Book Review: Patriots

This is a review of James Wesley, Rawles best seller: Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse.

Okay, here’s the thing (there’s always a thing): if you’re thinking that you’re going to pick this up and read a riveting, end-of-civilization tale, you’re going to be a little disappointed. That’s really not what this book is about. That’s not what this book is for. Patriots has a different purpose. It is a not-so-thinly veiled list of recommendations for people bent on the “hunker down and ride it out” school of survivalism. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that this is a good thing or a bad thing, and this is not an indictment of that philosophy. I’m just saying that Patriots is less a novel and more a set of recommendations for creating and stocking your TEOTWAWKI retreat. Just so you’ll know.

Historically, Patriots has been distributed under a number of titles and has always done well. It’s been a near runaway best seller for its various publishers since its first distribution as shareware back in the 90’s. It’s wildly popular with hardcore survivalists. The author has penned a sequel and is shopping his screenplay around, trying to get a movie deal for a full length feature. As of 2009, there were no takers, but Rawles is not discouraged and sees his project as the “first of a new wave of ultra-realistic films [that will be] entertaining, thought-provoking, and even educational” (Rawles, 2009). Rawles is also the author of SurvivalBlog.com. For the record, I have and do read his blog.

If you’re looking for a light, entertaining, bathroom read, this is not your book. If you’re thinking that you’re going to pick it up and maybe glean a little information for the day that the fecal matter strikes the air handling device, you may be in luck. I’m certainly not saying that you ought to do everything that the characters in this book do. But I am saying that they do have some knowledge that might be helpful to know if things get out of hand: like how to suture, how to deliver a baby, how to fix cars, how to plant and harvest a garden, and set up solar power arrays. They know how to communicate without telephones or cell phones and they don’t panic when the power goes out. They know some useful stuff. So, there are some good things in this book.

I have to admit: the further I read, the better I liked it. But there are some definite negatives as well. All the characters have great jobs,  and are making tons of money before the collapse. They spend years (nearly a decade) stockpiling cash and supplies. They’re so good at this that when the collapse finally arrives and they inventory their supplies, they have three years of food, hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition and have converted their primary weapons to full auto. Less than 50 pages into the book, they’d already killed a couple of people and performed emergency surgery. 50 pages later they’d killed a couple of guys who were pushing a cart down the road past their property for being cannibals.

For myself, I don’t know that would’ve let the passers-by know they’d been seen. I mean, if you don’t see me, and don’t hear me, I’m not there. If you jump my fence, however, we have another sort of issue entirely. But that’s me. I never would’ve given away my location, never would’ve endangered myself and my group members by stopping the travelers. I mean, what if the two were just point men for a larger group that was coming right up behind them? There would’ve been a firefight in the middle of the road. Dangerous and wasteful. Given how well supplied their stronghold was, there was no need to stop the travelers. After all, what could they possibly have that they didn’t already have in stock? It was reckless and dangerous, in my humble opinion. See where my thoughts go? I mean, if you’re hunkering down, then hunker down, dang it.  But I get it that this was a necessary plot development to demonstrate how bad things get and how quickly it happens. Most people don’t think that cannibalism is a real threat in SHTF or TEOTQAWKI, but modern  history teaches us differently. In the twentieth century alone, due to natural disaster and manmade emergencies, millions of people have fallen victim to cannibalism in various parts of the globe – many, if not most, of them in nations that are considered completely industrialized and civilized.

Anyway, my chief complaint about Patriots is that the members of the Group weren’t exactly part of the American Middle Class before the collapse. They had the time, the knowledge and the cash to make things happen. Most Americans, even if they wanted to spare a thought for preparedness, just don’t have those sorts of resources. Most Americans aren’t making white collar wages. Most Americans aren’t able to pay cash for their houses, or their guns. Most Americans don’t have the time and disposable income to travel the country scouting out places to create their survival compound. Most Americans are not creating fake identities and renting post office boxes in order to purchase parts for illegal weapons conversions. Most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and sweating the small stuff. If things really go to hell, most Americans are going to need to figure out a way to survive if they haven’t already. For that, Patriots is going to be short on advice.

As you can probably tell, I’m one of those “Most Americans.” That is to say that I believe that each of us must decide what we’re preparing for, plan how best to do that, and then put that plan into action. We have to live within the circumstances in which we find ourselves – which may not be ideal. I’m betting that none of us has as much money or time as we wish we had. And I believe that we all have to find a way to do the best we can with what we have. Again, it may not be the circumstances we wanted to find ourselves in, but here we are and now we have to find a way to deal. Money can buy you MRE’s, but it can’t buy you smarts, or mental and emotional resilience.

So, to recap with the lessons I’m taking away from the book. Bad news first so we can end on a high note. Not the greatest story. Pretty much strictly doom and gloom, murder and mayhem. The Group’s survival strategy involves doing things that can get you arrested now – when laws are still being enforced. The survival strategy advocated in this book isn’t going to be a viable option for the majority of folks.

But I promised you a high note, right? So here it comes. Here are the good points I took away from Patriots. There is a wealth of information on survival, preparedness and firearms in this book.  Glean from it what you need. Preparedness is a mindset as well as a process of learning and accumulating necessary supplies. It cannot happen overnight, so you should start preparing now, before things get really rough. Start learning the skills you think you’ll need now. Plan your work and work your plan and your odds of success and survival are greater. Your faith** will sustain you.

As always, thanks for reading.

~ L.

** That would be based on Early’s definition of “faith” as found  in his work on compassion fatigue and in  his self-care pyramid… but more about that in another entry. I promise.

References

Rawles, James Wesley. “New Edition from Ulysses Press Now Available.” Retrieved from: http://www.rawles.to/patriots.htm.

Cover photo: ©2009. James Wesley, Rawles.

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One Response to “Book Review: Patriots”

  1. Elisheva Levin Says:

    I read Patriots two summers ago, when it was recommended to me by a friend. Although it is not as riveting a novel as was, say, One Minute After (which I also read that same summer), it got me thinking. And I also read SurvivalBlog.

    As for being prepared enough or having enough money to be prepared enough, that is like asking someone how much money is enough for anything. No matter where we are in the preparedness situation we all feel like we’d like to be further along.

    I think the thing to do as far as preparing to bug out to someplace definite –like the retreat in the book–is to band together with other like minded people. Preposition supplies, everybody contributing as they are able, so that when TEOTWAWKI happens, one can leave early and arrive relatively unburdened. To that end, having a bug-out bag prepared is very nice.

    I, too, liked the book better as it went, but being a connoisseur of disaster literature from way back–I read Alas, Babylon,/i> and Farnham’s Freehold in the 5th grade–you should have the seen the teacher’s face when I gave my book reports–I did not consider it a good read on the level of a novel. But the detail, and the discussion of the mistakes the characters made was good to mull over.

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