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