Ulysses Press, 2009, 384 pages
America faces a full-scale socioeconomic collapse in the near future. The stock market plummets, hyperinflation cripples commerce and the mounting crisis passes the tipping point. Practically overnight, the fragile chains of supply and high-technology infrastructure fall, and wholesale rioting and looting grip every major city.
As hordes of refugees and looters pour out of the cities, a small group of friends living in the Midwest desperately try to make their way to a safe-haven ranch in northern Idaho. The journey requires all their skill and training since communication, commerce, transportation and law enforcement have all disappeared. Once at the ranch, the group fends off vicious attacks from outsiders and then looks to join other groups that are trying to restore true Constitutional law to the country.
Patriots is a thrilling narrative depicting fictional characters using authentic survivalist techniques to endure the collapse of American civilization. Listening to this compelling, fast-paced novel could one day mean the difference between life and death.
This is the latest in my series of survivalist apocalypse novels. Patriots is perhaps the mother of all prepper novels, being written by James Wesley, Rawles (yes, he actually puts the comma before his surname like that), whose SurvivalBlog is the place serious preppers go for tips on how to build highly-armed self-sufficient bunkered communities in Idaho to prepare for the coming Obamapocalypse.
In fairness, Rawles's SurvivalBlog is actually informative and interesting reading, and while he and his co-bloggers do not hide their religious and political leanings, they're usually pretty even-handed and sane on the blog, and don't give much play to the black helicopter/racewar-agitating moonbats who are a substantial part of their audience. Whether or not you believe that we are facing imminent hyperinflation leading to the collapse of the global economy and lights out for the next few years, I have decided that a little prepping is a useful and interesting hobby that just might be useful someday. Not everyone has the means or desire to prepare for a literal end-of-the-world scenario, but preparing for, say, a week without power or a month without food in the grocery stores? Not such a bad idea.
One reason I take preppers (and their politics) seriously is, to be blunt, they will have the advantage in a real collapse. A lot of academic conservatives and libertarians, the Fox ideologues and faux-intellectual Internet warriors, are gelded basement dwellers as weak and useless as their leftist Tumblr counterparts. They'll all die together, and quickly, in a real crisis. But the real deal, the people with quiet convictions who've put their money and their skills where their mouths are, they're going to be the ones who actually have guns and food and shelter, and there aren't a lot of liberals among them. No one's going to give a fuck about social justice in a food shortage.
Rawles's target audience is the people who buy real estate in places like Idaho or the backwoods of North Carolina to build retreats on. In Patriots, the TEOTWAWKI scenario that Rawles proposes — hyperinflation — brings about a rapid collapse of the U.S. government. His twenty or so protagonists are a bunch of preppers who've been chipping in to set up an Idaho compound since they were all college friends, so when the shit hits the fan, they head for the hills, literally.
For the first two thirds of the book, we gets chapters about the personal histories of this eclectic group of people, but none of them stand out as distinct individuals. There are just too many characters — all essentially the same, marked with a quirk or background detail or, worse, an entire rambling chapter about some self-taught Constitutional scholar's run-ins with overreaching gummint brownshirts. (This chapter ends with a psycho state trooper basically acting out a caricaturized performance of every libertarian's paranoid fantasy of Gestapo cops.)
Much of the book consists of Author on Board speeches and long lists of equipment. Rawles alternates between soapboxing and instruction, describing in minute detail the model and caliber and type of ammunition every single person carries, as well as their holsters, backpacks, weather-proof gear, boots, vehicles, batteries, first aid supplies, camping equipment, seeds, construction materials, and everything else needed to survive after the grid goes down, all of which is less boring than it might sound if you actually have an interest in what serious preppers would do, and if you are fond of guns. If not, you will find this book quite boring, because when Rawles is not providing shopping lists of things you need to know and things you need to have, he has his characters walk around patrolling their compound, intercepting the occasional refugee on the road, and giving painstaking tactical instructions at every step along the way.
As you might expect, the characters are almost all Christians - there is a token Jew and a token agnostic, and a black couple joins the compound later so Rawles can say they're not white supremacists. But generally they are decent, normal people, not acting like Bible-thumping fundies. The references to God and the Bible are deliberate, but they do not overwhelm the story. And Rawles's political views mostly stay in check for the first two thirds. All the liberal city dwellers are dying by the millions off the page, but we don't see any of it and hear only a little bit, as the main characters do pretty well in their fortified compound. They fend off a couple of attacks by would-be looters in battles whose tactics and armaments are also described in microscopic detail, and slowly the community around them begins to recover from the economic crash by forming a barter society, with good old pre-1964 gold and silver coins becoming the currency of choice.
Okay, there's also the two guys who come strolling down the road and when intercepted and searched by the prepper protagonists, turn out to have an ice chest full of Marxist tracts and butchered human body parts.
Yeah, seriously, random wandering Marxist cannibals. (I can't remember whether they were also gay, but it seemed to be implied.)
But the story goes completely off the rails in the third part of the book. This is when a provisional U.S. government, backed by the UN, begins trying to reassert control. And the narrative becomes something straight out of one of those Jack Chick tracts about the coming of the Beast.
The United Nations takes over the U.S., installing "regional administrators" who have veto authority over the nominal American government. They impose socialism and abrogate basically all Constitutional rights, with special attention paid to the abolishment of freedom of speech and the right to bear arms (a quisling American official's first speech to a survivalist community is a cheerful declaration that in order to protect the citizenry and do something about all the lawless bandit gangs running amok, anyone carrying a firearm will henceforth be summarily executed so please turn in all your guns kthx!)
Since of course gun-toting Americans who are still fighting off roving bandit gangs are not eager to comply, the UN government imports European troops to pacify the country. (Just how did those evil socialist gun-grabbing Europeans survive with enough troops and equipment to invade America in this global hyperinflation scenario? The author kind of glides over that part...) Rawles seems to have a real grudge against Belgians and Germans, who make up most of the invading army and are described as conscienceless monsters. Apparently Europeans sent to help restore order will all forget we used to be allies and turn into war criminals acting out their long-held dream of torturing and raping Americans.
But since these are Americans, after all, survivalists with hunting rifles soon drive Europeans in tanks out of the country, and restore a Godly, Constitutional government. And by "Constitutional" I mean a rewritten Constitution in which the Tea Party victors get rid of all the amendments they didn't like, like the 16th and the 26th, and spell out in big bold underlined letters that everyone gets to keep all the guns they want forever and ever.
By the end, I was almost giggling. The author mostly held it together for the first part of the book, but then he just abandons plot, jumps up on a soapbox, pumps a fist in the air and howls.
Verdict: A somewhat didactic but only slightly preachy survival novel for the first two thirds, a paranoid Libertarian/Constitutional Party fantasy for the last third, Patriots is a political tract in the form of a novel. Despite that, the long, rambling speeches, and the mediocre prose, it's got a fair story and a lot of useful knowledge. Think of it as Ayn Rand-lite with more guns.
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