth of refunds have been submitted electronically to our system in the last eight days.  That is over 100 times the average for this time of year.”

Marsha let out a very un-cabinet-level whistle.  “Did you say billion – like with a ‘b’?”

“Yes, ma’am, I did.”

The book gets off to a pretty slow start, as it starts following multiple story lines to set up the impending crisis.  But it is well worth the wait.

There are several storylines in the book.  First is the Wyatt family, who lives in the marina on their boat when the crisis strikes.  Congressman Reed is another character, who is quietly investigating the murder of his father.  Other US goverment politicians, officials and citizens have parts of the story told in their own perspectives.  And we follow a series of Chinese politicians who mastermind the plan that sinks the US government’s financial stability.

The book was interesting in two ways – first, one of the main storylines takes place in a marina with families living on their boats and then eventually leaving the marina in search of “greener pastures” where survival might be a bit easier, particularly due to thieves.  Second, it didn’t focus so heavily on one family member trying to travel thousands of miles to get home following an EMP or other disaster which is a long favorite plot device in many SHTF books.

One thing I didn’t find that realistic was the fact they weren’t considering the use of other boats in the marina.  When faced with life or death, the fact that they left the other boats essentially untouched – despite the unlikelihood of their owners returning – I felt was a bit far-fetched.  And it was a bit too coincidental that the Wyatt’s military son went on leave right as the economy collapsed.

Those interested in finances will find it interesting to follow through to proposed economic and financial changes as the US tries to dig itself out of the financial crisis that devastates the country.

Book Review – 299 Days: The Preparation by Glen Tate

Book Review – 299 Days: The Preparation by Glen Tate

First, be aware that this book is unfortunately packaged as a series of shorter novellas, so the price can be a bit high if you want to read the entire series, but if you are interested in the genre, it is worth the purchase!

The premise of the collapse – an economic collapse – has some interesting facets to it and will definitely get you thinking about the possibility of it actually happening.

Grant hit the button on iTunes to become a subscriber to the Survival Podcast.  He could feel that something bad was coming to America.  It was the strongest nagging feeling he’d had up to that point.  The economy seemed to be a giant fraud.  The analysts on CNBC kept saying that things were fine but Grant didn’t believe them.  Jack Spirko was telling people to get out of the stock market.  That was preposterous; The Dow was at 14,000.  Spirko was adamant.

Then it happened.  All kinds of banks were failing.  There was full-on panic in the US.  It looked like the financial system would melt down.

The start of the novel is really, really REALLY slow.  You go back into the main character’s childhood and it is a lot of “telling” rather than “showing”, and it can be a bit much to slog through, especially when it doesn’t seem to add much to the novel overall – the information could have easily been woven into the story and been more effective – and gotten the reader straight into what most of the readers are most likely interested in – the collapse itself.  It wasn’t until the 14th chapter that prepping was really brought into the picture, and then it was only as baby steps.

The main character hides his beginning prepping mindset, treating it as something that should be ashamed of and hiding it from everyone, so this may rub people the wrong way.  However, just as many people feel this way about their prepping so other will related to it.

Grant went to the bookstore to find books on “survival”.  He was looking at the books secretly; he didn’t want anyone to know what he was looking at.  It felt like the first trip to the gun store.  It was like he was looking for a book like “Beastiality Illustrated.”

Grant meandered over to the “Outdoors” section of the bookstore and waited until no one was looking.  Then he pulled a book, the Special Forces Survival Manual, off the shelf and looked at it, shield it so no one could see the title.

One interesting thing about this book is that it is set in Forks – yes, the same small town as the Twilight series.

And for paperback versions: