Thursday, May 28, 2015


Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse
© 1995 James Wesley Rawles
400 pages


Well, D.C. finally spent itself into oblivion. After decades of deficits and a series of bailouts that do nothing but inflate the problem, the financial sector is hemorrhaging and taking with it the entire American economy.  Few institutions will survive the crash, and now a generation is on its own. Todd Gray isn’t alarmed, though. He smelled the storm coming a long time before it hit; for nine years, ever since  September 11,  he and a group of likeminded friends have prepared for the worst. They’re survivalists, or ‘preppers’:  not only do they maintain extra supplies at home to see them through extended power outages or local disasters, but their group has purchased an expanse of land in rural Idaho to use as a retreat in case something catastrophic happens. From their retreat, this small band of friends will labor to rebuild the Republic.  Patriots follows their trials after the collapse, as they face off against human desperation, disease,  the threat of starvation, and worst of all: the government.

Patriots is a how-and-why argument for prepping in the form of a novel. There are characters and things happen to them, but mostly they’re there to explain what they’re doing to the reader, what they’re doing it with, why one tool or behavior is  better in this or that situation ,and so on. There is action throughout the novel, including car chases, first-fights, pitched brawls between raiders and strongholds, and even a town invasion, and its second half features a looming showdown between cells of free citizens who have survived, and a resurrected Federal government that employs UN soldiers to do its eeevil bidding.  Unlike One Second After or Lucifer’s Hammer, there’s not a great deal of emotional drama, let alone grisly scenes like cannibal hordes.  The book’s characters are preppers, calm in the face of whatever happens. They’ve spent nine years  practicing together, keeping one another’s skills sharp, running through scenarios and improvising solutions. They even purposely recruited members with diverse strengths, so whether they need an arm stitched back together or something welded, they’ve got it covered.

One is almost relieved when a helicopter descends from on high to deposit an overfed bureaucrat announcing that the Federal government is alive and well and on the way to ‘pacifying’ the country. The emergency does require some extraordinary measures on the government’s part, of course – a little suppression of free speech here, a little confiscation of guns there, total wage-and-price controls – nothing to worry over. It reads like a Top Ten List of Evil, and comes off as preposterous given that the United States’ entire civil and economic infrastructure has collapsed. By that point five years have passed, and society has recovered a bit, building around cells of order like the central characters retreat, but this is an armed society with no fond memories of the government, whose gross irresponsibility led to the collapse.  Regardless of the merits of this scenario, including the outlandish invasion of the United States by U.N troops, it at least gives the characters a challenge to overcome.

Whatever else, one must give credit to Rawls for  infusing a massive amount of information into novel form.   His characters’ actions are factual; every book and product they discuss is commercially available. I recognized a fair few of the book titles (The Encyclopedia of Country Living, for instance, and When There Is No Dentist).  Impressive, too, is the range of events he gives information on:  forging IDs, rain cachement, rotation of storage supplies, gun cleaning, home fortification,  and blood transfusions.  The characters are forgettable and the plot weak, but this is a mild kind of wish-fulfillment that combines action and lectures on food storage. It’s a strange kind of fun if you’re into self-reliance, disaster-preparedness, or attacking tanks.

One Second After, William Forstchen. An EMP attack shuts down most electronics in the United States.  Misery ensues.
Lucifer's Hammer, Larry Niven. Asteroid impact levels most of civilization.
World Made by Hand, James Howard Kunstler.  Peak oil novel.


  1. You seem to be reading quite a bit of this sort of thing lately.... [grin] Are you expecting trouble?

    We have a phrase over here: Only in America - and this does seem to be a very American phenomena. I guess it's a consequence of the whole self-reliance thing.... Which is good to have but this sounds much more like a parody.

    Oh, One of my upcoming 10 book themes is the End of the World. I think I'll probably meet a few 'Preppers' between those covers... [grin]

  2. Oh, BTW, I meant to ask.... Have you picked out a Pulitzer Prize book for the 2015 Book Challenge?

  3. In late spring and early summer, it pays to be wary around here! It's tornado-and-hurricane season, both of which can level an area or at least disable the power for a week.

    I don't know that I've read a lot of 'survival' material lately, although I have been binging on the man vs state material. It's therapeutic, in a way... ;)

    As far as Pulitzer Prize books, I'm thinking of Daniel Yergin's "The Quest", a history of the American oil industry. Have you found any good prospects?

  4. Stephen said: I have been binging on the man vs state material. It's therapeutic, in a way... ;)

    I have a few books in the pipeline making the opposite argument which you might find interesting (or not) [grin]

    I have 3 Pulitzer Prize winners to choose from. One I've had for a while: Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter, one which was a recent birthday present: Lords of Finance - 1929, The Great Depression, and the Bankers who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed and one I picked up recently (not knowing it won the Pulitzer): The Guns of August by Barbara W Tuchman. That's the one I'll be reading once I've finished my little 'blitz' read on Afghanistan.

  5. I wish my friends paid enough attention to my reading to give me books, let alone books I'd be interested in!

    I've read the Tuchman work. If I recall it's about the diplomatic mistakes that led to the conflict. Speaking of, it's June and I haven't read the FIRST WW1 book..I did start "The First Day of the Somme", but with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands ahead, it's hard to get excited about it.

    After my Independence Day reading I intend on taking a break from the serious stuff for a much history and literature this spring/summer!

  6. When my friends buy me stuff they've learned that only my Amazon Wish List should be used - because if they buy something they see that they think I might like there's a very good chance that I've already seen it and already bought it!

    I'm being a bit remiss with my WW1 reading lately, though I have two French novels about it coming up soon.

    Presently I'm part way through my Afghanistan blitz, just about to start an Economics blitz, about half way through some random fiction (9/10 on the 2015 Challenge) before I start 10 books translated into English. That'll keep me going for a while. I'm also missing SF quite a bit ATM so I need to do something about that...


Thank you for visiting! Because of some very clever spambots, I've had to start moderating comments more strictly, but they're approved throughout the day.