Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Book Review - "Patriots! Surviving the Coming Collapse"

I recently finished Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse by Rawles, James Wesley. Now Rawles is pretty much the godfather of the online survival community. Although I agree with him on many, many points, on some we just don't see eye to eye.

I'm going to try not to go into the philosophical differences I have with him. This is, after all, a review of his book. There are two ways to look at this book. This first of which is as a work of fiction that has handy survival tips throughout. The second is to look at this book as a survival manual with a little fictional flavor tossed in. I feel he has failed on both accounts.

Rawles is one of the leading presences online for survival information. He has untold gigabytes worth of data at his fingertips that he could have provided in this novel. He is also an ex-Military Intelligence officer. Some of that experience and information could have been helpful to pass along to his readers. I would say I learned less than ten things that I hadn't either figured out on my own, or read somewhere else. I don't recall him going into what foodstuffs they had saved. I don't remember him going over what amounts per person to make a year's worth of food. These are the important bits of information that are missing from this book. I am assuming this is all included in his "Rawles gets you ready" course for $150.

Rawles will go on with very detailed descriptions of equipment, with model numbers, feature comparisons, etc. He is a gear nut. That's OK because once you have a retreat, with all the food, and stuff you can buy the toys. But what about the rest of us that are just starting? Taking a gear-centric approach is intimidating for those who are about to start and wind up maxing out credit cards trying to get everything they think they will need.

If the purpose of this book is to lend it to friends to convince them to prepare, then he should have used a different cast of characters than an elite team of survivalists. How about a group of friends who band together and start a few months before the crash? Maybe one of them is an economics PhD who sees the crash before it happens and no one believes him, but he gets his college buddies and families together to prep?

As for the writing style, it's clipped and rather abrupt. Chapters have inserts of past information that explain when they made or bought something. These inserts totally kill the continuity of what is supposed to be a story. Perhaps a footnote with a detailed description in the back of the book would have been better. And for the love of Pete! Put in some bloody DRAWINGS. Save five pages of boring text and toss me a freaking picture please.

A case in point is two chapters about two brothers getting into trouble with the law, then going on the run. Boring. Pointless. I was hoping they get killed. I feel these two chapter's sole purpose was to sound off on Mr. Rawles personal views. That's fine, I bought his book, just fit it in with the story in a more cohesive format, please.

Character development is minimal at best, and any tension that could have been used within the group for drama was brushed aside. Any outside sources of tension were hyped up as much as possible to reinforce the group versus the world mentality. Sadly, the only character I liked got whacked.

I feel some of the preps this semi-fictional group has made would be detrimental to an actual group of survivalists. I will use the spider holes pre-dug before the catastrophic event as an example. Now in the book this group digs a number of spider-holes around their retreat well before the event that sends the world into collapse. They then camouflage these spider holes with junk.

What town would let a family scatter junk all over the side of a public road, regardless of how remote the road is? Who in their right mind would want to drive past a pile of crap in their front yard every day, just waiting for the apocalypse! All it would take is for a area kid to fall in one or a car to get stuck for a whole world of shit to happen to the homeowner. If you want spider holes, knock yourself out, just dig them after the collapse of our society please. If I break an ankle falling in someone's spider hole then I'm suing!

Overall, I feel this book is lacking in so many ways it lost it's value as either an enjoyable read or a fact-filled manual. Would I buy the book again? Hell no. Would I lend it to a friend? Only if I could explain a few things to them ahead of time. There are many, many places out there on the web that are better suited to getting you started out. Most of them are linked to the right up top, and right here on this blog. If you feel your ready, save the money from this and put it towards his "Rawles gets you ready course" I can only imagine what he has you buying in there... Surplus APC's and hospital beds, perhaps?


Mitchell said...

Great Review and on target, but let me add something to the review.

The first chapter was very chilling and on target and was far by the best part of the whole book. I agree with you about the two chapter about the brothers. In these chapter you had two criminals break whatever law they did not like and claimed to be "sovereign citizens" and that they only answered to GOD to justify their criminal acts. They also use High Court rulings they liked to justify their behavior and ignore the ones they did not like, saying the Feds had no authority over a "sovereign citizen". Total BS you can not have it both ways. Sound alittle like what the Islamic Terrorist say. I have no doubt the story about these two brother is directly connectd to the two brothers who were involved in a shootout in Ohio with law enforcement who caimed they were "sovereign citizens" a few years back. These two brothers in the book should have been shotdown like the criminal dogs they were. Then he attempts to make the cop out to be the bad guy because he was going to kill the brothers on the side of the road just because they claimed to be "sovereign citizens" Like the cop is going to this with a camera rolling his sqaud car, which the book stated there was. Whatever!!

If some relys on this book as Survival manual they are in deep trouble, but you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about radio communications. He spent like two chapter on this topic along, was pretty boring. He did fill way to many pages with detailed information about why they choose a piece of equipment. This is bacause the book was lacking substance.

I think you were right in your observation that he was using it to express his personal political view. Another example of this when a stranger arrived and they told him they had nothing to fear because they were "sovereign Idaho citizens", I laughed at this because half his team was not even from Idaho, but then again I think the whole "sovereign citizen" thing is nothing but a big scam. He reconfirmed this in the last chapters of the book. I do not recommend anyone follow the examples in the book about obtaining explosives and illegal firearms parts, again then they justified their behavior as being "sovereign citizens". You will do you family no good if your setting in prison.

Should you buy it? NO

Natog said...

From the start the two chapters about the brothers was wrong. Any cop on the force as long as that guy was would never, ever, not in million billion years jeopardize his retirement. He would have waited for backup if his sixth sense was going off at all. Ugh!

Mitchell said...

Ok, I forgot the part about some guy in Ky claiming he was the legal President of the U.S. because he had 15,000 troops and the Gold in Fort Knox, Oh and was backed by the UN. Whatever you could not control New York City or L.A. with 15,000 troops, let alone the whole country. In the book UN troops came from European countries. The fact that Europe would recover faster than the U.S. and be United in itself is laughable. Outside of the Northsea oil field they have no energy of their own, ok they do have some windmills. The UN would probable collapse without the money and support from the U.S. as well.
Heck Texas could close its boarders during a crash and power all the cars and power plants in its state and have a surplus of energy. Texas even has large crop growing regions and pretty good weather. Texas is probable the only state that could continue to operate somewhat without outside help. Just my 2cent, be intresting to hear some other reviews of the book. Glad to see you did this post because I was wanting to post something about the book as you can see. This book kind of reminds me of the following that developed from the Ashes series in the 80's with Tri-stater popping up here and there.

Patricia said...

I'm thinking of writing a post-crash type of novel with a young girl, maybe a young blind girl, as the protaganist. After all, lots of different kinds of people will survive a catastrophe, not just big strong well-armed males and females. How could a young weak person survive? Now that's the question, and it would be interesting answering it. I have the feeling gear would have no part in such a novel. :)

Thanks for the review, Natog.

Mayberry said...

That's pretty much the review I've seen from several other sources.... Patricia, that sounds like an interesting idea.... How would a blind person cope with TEOTWAWKI? I've had the "what if" thoughts myself, should I become disabled.....

erniesjourney said...

Good review Natog. I have read the book recently and thought there were some good points as well, but it did not help me in my preps. As my hubster is military (special ops in the 70's and national guard now - just back from iraq in august '08), many parts of the book were common sense to him and we had already discussed them between us. And, no we have not had 10 years to prep, nor the money to be a safe house and all the fun little toys - do what you can on a budget.I have had to search high and low on the net and really use my head to figure what we need and to try to encompass several different scenarios that very well could happen soon.This is ongoing - daily - working on survival/prepping and trying to cover it all! egads!
God Bless and Prep On

C.R.H said...

A couple of years behind but I just got a chance to read this book and it was almost to the point of disappointing. The book moved along slowly and had to many tech descriptions in it that slowed it down ever further. I discussed the chapter about the cop shooting at the 2 guys with some friends on the force and they agree that there is no way a career cop would risk his pension to shoot at an unarmed man. While the book has a slight scare factor to it, it reminds me of a bunch of BS at the same time....

Anonymous said...

I wish I'd read this before I bought the book.
I got to page 4 and was thoroughly irritated with the writing style that I stopped. I'm VERY author-shy -- I don't like EVERY person that writes a book, and so while I love to read I tend to not branch out of the authors I love very often.
I took a chance with this one, because being a prepper-chick, I keep hearing about this book in many arenas. So, why not, for pop-culture purposes, read it and see what the hub-bub is about, right?
Woe as me -- page 4. I was like "Oh no. Oh no. I hate his writing style -- ah gahd. No. This isn't going to work."
After reading this review and the subsequent comments, I'm going to have sell this book away from me.
I will not take the ride and I refuse to endure crappy writing. I can't do it.

Thanks. Better late than never.