This is the second of a number of preparedness related book reviews that we are planning. See our first review on One Second After. If there is a specific book or other resource that you would like us to review, please tell us in the comments. You should also review our preparedness bookshelf post for some other titles that you may want to check out yourself.
For this review we are trying something a little different. Nearly all the authors on this site have read this novel, often in several editions so several of us will be offering our thoughts on this most recent edition.
In certain groups, one of the most widely read books (#6 on Amazon’s overall book rankings at its release) is James Wesley Rawles “Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse”. Rawles’ long term interest in preparedness has become a way of life for him and offers him some unique insights into survivalism. Further, he is a former Army Intelligence officer and the author of one of the most popular survival blogs on the web, survivalblog.com. Most of the authors on our blog own and have read Patriots and highly recommend it. Until recently, I had not read it and didn’t think I needed to.
Some time ago I read the screenplay offered on Rawles’s web site and thought myself pretty well informed about the plot and information in Patriots. Since I thought I pretty much knew what the book was about it wasn’t high on my list of books to purchase and/or read, at least not while so many other wanted and needed preps still need to be completed. Fortunately, while visiting a neighbor recently I saw the book sitting on his bookshelf and took the opportunity to borrow it. After a few chapters I realized the story being told, while related, was very different from that of the screenplay. Amazon offers the book for a hair over $10 so I ordered a copy and returned my neighbor’s book as soon as I had received mine in the mail.
According to Amazon.com, Patriots is
Part novel, part survivalist-handbook, Patriots tells of a small group of friends facing every American’s worst nightmare—the total collapse of society. The stock market plummets and hyperinflation cripples commerce and then a seemingly isolated financial crisis passes the tipping point when an unprepared government fails to act. Practically overnight, the fragile institutions of democracy fall apart and every American is forced to survive on their own.
Evading mobs of desperate, out-of-control citizens who have turned Chicago into a wasteland of looting and mayhem, this novel’s protagonists make their way to a shared secure ranch in the wilds of northern Idaho. Here the survival-driven group fends off vicious attacks from the outside and eventually assists in restoring order to the country. The compelling, fast-paced action-adventure novel has readers jotting notes and referencing the book’s impressive index for informative survivalist tips on everything from setting up a secure shelter to treating traumatic flesh wounds.
Without giving any specifics of the plot away here are some of my thoughts on the novel.
Rawles’s style may not be to everyone’s liking. While the overall story is excellent, Rawles delights in providing a detailed back story for each protagonist, often told as in the first person in a long and drawn out manner that borders on being tedious. Further, the story is also interrupted on a semi-frequent basis with in depth explanations of why the group or a character chose a particular piece of equipment. While this is informative it often detracts from what would otherwise be a fast paced, action packed yarn.
I don’t mean this as a criticism of the novel and I think this was a part of Rawles’s overall concept for the novel; Survival Encyclopedia masquerading as entertaining fiction. While Rawles may have garnered a wider audience and higher sales by removing this information, his intended audience for Patriots is immeasurably appreciative of its inclusion.
Having informed you of the wealth of useful information in Patriots, I also feel I must warn you that most of the information on specific equipment and some procedures is a bit dated. I get the feeling that Patriots is a constant work in progress for Rawles that is currently in its 6th incarnation. This latest version was updated to include information on the recent Presidential election and bailouts along with a useful index. Left unedited though were some of the specific equipment that the protagonists use. For example, the specific computer equipment used by one of the characters is mentioned in quite some detail, but the equipment mentioned is no where near top of the line as implied, even by last year’s standards. Also, some of the radio equipment used by the group is long out of production. This is mentioned in the narrative for some specific equipment but not in others.
I think that the take away with regards to the specific equipment recommendations and especially the details on medical procedures and tactical exercises is that you should NEVER base your decisions on what you have read in ONE book or resource. Instead this and any other reference needs to be viewed as the just one stop in your search for information. Patriots is a great starting point for those without in depth prior professional experience with the many subjects broached within the story. But remember, true mastery will always require hands on experience.
While I am positive that Rawles would not condone it during a TEOTWAWKI scenario as described in the novel, someone out there may think that Patriots provides them with a field manual for addressing a gunshot wound in the absence of any other resource. That may seem far fetched but we use the resources we have when dealing with an emergency.
I found that Patriots was a very entertaining novel to read. More importantly it got me to thinking about some scenarios and preps that I hadn’t devoted much attention to in the past. It also spurred me to do some more research and seek out some specific and in some cases specialized training to allow me to feel more prepared for a number of scenarios that may someday cross my path.
If you haven’t read it yet, you can purchase your own copy through Amazon here: Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse If you have read it and would like to offer a comment or your own review, we welcome your input.
I’m always on the look out for good preparedness-focused evangelizing material. I’ve found that doomsday-scenario novels are often a good method of opening a person’s eyes and getting them to think about the “what if”. The TV show Jericho has been a great method for me to encourage those who enjoy watching TV to think about what life would be like in a TEOTWAWKI setting.
Patriots has become one of the books that I recommend to others, due to the simple fact that it is so “meaty” in terms of information and survivalist action. That being said, the material is rather dense and so I currently recommend One Second After first; if the individual liked that book and is interested in more, then I feed them this book.
As has been said, Patriots is more like a manual than novel; you will want to read it with a pen and paper at your side to take notes and add items to your list of preps to buy. While the items discussed may not be pertinent to your situation or mesh well with your personal preferences, the sheer magnitude of items covered in the book will cause you to think of things you otherwise hadn’t. For the average prepper, it’s well worth the investment of time and money to gain valuable perspective on a host of circumstances we may one day be confronted with.
For the person reading this book for the literary experience, I’m sorry, but you will be let down. The book is a bit scattered in nature, with long aside’s exploring the depths of side characters you won’t see for a long time, if ever, again. Details abound on what would seem to be inane details to most people, making the story a little harder to read for those simply looking for a good story.
What this provides though is a much more entertaining way to read about Rawles suggestions on several best practices. Of course Patriots is a story of a “Worst Case” example (several actually) in the preparedness world, and shouldn’t be approached as a “This is exactly what people think will happen”. Instead, the reader should read this first as a story, and take notes about the concerns that it raises in your mind, as to what you actually feel are valid things you should verify in your preparedness portfolio. You should come out of this book with a nice list of “what if’s”, and at least one suggested solution to many of them.
One of my biggest gripes has been voiced before, and it is in the nature of the main characters. All are successful individuals, none with children, who have an amazing amount of resources to dedicate to their preparations. Many times while reading it I would comment along the lines of, “Try that with kids”. The information was still extremely useful, and it did just serve to make me think more, but it would have been nice to have that angle in the story. With that said, it does a great job of emphasizing the importance of preparations in the “hero’s” lives, and the difference that knowledge and physical items played in their success as compared to other people.
Patriots was one of my favorite reads in the last couple years, as Connor mentioned, it is meatier and heavier than One Second After and I now recommend One Second before Patriots as well (for prep mentality newbies). The story line of Patriots is fantastic in that it provides a realistic scenario and then follows the journey of several small groups of people dealing with the scenario. Eventually, most of the small groups meet up with everyone else and become a larger group. They then go on to battle for Liberty and Freedom.
This book presents a lot of moral dilemmas – for instance, what do you do with those who have turned to cannibalism? What do you do with those who rob, kill and destroy while taking advantage of the crisis situation? What do you do with those who are starving and come by your way peacefully? If you are starving, do you take things that you stumble across? And so on. Fortunately, being a Christian, I agree with most of the moral resolutions in the book – others may not.
As a survival manual, I made several pages of notes while reading Patriots and used them to incorporate into my preps as much as I could. However, many of the things in this book demonstrate a level of preparedness that many of us cannot attain very easily. For example, they had a nice cabin on a big ranch in Idaho. They had retrofitted the cabin with steel doors and windows and fortified everything. Right now, I can’t even afford to buy land with a cabin, much less to fortify it. This book does a fantastic job of describing how a group of friends can/should ban together to help take care of each other. Strength in numbers will be essential in a SHTF scenario and to accomplish that properly requires a lot of pre-planning. The pre-planning is covered fairly well in this book and provides a lot of ideas.
In all, this book will likely help open your eyes to at least one area of preparedness that you haven’t yet considered. I strongly recommend it as both a good survivalist read and as a survival manual. This is one of those books that you’ll want to read every couple years.