> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Review: Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse



Review: Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse

At least the cover is cool!
The much anticipated "sequel" to Patriots debuted a couple weeks ago to much anticipation and record sales. It got well into the top 100 on Amazon and apparently making the New York Times bestseller list. Unfortunately, Survivors fails to deliver on the hype and falls short of its predecessor.

Survivors is currently pulling three-stars on Amazon, which includes dozens of reviews from fans who would probably give Rawles five stars if he released a recap of the phone book. When you remove those, the reviews are pretty bad, with headlines like "Avoid" and "Huge Disappointment" topping the review list. And I can't really disagree with them. Survivors just is not very good.

Patriots is not exactly a great novel, but it is readable and has some good survivalist content and info. Survivors is inferior on both fronts--the writing is poor, boring and all over the place. The survival info contained within Survivors is, generally, an inferior re-hash of what is contained in Patriots.

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Some specific complaints--and yes, some of these problems are present in Patriots, too, but I felt they were magnified in Survivors.

The Crunch: Rawles is not an economist and his understanding of the global economies, supply chains and comes across as frustratingly narrow.

First, the timeline and severity of the Crunch is just silly--within a matter of weeks, hyper-inflation guts the entire U.S. government, military and basically all private industry. The Crunch, as written, just would not happen--especially to the military. The military does not need a valuable U.S. dollar to function -- we have stockpiles, strategic reserves and supply contracts to keep things running. Furthermore, military personnel aren't really given the option of "walking" if their paycheck isn't to their liking, especially in a national crisis. Really, it's insulting to the tens of thousands of valiant members of the armed forces to suggest that they would almost universally bail in a financial crisis.

Similarly, the U.S. produces so much of value to the global economy that even if our currency is worthless, private industry and the government could receive payment in foreign currency, precious metals, commodities or whatever "tangibles."The U.S. dollar is important to world trade, but world trade and corporations could continue without it. It would cause troubles--big troubles--but not spell the end of the world as we know it.

Crushing government debt and hyper inflation have happened numerous times in the past, and they do not result in the Mad Max-like TEOTWAWKI portrayed in Survivors and Patriots--at least not alone and not in the time frame portrayed. It just doesn't happen that way, and of the endless available TEOTWAWKI scenarios, I'm not sure why Rawles chose this to focus on.

The Rise of the Prov Gov: Again, the rapid rise of the Hutchings government makes little sense--even if for some reason the leadership of the Federal government was gutted by fires in Washington (uhh...fire department?), the armed forces are not stupid enough to follow a random self-proclaimed leader. Certainly, someone like that could get a limited following in such a scenario, but the Prov Gov becomes the replacement government in a short time frame, without any legitimate claim to authority or any kind of election to back it up. Again, this is insulting to the armed forces--that they would blindly follow someone with zero claim to authority and instantly turn into the regime's jackbooted thugs.

Evil NATO: Aside from the corrupt Prov Gov, there's the perhaps even more silly "evil" NATO invaders--Germans, Danes and others. Really? Rawles could have at least used the Chinese or the Russians here.

All over the place: Survivors is inconsistent and all over the map, jumping around from story line to disconnected story line. This approach can work (see World War Z), but fails here--Rawles' just doesn't have the writing chops to pull it off. Story lines are followed inconsistently and then dropped or ignored. None of the "new" story lines introduced in the book are wrapped up at the end of the book and we're not left waiting for a sequel, either. 

Writing: Rawles' writing hasn't improved since Patriots. His characters are robotic and his dialog is stiff and unnatural. One example--deaths (a daughter, husband, etc.) is given a line of dialog and then forgotten. Rawles spends much of the book on bland background and description--it's all very mechanical. It works for a blog or a non-fiction survival manual, but a novel needs something more.

Ian & Blanca: Survivors spends a considerable chunk of time on Ian and Blanca's back story. The problem? If you've read Patriots, you already know the whole back story. It's already been told and we don't need the dozens of pages dedicated here to retelling the same thing.

Precious Metals: The main "prep" that Rawles focuses on is precious metals--gold and silver. They're the answer to most of the book's problems, whether its buying supplies or hiring soldiers. A whole economy sprouts up around bartering with precious metals (predominantly pre-'65 silver), and it seems everyone is knowledgeable about the value of gold/silver coins and readily accepts them in barter, whether in France, rural Mexico or Kentucky.

The "heroes" of the book conveniently all saw the value of PMs before the Crunch and have a ready supply of gold and silver to barter for whatever they need. The preaching and glorification of PMs gets old, fast--heck, Rawles even includes a multi-page rant/cantankerous old man letter about how gold/silver are the only "real" money. Aside from being a bit silly and unrealistic, the time and pages spent on PMs could have been spent on something else.

Little New: Rawles has little really new/useful content here that wasn't included in Patriots. There's some more stuff about radio comms (good luck plowing through it!), but most of the "survival manual" content is basically a rehash. And it's done better in Patriots. Rawles skipped over numerous opportunities for survival content here. For example, plenty of opportunities in Andy Laine's story to discuss wilderness survival techniques, camouflage, stealth movement, urban survival--which were missed. If you're looking primarily for survival manual stuff, I'd stick with Patriots or an actual survival manual (Cody Lundin's When All Hell Breaks Loose, for example).

Overall: The sad part about Survivors is that is really misses out on the opportunity to entertain and educate the thousands of people who are reading it. It's not a book that will draw in new preppers or educate old ones (even if they can get through it). Really, I've read a lot of survival and post-apocalypse fiction and Survivors is honestly one of the bottom of the barrel. It is sad Survivors is the book getting the exposure and sales and not something else.

It is surprising that the editors at the publisher--a Simon & Schuster imprint--did not help Rawles write a better book. Rawles wrote Patriots on his own in the 90s, and I had hoped that, under the guidance and help of a good editor, we'd see the good parts of Patriots with some tightened up writing, with more engaging characters and writing. That wasn't (unfortunately) the case. Can't recommend this one.

What's Next: I am not sure what happened with Survivors, but Rawles & publisher need to step back and recalculate before Rawles' next book. I would focus on one story line with fewer characters. Minimize any recap/rehash of material covered in previous books--there's no need to go back over why the Crunch started, the rise of the Prov Gov, etc. Focus on improving characters--dialog, actions, personality--and minimize any unneeded exposition/background. Find some new survival information to share, too--there's more to prepping than having a rural retreat, guns and precious metals.