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?