Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
on 29 May 2016
I originally bought this book for my Kindle some time ago and recently bought the paperback for a friends birthday, and while I loved parts of this book, others just brought it down.
Based in the Northwestern US during a socialeconomic collapse of society, a group of friends who met mostly in University come together at a survival retreat in Idaho to ride it out. The first half of the book covers what led to the collapse, the groups travels from their mostly Chicago based homes to the homestead and their actions in dealing with looters, refugees and other scenarios that might occur, such as a blocked septic tank and medical emergencies. Rawls has done well in a lot of area with plenty of details on numerous topics from weapons and tactics, healthcare and emergency first aid, communications, vehicle mechanics and domestic security. But some areas aren't quite so interesting, some are plain boring and others outright confusing.
Some of the issues include the massive array of detail he puts into discussing firearms, some details fine but he went somewhat overboard at places, how the first contact with communists includes them being cannibals, how someone who wasn't a health care professional was able to perform, in effect, complicated surgery and able to safely medicate patients. There's the constant mention of the groups mostly Christian belief (we don't need to be reminded every 10-15 minutes), and even when an agnostic is introduced, he's converted to Christianity following his wife's deaf (guess their God didn't see that coming).
Further issues include how they supposedly promote freedom and right of way yet every time people or groups cross their path, they stop them at gun point and forcibly search them as self proclaimed Idaho citizens, despite most living in Chicago, Illinois before the crash yet they opposed being stopped themselves later on.
In the later section of the book the United Nations is seen as an invading force despite having suffered the same economic collapse as the United States and presumably being in a similar financial situation. It's implied that the German tank crews would intentionally leave themselves vulnerable in enemy territory despite the simple little fact the the Germans pretty much invented tank warefare, something Rawels should be aware of as a former US Army Intelligence Officer, but guess not.
The first half that covers the breakdown of society, the work of the group to survive, encounters with undesirable people, plus those in need are both believable and, maybe for lack of a better word, enjoyable to read. But later the group goes from surviving a social collapse to fighting an invading army. It just doesn't sound realistic (within the world of a fictional tale), it's a complete opposite to how the book started (and I'm aware that good fiction always has some kind of complication in it, this was too much).
Another issue being that the characters don't really undergo much character development, with the except of the agnostic group member converting after his wife's deaf. They all seem very well adjusted emotionally considering their entire world has quite literally gone up in flames. Their is plenty of character background from their education and careers, some bits and pieces about parents and other family and experiences they had else where, but nothing directly from the experiences we have with them.
A side story was also introduced about two gun dealer brothers who are pursued by police. Others have said similar and I'm the same in that it might have been interesting to have them resurface, or even look at two different points of view, but after their chapter we don't hear from them again.
Rawls in a lot of ways shows his dislike for the US Federal government, gun control and the likes of the UN. I'd truly love to give this book five stars and a glowing report, but after about the halfway point they it just goes down hill, though the first half was great in my opinion. I'd say it's still worth buying and reading, just be prepared for a bumpy road along the way.