Ya, I know, Founders came out months ago. But, given how much I disliked Papa Bear Rawles' last book, Survivors, I wasn't chomping at the bit for this one. This month, I had some extra credits for Audible and figured what the heck.
Unfortunately, Founders is more like Survivors than Rawles' original book, Patriots (the only one really worth reading, IMO). All over the place with minor characters. Lots of recapping stuff from books 1 and 2. The most significant story line - and the one I found most interesting - was essentially a more in-depth version of Ken and Terry Layton's cross country bug out. Yes, it's the same story told in Patriots. Told all over again, with a few more details.
There's the same POV that you expect from Rawles--Libertarian, very Christian, loves rural retreats, .308s and .45s. Big Berkey's, too. He hasn't changed and he doesn't have anything much new on the survival side to add over his other books.
Like his previous books, there are still long, boring passages where Rawles deep dives into odd, technical tedium--the operating routines at an army base or the virtues of a specific cattle breed, for example. He explains the Crunch again here, in the THIRD book, and does it at least twice within this one book. Yikes. There's a lot that you'll probably want to skim.
Worse yet are the long, boring back stories that he feels compelled to dive into when introducing a new character. We learn about their childhood, college years, lots on their religious beliefs and courtship. It's all boring, vanilla stuff, and tells us nothing about the character other than the fact that they are a generally bland, very religious type.
Speaking of religion - Ralwes also spends a lot of time sermonizing and discussing religious beliefs, which will turn away some. It's boring and unrelated. I'm all for Christianity and faith, but there's only so much you can comfortably weave into most books before it becomes forced and distracting. If you're sensitive about preaching, you've been warned.
And, like Survivors (and to a lesser extent, Patriots), there's still way too many characters, many of whom never really go anywhere. The lady who runs the trading post? The oil baron guy? It's disorganized, all over the place and leaves you hanging and confused.
Oh, and I won't even get into the ending. Really, really bad.
It's all stuff that a good editor should be able to help steer Rawles' away from. He's an amateur author and would really benefit from some guidance and heavy editing--and I don't mean that badly. I'm not talking about spelling and punctuation, but plot, character, and general writing - the basics that make good books good.
There's of course some good with the lots of bad. This is a good, clean book - no swearing, no sex - which is seemingly quite rare these days. There's some "this is so bad it's good" enjoyment factor. Lots of good chapter introduction quotes. And, reading it will get the ol' mental wheels turning and probably give you a few ideas to consider.
Overall, a generally mediocre book. Somehow, Rawles managed to turn one book (Patriots) into a trilogy by rehashing stories told in the first and adding stuff that should have been left on the cutting room floor. The bad reviews that you see on places like Amazon and elsewhere are generally right, though the one-star "This book is horrible!" doesn't give the full picture.
On the audio book version--the reader is below average, and certainly towards the bottom of the twenty or so audio books that I've listened to. When doing voice acting for the characters, he generally has two voices--a loud, country male voice and a loud, vaguely southern female voice. Neither are good. You'll need a higher-than-average tolerance level here, too.