A novel by James Wesley Rawles
Reviewed by Russell D. Longcore and Linda Brady Traynham (Part Two)
This book was released by Ulysses Press in its most recent revision in 2009, having been first released in 2000 as “Patriots: Surviving The Coming Collapse.” So, I’m guessing that when Rawles wrote this, he was looking ahead a decade to a likely scenario. Here we are, eleven years later, and the collapse could happen literally overnight.
My friend, Chuck Donovan, a Senior Captain for Delta and a Libertarian, strongly recommended that I read this book. I was already very familiar with Jim Rawles, since he hosts a very popular and valuable website at www.SurvivalBlog.com. So, I had Amazon send me a copy. It took me about four days to finish it.
The story is set in today’s America, as the economic collapse has already taken place. America descends quickly into lawlessness. Looting, robbery, rape and murder are standard operating procedure. And a few couples from the Chicago area relocate to Idaho, where they hunker down and try to survive and stay alive in the Mad Max world they find themselves in. The main characters are Todd and Mary Gray, who had relocated to Idaho earlier and had established a rural stronghold, and had spent nine years in preparation for the collapse.
If you like the writing style of Tom Clancy, you will enjoy this book. Rawles goes into minute detail on each page about survival equipment, tactical weapons, communications procedures, military strategy, military training, cooking, survivalist preparations, 4th Generation Warfare…and just about every other thing that could be discussed in such a book as this. If nothing else, this book is a treasure trove of “prepper” procedure and life in a post-apocalyptic America.
The book’s climax comes as a newly self-appointed Federal government in the East tries to regain control of the United States through the use of UN troops and repression of dissent. Which side wins? Read the book.
I cannot imagine a scenario in which you would consider your time reading this book wasted. I say that because the very people that would spend money on this sort of book are already predisposed toward survivalist topics. Seldom does a novel do more than entertain. This one also educates.
Rawles takes the story into the scenario in which Washington and the internationalists fight hard to regain order, even if that “order” is as totalitarian as the USSR at its zenith. And I believe that is a reasonable scenario. The author does not broach the subject of secession, and the possibility that some individual states leave the Union to plot their own courses in the world. In Patriots, all 50 states remain serf states.
We here at DumpDC are of a different mindset. We entirely concur with the author that the economic collapse will occur, and that hyperinflation will be the result. But we believe that after the collapse, some states of the Union will secede and become new nations. We believe that Texas, the second most populous state in America, is likely to be the first to leave the Union. America needs Texas, but Texas does not need America. Texas can be entirely self-sufficient living cheek-by-jowl with America and Mexico. Texas is still a Republic and Texans revere their culture and heritage. Other states may secede, but they will not do it in an effort to preserve their culture and heritage. The other states might secede simply because depending upon Washington is no longer a viable option.
Another thing of which I concur with the author is how desperate and dangerous America will become in only a few days following the collapse. Over 150 million Americans die of starvation, crime and disease in the short span of years of this story. Even in states that secede, it’s going to get real ugly before anything resembling a real economy is restored. And the deaths will occur in the new nations also, as the numbers of people actually prepared for economic catastrophe are so few.
I continually look back to the collapse of the Soviet Union as an example of another totalitarian, authoritarian superpower that died in a whimper, not in a bang…and did it less than 25 years ago. The Kremlin had no ability to muster the mighty Red Army to stop the secessions of their states. Moscow stood by and watched as the fifteen former nations broke away and resumed nationhood.
The fact that the US Dollar is the world reserve currency turns the American collapse into a global collapse. The collapse of the USSR did not send the world into a tailspin…but the collapse of America will. There will be no nation on earth that is not negatively affected by this collapse. Who knows what nation will be the first domino to topple over, taking the rest of the world with it? Only time will tell. What is certain is that nobody gets out of this whole and intact.
Only fifteen American states ever enjoyed nationhood status…the original thirteen nations of the post-Revolutionary War of 1776…Texas and Hawai’i. All the rest of the states of the Union were territories that eventually earned statehood. You may not consider that to be a big deal. And it may not be a big deal in the states of the Eastern Seaboard. But I promise you that returning to nationhood is a HUGE deal for Texans and Hawaiians.
Read Patriots as soon as you can. The clock is ticking, and there is no time to waste.
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(Editor’s note: My buddy Linda Brady Traynham wrote such a terrific comment about this book that I pulled her comments OUT of the comments and placed them here as a “Part Two” of the review of the book. Enjoy!!
I concur. Well, mostly. James-Wesley-Comma-Rawles’ “Patriot” contains a few glaring (and I think extremely funny) errors (which I may tell you about), but basically it is a splendid book, and very useful. Well, it is a splendid half book. Even I can’t come up with the “willing suspension of disbelief” sufficient to believe the heroes manage to defeat UN forces, but if you’ll just slog through the first half you’ll be glad you did.
“Patriots” is a VERY information-dense work which I wouldn’t call a light read, and I taught myself to read at three and have rarely gone to bed without finishing my current book in the 68 years since. It isn’t nearly as bad as Thomas Dewey, but it isn’t USA Today, either.
A bunch of college kids in 2000 become convinced (reasonably sensibly) that we’re going to have TEOTWAWKI, so they decide to set up a redoubt in the west and one couple agrees to live there and begin the preparations. You may not have any problems with what I consider a major flaw, how the 8 or so left not only buy the place and support Todd and Mary during their first decade out of college but come up with staggering sums for supplies, but hey, we can accept that they did, somehow, if they wanted to enough. Money is always a problem, and my site will begin publishing a fine new work of apocalyptic fiction in the next couple of weeks, and our author’s solution was making his hero an expert in finance and the market so he makes the fortune he needs in gold options. Whatever, everybody’s got to have money. (Russell, dear, I really cannot write quickly, fluently, and easily, when stuffed into a box this size.) We’ll forget how they paid for all that barbed wire, zillions of rounds of ammo, and steel doors and shutters while accumulating their own individual food supplies.
The value of this work lies in showing what is likely to happen and how to offset it. As I remarked to Russell yesterday in private correspondence, “They dig great spider holes!” If you don’t know what a spider hole is…see? You’ve already got a useful fact from the book. They do well in reconnaisance, guard duty, and cooperating with neighbors for patrols. They will lead you to the site cited above which would probably take twenty years to cover adequately. The book really, really is a major work and well worth your money and time.
I will stipulate gladly that the author covers some of his goofs by pointing out that he has discussed better practices endlessly in his writing and that I only manage eight to a dozen articles a week, not popular works of instructive fiction. Even so, I think it is worth your time and mine to consider where the illustrious Mr. Rawles and the insignificant Mrs. Traynham disagree on principles. Some things we need to decide for ourselves because there are arguments on both sides.
Let’s start with…calibers. JW,R is quite correct that it is easier if combatants/defenders (however you chose to think of them) can swap ammo. From that viewpoint, his characters’ decisions to stick to .45, .223, and some .22 for trade goods is very sensible. On the other hand, .45 and .223 are very expensive rounds (something most of us have to consider), and females do not usually do as well with miniature cannons. Even under the conditions envisioned, the goal isn’t going to be shooting Big Bertha across the English Channel. Out to 300 yards, maybe, but basically home defense and close infighting. Suit yourself. If the lady in your life can handle the recoil of a shotty gun or is happy with a big wheel gun, it’s your money. Chuckle. Who was it who annoyed me recently, not an easy thing to do–ah. Darling Fred Reed; his article up here on girly men and manly men–that I very nearly challenged him to come visit and we’d have a little shooting match, me with my cute little .22 and him with his weapon of choice. I couldn’t lose, because either I can take him or (riotous laughter) my mate is such a splendid shot that if we only had one gun in an emergency and it were mine, I’d hand it to him, although we would have a serious discussion about preparations later. Morals: Females attract males to handle such things, and gun control is a steady hand and careful shot placement. Put a nice little .22 slug through an eyesocket or sinus cavity so it can racket around cheerfully…I think having reloading supplies is important, too, and I’m so obsessive I police up useless .22 brass. Good habits are good habits, including not leaving trash on the range or in the pastures.
You’ll have fun checking out if I’m right! Okay, the deal is that each couple is responsible for their own food supplies, but that–in turn–each will feed the whole group. Breakfast, universally, is the ever-popular wheat berries. (Whatever those are. Sort of like groats, I think, dried, reconstituted [in water] hunks of wheat.) With nothing on them. No butter, milk, sugar. Lunch, without variation is a nice, big pot of plain rice. (I’m really not up to this.) Dinner is the MRE or the elk/deer du jour. This is ridiculous–no matter if JW,R stresses variety and nutrition on his site. All of them are coffee drinkers…and within three weeks they’re out of coffee. My dear Charles and I are always on the lookout for new ingredients, spices, recipes, and substitutes. You cannot provide adequate nutrition on the sort of diet given and you certainly cannot hold on to the comfort and civilization of eating well.
Again, Rawles points out that he has been discussing food preparations since who flunk th’ chunk. My question is, other than keeping nesters away and putting up stainless steel shutters…what were Mary and Todd doing? Okay, about a third of the way through the book the author adds they had put in a few little fruit and nut trees to supplement what was on the place. They have NEVER started a garden other than a few herbs. Three years into TEOTWAWKI there STILL isn’t a garden. To the best of my memory–it’s been a couple of years–they don’t even have a tractor. Tractors are very useful, and so is other big machinery, like bucket trucks and bulldozers.
There is NO livestock, although they finally get around to thinking about buying a dairy goat (they don’t) at the first swap fair to be held, about the same time. Uh…the FIRST thing I bought was French Alpines to assure my supplies of milk and cheese. It would upset me badly if you behaved as stupidly.
I raise two kinds of cattle–and I started with Black Dexters, charming little cows from Ireland that stand only 4′ at the withers (shoulders) instead of five or more. They are placid, sweet-natured, calve easily, prefer a diet high in brush and tree limbs (extremely handy in drought), dress out significantly higher than their long-legged kin, AND can be milked! With cream and butter, which goats don’t give you. True, they don’t produce as much as Guernseys or Jerseys, but they cost less and (as I say with possibly tedious frequency) if you had two that you bred six months apart you could pretty much count on all the beef, milk, cream, butter, and cheese even a moderately large family could use. Cows (and goats, for that matter) can be milked 300 days a year.
They don’t even have any chickens laying an egg each every 26 hours and providing meat to go in the dam’ boring rice every noon. No swine. No sheep, even. (Sheep are very low priority. They’re hard on pastures, don’t produce much milk–good cheese, though–and a lamb isn’t dinner for 10.)
There are two imperatives: to be able to protect the colony from raiders (government or private) and to be self-sufficient.
What really drove me around the bend was their habit of VOTING on things that are not candidates. Well, one problem is that they don’t have a military expert, but even so. Votes are fine for “what’s for dinner?” (subject to availability) but we do NOT vote on plans to rescue the little town overrun by bikers. By the time they get around to agreeing, being overly cautious, and implementing the plan there is one traumatized six-year-old left alive.
So far as I’m concerned, this isn’t going to be a representative republic of a colony and it most certainly is not going to be a democracy. We will have a benign dictatorship. Why? Because this is MY land and these are MY preparations and I have enough sense to know that (a) we need rules and (b) when I am She Who Stands On The Right Hand Of God and when I am scut labor, a warm body, suitable for peeling potatoes. Anyone allowed in has to be worth what he/she consumes AND be an ethical, cheerful, reliable, and so on individual. My husband is the military expert, engineer, and problem solver because he IS competent to do all those things. This isn’t a dude ranch, and first principles: if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Four people can run everything fine, but they can’t do that and stand guard duty, too.
Oh…when they trade off to go to the first fair? Three of them come across a fellow who has supplies to trade that are really needed, and he wants something they have already learned to make. Does anyone bother to tell this to the rest going in to visit the next day, far less the guy who makes the widjets? No. Fortunately, they shoot pretty well and have lots of ammo, and innumerable miles of barbed wire. Bought a mile of it myself this week; cost me $125.
No…I couldn’t have written that book. Yes, it has good technical information. No, I would not be part of such a colony, because they haven’t planned a lot of things well, the food is lousy, and they don’t have any fun. They pray a lot. They don’t read cribbage, converse, or have a library.
We all have our funny little notions, and one of mine was that I may have to live through TEOTWAWKI, but I refuse to do so without butter and cheese and I have GOT to get the spores ordered to grow mushrooms. In theory I can grow/process tobacco with what I have, although I haven’t solved the menthol problem yet. We have older vehicles that are EMP proof, just in case. I don’t have any steel shutters, but we picked up older motor homes and RVs so that there are “guest suites” and a little privacy for everyone. I’m up to a big kitchen/family room, but I’m not up to being surrounded by noise all the time.
You’ll have to make your own call on something else I doubt I would do. The young people are…they have scruples and would really be happier being liberals, I think. They have to kill some people who are a threat and need killing, but they can’t bear the thought of being “thieves.” Their solution is to bury the bodies and set aside anything of value, which they give to refugees they decide are worthy. THEY decide. That is not only not sensible, but it is a very “progressive” idea, that it isn’t really “theft” if you do not profit personally but pass on what you took to someone else.
Otherwise, Patriots is probably the best book written on the subject. William Forstschein’s “One Second After” is entirely different and just as scary. “The Day the Dollar Died” and “Lights Out” by “Half Fast” can be accessed for free on the ‘net, and C. S. Stirling has written a gorgeous half dozen volumes on how the US might break up and what sort of governments could emerge (religious, mafia, feudal, and so forth) after a disaster.
Makes secession sound even better and far simpler if it is possible to defend your borders, doesn’t it?
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Secession is the Hope For Mankind. Who will be first?
DumpDC. Six Letters That Can Change History.
© Copyright 2011, Russell D. Longcore. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.