Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Book Review: 299 Days Volume 4

 Today I will be reviewing Book 4 of the 299 days Series by Glen Tate
Warning, I can't really review this book without some spoilers
This book continues where volume 3 left off. In the very first part Grant is going on and on about the 'Patriot Republic' he wants to set up. Next they end up coming into possession of a semi truck full of food. This leads to a potential conflict with the government in the nearby small town.

There is a debate over what to do with the food. The community ends up voting and using a meal card system similar to the one described in 'One Second After'.

The next significant event in the book comes when they trade some weapons to the town leadership for medical supplies.

Like the series tends to do the book ends in a cliff hanger that starts the next book.

The Good:
This book had action/ conflict but it was realistic. Too often in survivalist books folks get in these crazy gunfights where one dude with his magical prepper skills and wiz bang 7000 rifle kills 20 bikers with AK's or something else similarly stupid.

Building on this after every significant event the characters learned some things through their own failures. We should have had/ done X came up often.

The community had people with a realistic range of perspectives on most things. Viewpoints differed and there was natural, plausible conflict. Everyone is not going to agree and despite what some idiots think, the answer is not to shoot everyone who disagrees with you.

In terms of setting up this 'Patriot Republic' Grant hammered home the point that providing services and meeting people's needs matter a whole lot more than arguing ideology. In many ways an insurgency is more a race to administer to peoples basic needs with an armed component than the other way around. This is for a couple reasons. First most people are pretty ambivalent about politics and government in general. The side that meets/ helps them meet/ creates an environment where they can meet their basic needs is probably the one they will gravitate towards. Like American elections it is the soft supporters and mushy middle folks whose swing decides insurgencies. Hard core socialists or die hard Patriots waving Galdstead Flags are not going to be swung to the other side in any big numbers. They can be marginalized, isolated, killed or forcibly migrated but convincing them to go with the other teams program is unlikely. Second actions speak a lot louder than words. Having a great idea is going to be less important than being able to provide an area with security, a predictable method for resolving disputes and maybe help with different things is what matters.

The Bad:
I think the level of independent government these folks were trying to set up was awful premature in relation to being only a couple weeks after the collapse. It did not in my opinion match with the (otherwise realistic) scenario within the book. I think this reaction would be a lot more reasonable after a few months of 'collapse' especially a soft collapse.

Also fundamentally they made a big mistake in saying 'Patriot Republic' instead of 'community'. "Our Community needs a way to resolve disputes" just sounds a lot better than "Let's set up a court for our patriot republic".

While the characters in the book acknowledged failures in hind sight they failed to pay any costs for these oversights/ failures. While they didn't need to kill off a bunch of random characters to prove their point but my experience is that more often than not we pay for tactical mistakes.

Why did Grant not say in more medical supplies? In an early book he said "he didn't know how to use them" BUT HIS DARN WIFE IS AN ER DOCTOR. He should have gotten all sorts of tools, sutures, etc.

The concept of controlling peoples movements in the book was not in my opinion acceptable. They had security which is great. However the non elected (though one could argue there was at least a loose consensus) leaders of this area deciding who gets to go out the gate to town or whatever, or for what reasons they get to go is simply not acceptable. I would not tolerate that and I do not think many freedom minded people would.

Also the author specifically mentioned he didn't want people going on 'vice runs' for booze, drugs or whatever. That the community needed to trade their valuables for food. I get the sentiment but that is not the choice of a non elected leader and that attitude has no place in a supposedly free area.


They traded some guns, mags and ammo to the local town, which is their self described enemy. We could get into a long discussion about the concept of trading weapons in some sort of a collapse. One fairly extreme view is that you should not trade any guns or ammo because they are useful to you and could potentially be used against you. I do not necessarily take this viewpoint. Say in some sort of a collapse a neighbor wants to get a pistol for their wife or older teenage kid. They have something pretty valuable I want and I have a redundant pistol gathering dust in the safe. Seems like an easy decision to me. On the other hand trading military rifles to someone I consider an enemy and believe I will have to fight at some point seems rather foolhardy.

Also the group formed an immigration group who get to decide WHAT PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED TO LIVE ON THE PRIVATE PROPERTY OF OTHERS! This is especially ironic because the main character brought out a bunch of friends with guns who are living, without the knowledge or permission of the owner, in another persons cabin! That he brought a bunch of folks in then was part of a decision that the community should control who else comes in seems ridiculous to me. This is not freedom, it is some sort of totalitarian form of government.

I get the sentiment, especially since they were really talking about gang bangers (though it did show a generational thing with tattoos). However I do not believe it would be appropriate to A) tell a person who can stay with them on their private property or B) pre judge people based on appearance. As far as I can recall in the book this issue never came up but the way they planned to deal with it is not in my opinion acceptable. If the Jones family brings in a person who causes trouble then the community has a right to get involved and maybe somewhere in the continuum of agreed upon consequences is banishment. The difference between the community getting involved after a person does something vs before in some sort of thought crime way is significant and the difference between a valid community function and totalitarianism.

There is a fair bit of bad and ugly in this book. I think this is disproportionate because most of the general good stuff from the series has already been well covered in other reviews. That being said no way around me significantly disagreeing with some of the things our little 'Patriot Republic' does during this book.

Overall impression: An enjoyable read with enough excitement to keep things moving but still be realistic. The parts I disagreed with did not retract from enjoying the book.

Edited to include:
PT: Speedruck of 3.25 with 35-40 pounds. Time 44:07 or a 13:30ish/1 mile pace.

Dry Fire: Gear- Glock 19 with Safariland 6125
Drill- 1 shot from concealment.
Par time- 1.5 seconds.
Extreme low- 1.04
Extreme high- 1.6 seconds
Average 1.1-1.4.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Book Review: No Second Place Winner by Bill Jordan

Today I am going to be reviewing the book No Second Place Winner by Bill Jordan.

This book is definitely old school written by one of the most preeminent western law men, pistol shooters and handgun authorities of his era. He spent 30 years on the border patrol, mostly as far as I can tell on the Texas border as well as fighting as a Marine in WWII and Korea. His shooting skills were legendary from wax bullet exhibitions drawing and point firing at asprin to a legitimate recorded .27 second draw and shot on target! Given that a one second draw to first shot is considered pretty good that is downright amazing. He was also the man behind the S&W Model 19 Combat Magnum which was the peak of the police/ fighting revolver.

This book is pretty short at 114 pages with a few thoughtful blank ones at the end for notes. There is a general opening followed by discussion on selection and maintenance of holsters, pistol grips, handguns, cartridges and bullets. After that it talks about the mechanics of the draw and how to work to build speed without losing accuracy (it's amazing how little some things change). After that it gets into some of the psychological stuff and a variety of different things then there is a summary and closing. Onto the usual format.

The Good: This book is short. At 110 pages I read it in about 2 hours. To say it is short is not an insult. It thoughtfully covered every topic necessary and left nothing out. There were enough 'no shit there he was' stories about cool old school lawmen/ gunfighters to be entertaining but so many as to bring the conversation off track or to add unnecessarily to the length of the work.

As noted before Bill Jordan probably sweated out more wisdom on the Texas border than most shooters, even competent instructors possess. Aside from being a tough guy in a tough place during a tough time some of the tangibles of his capabilities were downright amazing. Given that he lives to the era of shot timers and video cameras his feats carry a lot more weight of accuracy than those of an era where news was only passed by word of mouth and print.

So much of this work is still entirely relevant today. Granted the strictly technological stuff is dated, there isn't a way around that in a book that is 50 years old. Still a person outfitted with the gear described as optimal; a good wide gun belt, a stiff strong side leather holster, a double action 4" revolver with ergonomic grips and semi jacketed lead flat nose bullets could certainly do a whole lot worse. The setup he described is pretty much my perfect woods walking rig.

Gear talk aside so much of what was described is still so relevant.

I particularly enjoyed how Mr Jordan described the transition of different shooting techniques for different ranges. This is something I've thought about and practiced in the past. In short as distance increases you need more accuracy so there is a transition from speed to accuracy. It goes something like this.
0-3 yards- Draw and fire as soon as the gun comes level. Today we have reinvented this into a 'speed rock.This move is shown well in the beginning of the  Collateral 'Briefcase Scene'

3-7 yards. From the speed rock you extend the handgun and bring it out and a little up to get a better shot.
7-15 yards- The hands come together at stomach level.
15-25 meters- Traditional aimed fire at eye level.

So much more good stuff.

The Bad: Like anything that goes way deep into specific gear (vs concepts, etc) as time goes by it becomes dated. While I loves me some k frame S&W's that stuff is way out of date.

The Ugly: beautiful craftsmen quality fighting revolvers like the K Frame Model 19 .357 are no longer widely available and affordable for all but the lowest budgets in hardware and general stores.

Conclusion. You can take the gear stuff with a grain of salt though they represent the peak of the fighting revolver, well minus ammo. Today I'd choose a 158 grain JHP instead of the semi jacketed lead flat nose we tend to call a semi jacketed soft point today.  That being said I don't want to take either one to the chest.

Still gear aside the book has a ton to offer. Heck the 'there he was' stories and the amusing no longer politically correct outdated language is worth the price of the book for entertainment value alone. Seriously though this book has a ton of valuable tips and knowledge to offer. Also if you are so inclined a minute on google can find it in PDF.

Got bad assed old school gunfighter knowledge?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Repost: Book Review: Liberators by Jim Wesley, Rawles

Today I will be reviewing the new Jim Rawles book Liberators: A Novel of the Coming Global Collapse Before getting started in case anyone has not read some (or all) of his previous works let me talk about some unusual elements of these books. This book is the 5th book of his 'series' that started with Patriots. I use the term series loosely because of the contemporaneous nature of these books.
The different books cover more or less the same time period from different perspectives and locations. There is some inter twining between characters and events through the books. The nature of these books is that unlike a more conventional series you could, in theory, pick up book two or four and read it as a standalone without being behind or confused about the story. Another feature of these books is that they move between characters/ groups throughout the book. I do not mean simply shifting point of view from Bob to Tom but essentially entirely different stories in different areas that may, or may not come together. For example the last book Expatriates: A Novel of the Coming Global Collapse was split between central Florida, Australia and the pacific in general. This part of the Rawles books has taken some criticism, including from me, for making things a bit disjointed but in the last couple books those kinks have been ironed out.

For the sake of full disclosure I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher with a loose agreement that I was interested in reviewing it. Of course there was no talk, let alone pressure, about the content of the review. I also fundamentally like Jim Rawles as he has been good to me and my blogging efforts. This does not mean I would be consciously biased towards his works. However arguably there could be some unconscious bias, sort of how you are less annoyed when the cool guy or cute girl you casually know at the local coffee shop flubs your order than if it is a person you don't know.

So onto the usual format.

I will do my best to avoid spoilers but if you genuinely want to have no clue about the contents of this book then stop reading now, buy and read it then come back and see what I think. However if you do not mind having a little bit more of an idea than reading the back cover but a lot less than say, a kids
500 word book report, then continue reading.

Begin potential spoilers.

The general outline of the story is that it follows two groups one an older couple living on a remote ranch in British Columbia along with their children (the sisters from the last book) and the second a family living in Virginia. It follows them through the beginning of the collapse through the UN invasion and the subsequent conflict. The ranch group has some folks who travel to get to the ranch and the other group had a loose plan at the start that led to a very long bug out type scenario. They all ended up resisting the UN troops in different ways. While the books run more or less contemporaneously this book tends to be more focused on the latter part of that period than the initial part.

The Good: The trend of an easy to read book that flows continued. Earlier books issues with short chapters and lots of jumping around are not present.

I am pleased to say people, even survivalist types were portrayed in what I feel were very realistic ways. The types of situations and levels of preparedness of both survivalists and non survivalists meshed with what I have seen to be accurate.

Along these lines the situations characters were in seemed much more representative of our society at large and arguable as such realistic than previous books. There was a divorcee facing home foreclosure and a writer toiling away at a half done work who cut wood for a living. Folks were
meeting each other and sometimes finding love during a chaotic situation, in other words being actual people not survivalist automatons.

Furthermore the groups people formed into were much more organic along family  and friendship lines than the much spoken about but rare (in actual implementation and rarer in success) survivalist type group. Folks were trying  to get by with their loved ones and friends, some of whom were survivalists.

Additionally it was a pleasant breath of fresh air that characters were equipped with a wide variety of gear, weapons and vehicles. There was never totally unauthentic moment where only a 1911 .45 from X manufacturer, some  specific rifle or vehicle was the cure all to a situation. More like "Tim had  a pistol, rifle and shotgun with some ammo so he was reasonably well armed."

Of course the huge pool of free research assistants the massively popular Survivalist Blog offers gives Jim a huge advantage. He can talk to three people who live near the Whatever Forest, Any County, Anywhere to find a nice location that has the  sort of caves/ roads/ permissive border the story needs. This brings a huge level of authenticity and arguably actionable information not present in other books of this type.

That people were portrayed as an active part of the overall guerrilla/ counter insurgency situation was excellent. Fence sitters can be spurred into action based on something bad being done (by either side) to their loved ones.

Also a significant part of the action being intelligence related folks brought the book more into Jim's (former) area of expertise which let him write realistically and with some authority. In fairness we will revisit this topic later from another angle.

Surely more stuff was good but I cannot think of it specifically right now.

The Bad:

JWR's military background is in Intelligence which was a not insignificant part of this book. However that experience is pretty dated and I strongly suspect more along Cold War lines than the guerrilla/ counter insurgency lines of the book. At times he wrote at some length about various topics that are arguably not that applicable to the type of fight going on. I know it is tempting to talk about your area of knowledge but sometimes that can lead to talking more about what you know than stuff that really applies to the situation, also it can somewhat detract from the story. These parts would have been better served by being adapted more to applicable guerrilla/ counter insurgency situation, potentially with some help, or snipped down.

[Without getting into my background I know what I am talking about with this stuff.]

The Ugly:

I was frustrated at the end that the book seemed to end too fast. Some individuals from the last book arrived on the scene with considerable build up  then it just ended. It felt like when someone has to write a minimum 5 page paper and is cranking away then realizes they are at 4.5 pages and throws in
the cliche restate the point ending paragraph to close it out.

The book would have been well served by being 20 pages longer (or if X pageswas the goal snipping a bit here and there from other parts to free up the space) to do service to that part of the plot line.
To me some of the connections between characters from different groups from previous books (Specifically the sisters from the last book and the original group from the first book )was forced yet for what did not really lead anywhere.

It is confusing to me that forethought (at least a book or two back) was put into inter twining characters in different areas to come together but it almost seems like the planning on how to do it was deeper than the planning on what they would do, or why the thread of connection added value to the bigger story.

In this book I would probably have had one group in this book who was not really connected to the previous books fight the good fight supporting different resistance cells. That would have seemed less forced and also given a good platform for different TTP's and lessons learned (good as well as bad).

I should note the bad and ugly are very relative and did not significantly detract from the overall book. Sort of like if the waitress is a bit slow bringing your second beer/ cup of coffeee so it arrives less than optimal temperature at an enjoyable meal with friends, and everything else is good.
It is a minor annoyance but a few days later you remember the dinner and have forgotten the less than optimal beverage.
My overall assessment is this book was excellent. I tried not to get into spoilers but there is a lot on bugging out by vehicle as well as by foot. Additionally many interesting lessons for potential insurgency situations as well as more general survivalist ones were present. Furthermore I found it a
very enjoyable read with characters you can really relate to and root for as they go through the events that unfold. This is probably the best book in the series. Buy a copy of Liberators: A Novel of the Coming Global Collapse to read and get another to give away or loan to a friend and not get back.

There may well be a second more free form thoughts and lessons post on the book down the road. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: Point of Impact by Stephen Hunter

Point of Impact by Stephen Hunter is a book I have read twice over the last couple months. There are a series of books traveling between a few folks and I seem to be the end of a lot of it. Will have to pass some stuff on to other folks in the near future but that is another discussion.

The amazon blurb is:
He was one the best Marine snipers in Vietnam. Today, twenty years later, disgruntled hero of an unheroic war, all Bob Lee Swagger wants to be left alone and to leave the killing behind.

But with consummate psychological skill, a shadowy military organization seduces Bob into leaving his beloved Arkansas hills for one last mission for his country, unaware until too late that the game is rigged.

The assassination plot is executed to perfection—until Bob Lee Swagger, alleged lone gunman, comes out of the operation alive, the target of a nationwide manhunt, his only allies a woman he just met and a discredited FBI agent.

Now Bob Lee Swagger is on the run, using his lethal skills once more—but this time to track down the men who set him up and to break a dark conspiracy aimed at the very heart of America.

The book has also been described as 'A thinking mans Rambo'.

 If you haven't picked it up by now this is the book which inspired the 2007 Marky Mark masterpiece Shooter. As such I am not excessively concerned with spoilers.

The Good:
A fast and enjoyable read. The combination of action and military/ military industrial complex/ intelligence type intrigue makes the book a page turner. A lot of the intrigue stuff was lost when the book was turned into a movie.

If you are into folks talking about the technology, skill and theory of ling distance precision shooting you will have a lot to like in this book. Also there was a lot of general gun talk. On the fun side since the book was written in the early 90's it is now dated in a way that is somewhat amusingly antiquated. Cops carrying revolvers, era appropriate scopes and 1911's, sweet leather holsters and even a prominently displayed Mini-14. I found it quite fun in a sort of nostalgic way.

The importance of cold hard cash and caches came up in a meaningful way. Survivalists can get so into ideas about gear, food, etc that they fail to realize it is far more likely a scenario will be greatly improved by a big wad of 20's than fero rods and fishing line. Of course we can all agree guns are pretty useful.

The portrayal of Southern and or shooting culture is pretty accurate. In particular the importance of the concept of honor was accurately portrayed. Of course it is a book so arguably some stuff was amplified a bit but a whole lot more was right than wrong.

The Bad:
Any time you have an action type story line, especially with a strong bad ass type character, the story almost invariably has some times where it gets a bit unrealistic to the point where it fails the common sense test.

While I do enjoy the technical gun stuff  at times it likely detracted from the story. We really didn't need to have discussions about the type of reloading dies Bobby Lee used or the particular gunsmith who might have installed a particular aftermarket barrel on a Remington 700 .308. I found it fun and interesting in a well thought out, albeit period appropriate way but for many folks it was at best neutral and at worst an annoyance.

I sort of think this was the kind of 'shout out's' to the shooting community like how a rap song has to mention 3 dumpy areas and country songs mention a whole bunch of southern and or western states plus rivers and mountain ranges.

[Seriously, I listen to country music and while I enjoy the older stuff it is not on the radio as much as one might like so the newer stuff gets some play. Some of the new stuff is good even though much of it is a bit poppy. However the need to mention so many locations is ridiculous. I have made a game of counting how many specific places songs mention. Maybe market research has said that if an artist mentions a state sales there go up so every song has to mention Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, the Carolina's, Texas, etc. The ones who really think it out can mention every state in the Confederacy, 3 rivers, 2 cities, a swamp and a mountain range. Don't even get me started on that psuedo rap country crap music they play on the radio now.]

The Ugly:

Discussion: This book is a fictional action based story and as such is probably not long on tangible lessons unless you really want to build an early 90's inspired high end precision rifle based on a Remington 700. Still it is a good read and you might well grab some amusing tid bits out of it.

Overall Assessment: You can get a copy of the paperback for well under ten bucks, probably under five at a used book store. It is an enjoyable read and well worth purchasing. I think you will enjoy reading it and pick it up off the shelf to revisit every so often.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Arctic Pilgrim Reviews Contact: A Tactical Manual For Post Collapse Survival

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Book Review: Expatriates by Jim Rawles

Today it is my pleasure to review Expatriates: A Novel of the Coming Global Collapse by Jim Wesley Rawles. Like Jim' other novels Patriots, Survivors and Founders this one takes place during the same chaotic period of time set ominously in 'the not so distant future.'

Here is the promo blurb
In the latest survivalist thriller from founder of and New York Times bestselling author James Wesley, Rawles, two expat families struggle for their very survival in the midst of a global economic collapse.

When the United States suffers a major socioeconomic collapse, a power vacuum sweeps the globe. A newly radicalized Islamic government rises to power in Indonesia, invades the Philippines, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, and finally northern Australia. No longer protected by American military interests, Australia must repel an invasion alone.

In the thick of these political maneuvers, an American family of missionaries living in the Philippines and a Texan petroleum engineer in Australia must face the fear of being strangers in a world in flux. Are their relatives back home healthy and safe? Will they ever see them again?

In its depiction of the authentic survivalist skills and techniques needed to survive a global socioeconomic meltdown, Expatriates is as informative as it is suspense-filled.

The novel follows 3 groups; on  a family of Christian missionaries living in the Philippines, a  Texas oilman and some Australian folks he gets intertwined with and a family that run a hardware store in Florida. Like the previous books in the series it sort of flashes between the different groups in a generally chronological order.

Onto the usual format.

The Good: I really feel like Jim Rawles turned a corner in his writing with this book. Maybe it is personal development or learning from the last couple. Maybe it's some change in the editorial process or the slippers Jim wore while writing, I don't know. Regardless whatever it was should be kept the same for all of Jim's future writing. This book went a long way to address my (and some other folks) biggest criticisms of the Jim's last 2 fiction books that they jumped around too much and sometimes there were fairly long passages or even characters that didn't really tie into anything.

Expatriates keeps the multiple characters in different places format but this time it really works. The passages on an individual group are a bit longer so it flows better. Instead of reading 5 pages about Group A then 7 about Group B you will see more like (I didn't count it out so this is a rough guess) 20 on Group A then 14 on Group B. The overall result was a lot fewer transitions which made for a book that flowed much better. This was definitely a sustain.

The other good part is that everything tied together. The writing in this book seemed more intentional than in some previous books. There was not a point where I found myself thinking "Why am I reading this passage?" Everything fit in nicely and stayed on track. This added to my overall enjoyment of the reading experience.

Using the massive audience of Survival Blog Jim is able to bring in real world practical knowledge that surpasses what any one individual could possible accumulate. He can lean on 3 people who live in an area and another 4 who have decades of experience in whatever. I suspect this strongly helped with being realistic about technical details and the settings in the book. In particular, without getting too into spoiler territory this book has some very interesting stuff on taking long ocean voyages in relatively small boats and home/ small business security to continue operations in a dangerous environment. I found myself taking some mental notes on both of these topics. This authenticity/ factual correctness and high level of detail across a wide variety of areas really helps make the book useful, even for someone who has read his previous books.

As it's been awhile since I read Jim Rawles other fiction novels I found myself appreciating that these books nature is that they stand alone. You don't need to remember where one book ended to enjoy another. While continuations of the same theme they involve different places and characters. There is occasional overlap but you do not have to read Patriots to understand Survivors or either to get Founders or the newest in the series Expatriates. A person could pick up any of the books to read and enjoy as a stand alone novel.

Expatriates is by far the best written of Jim Wesley's fiction efforts and clearly the best of the Patriots sequels. It kept the interesting and plausible concepts of previous books but was wrapped in a far more readable package. I can see it gaining considerable traction in the adventure type circles; especially for folks who like a good read sans unnecessary gratuitous sex, profanity and graphic violence.

The Bad:

The only part I found a bit of a stretch was the non survivalist hardware store owners who happened to conveniently have a variety of unique characteristics in their home/ store setup AND lives that left them better set up than most survivalists. It was just a couple too many convenient things to be realistic without them making intentional choices in that direction.  Also it was probably implausible that the guy did all this other stuff and had a whole bunch of silver but didn't have a fighting rifle. Way more folks own an AR/ AK/ .308 battle rifle than own a couple hundred dollars face in 90% silver.

The Pre 1899 gun thing came up again albeit in the same gun ban as previous books. Again I have to say the idea that basically every modern gun could be banned yet this loophole would be carried over is just silly. While they do have a unique benefit TODAY if everything is being banned you would be far better off hiding/ fighting/ whatever with modern guns. A far more prudent course of action would be to buy a Glock/ Sig/ M&P/ 1911 and AK/ AR/ .308 with cash via a private party, maybe even get a spare set to stash away. Sure if you live in a totally anti gun area or like collecting old guns rock on but stash some modern defensive guns just in case.

The Ugly:

I wish whatever clicked to make this book such an easy, enjoyable fluid read happened earlier.

Overall Assessment:
Excellent book that is well worth the money. Folks who may have been turned off of Jim Rawles fiction would be well advised to give this book a shot as I think they will be pleasantly surprised.

Please wait till the 1 October Book Bomb Day to buy your copy of Expatriates!!!

Disclosure: I received an early copy of Expatriates to review. Also fundamentally Jim Rawles has been very good to me and my blogging efforts over the years. Not quite a mentor parse but more like that cool guy at the range who lets you always lets you shoot his cool new toy which you get to shoot and has the tool/ item you need but forgot to bring. How much that clouds my judgement on the matter I cannot say but there it is.

Buy your own copy of Expatriates on 1 October Book Bomb Day!!!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Book Review: Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001

Ghost Wars took a long time for me to read. Somewhere around 5 years actually. Some time at Ft Benning, it seems like a lifetime ago, I purchased this book then started reading it. Got about a third of the way through then lost interest. Put the book aside on the shelf.

Not too long ago I picked the book back up. This time I had a much better understanding of Afghanistan from reading various books and such as well as real life experience. Also I am a touch older and just maybe more patient. Anyway I finished the book yesterday.

This book starts in the end of the Soviet Afghan War. It goes into great lengths discussing the intertwined, hypocritical and generally dysfunctional relationships between the CIA, their Afghan "Warlord" partners, Pakistan, Pakistani Intelligence, the Arab gulf states particularly Saudi Arabia and Osama Bin Laden. It goes through how this combination of more or less cooperative forces ultimately defeated the Afghan Communists (though one could argue what defeated them was Russian aid ending but I digress) then created a coalition government then fell into civil war and total chaos. Ultimately this lead to the rise of the Taliban then Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda element arrived. It also touches on the rise of modern fundamentalist terrorism as it related to the rest of the story. To the usual format.

The Good: Very informative. It also covers a period in Afghanistan's recent history that is easy to gloss over. The period after the Soviet Afghan war is admittedly easy to miss but it lead to the rise of the Taliban then 9/11 which lead to our misadventures in Afghanistan. I got a ton out of this book. A real understanding of how many things came to be. Through understanding it really cleared up a lot about the period after 9/11.

The Bad: While it would be difficult to talk about all of these topics separately and I suppose the generally chronological method of the book makes sense but it left the reader jumping from Washington DC on one page to Saudi Arabia on the next then back to an Afghan hovel. It got a bit hard to follow at times. Also this is not a book for a beginner on the topic. To read this book you need a pretty decent understanding of Afghan history in general and the Soviet Afghan War to make much sense out of this book.

The Ugly: This book is long and dry, really long and really dry. The book (not notes) was just under 500 pages. It is a fairly large book with small font so it probably reads like closer to 600.

While it is informative the book is pretty darn dry. Even being interested in the topic I had a hard time digging through the book. There were parts where it picked up but it probably averaged slightly more interesting than a college Algebra text.

Overall Assessment: If you can manage to slog through it this book does offer value. It would probably be the 4th or 5th book I would recommend a person read about Afghanistan if they were sufficiently interested. However you definitely have to work to get it. Most people would probably be better off putting their time and money into a book that is easier to read.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: The Survivalist Family by Joe Fox

Today I am going to be reviewing The Survivalist Family by Joe Fox. If you are not familiar with Pastor Joe Fox then check out his youtube channel which is full of great stuff. Anyway I picked this book up as an add on when ordering the Swack Shack.

The Good: Let's see, the book is chock full of great advice! I especially appreciate that while it has some lists they are well thought out, limited and for specific purposes. You will not see the same 30 pages of sloppy excell documents pasted into this book!

I also appreciated that Pastor Joe hit on budgeting and the financial side of affording survivalist stuff as well as making it work in a relationship where the spouse is less than entirely on board. These are two awesome topics that rarely get mentioned and even then it is usually a brief hand wave. Pastor Joe took the time to talk about the topics in a well thought out realistic manner. 

The book stayed on topic in a thought out way. The discussions of categories/ concept of use flowed into brief lists with occasional relevant and useful anecdotes along the way. It did not jump around or go into aimless rants on tangent topics like other books sometimes do.

Also obviously Pastor Joe really knows what he is talking about. Aside from his considerable and useful military experience Pastor Joe has been doing this for awhile and genuinely practices what he recommends. Very good stuff all around.

The Bad: At a bit under $20 the book is a little on the expensive side. To be fair to Pastor Joe and his book the per unit cost of publishing smaller runs of books is pretty high. Whatever the reason is the book is a touch spendy.

Ugly: Pastor Joe didn't write this book a decade ago and it didn't stumble into my life much earlier.

Overall Conclusion: The Survivalist Family was an excellent book. It gave me a lot of things to think about and implement in our pursuit of preparedness. I definitely think it would be an excellent book to give to a beginner starting out. I strongly recommend purchasing a copy

Camping Survival is running a 20% off sale on their Wise Food Products from the 24th to the 28th of June.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: Patriot Dawn The Resistance Rises by Max Velocity

Today I am pleased to be reviewing Max Velocity's newest book Patriot Dawn: The Resistance Rises. The basic plot is as follows. A veteran and his family in the DC/ Northern Virginia area find themselves in a grid down collapse type scenario and simultaneously faced with an oppressive regime. They have some misadventures and end up involved in the resistance against said oppressive regime. Any further than that will get seriously into spoiler territory. To the usual format.

The Good: A plausible scenario is always a good start. Some of Max's book ready like the news these days. The book offered some seriously great advice for anybody looking to fight a guerrilla war against an oppressive regime. Without using buzz words to sound knowledgeable Max laid out some very good information. It would be difficult to overstate the amount of good information that is in this book. To put it into perspective I have been in the Army for awhile, done a whole lot of training, deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, read bunches of books and I got a lot out of this book. Just maybe some day having a hard copy of this book around could be handy.

The Bad: The characters were a bit flat and at times they related to each other in ways that needed to be better developed to seem superficial and could have been better developed. I took this with a grain of salt for two reasons. First Max is not a professional fiction author; expecting him to write like one would not be realistic. Secondly the parts these parts did not really detract too much from the book. Sort of like Patriots it is halfway a how to wrapped in a fiction novel so the lessons aren't lost because Bob and Sue's dialog wasn't perfect.

The Ugly: About a quarter of the way into the book there was a scene that was ridiculous. I do not want to spoil the details but the main character and his family somehow killed several guys who had better weapons, superior positioning, initiative and numbers on their side. It was ridiculous and in my experience totally implausible. If it would have been hammed up a bit more it could have been a scene out the The Survivalist; all they would have needed is to have the main character dual wielding stainless Detonics Combat Master 1911's while riding a Harley and smoking a cigarillo.

I got pretty annoyed and almost stopped reading the book. Figured if this was going to be the way it went why waste my time. However thankfully I continued reading. There were no parts like that and the rest of the book was awesome.

Overall Assessment. I found this book enjoyable and very informative. Strongly suspect you will also find it a worthwhile read. It paired with Max's nonfiction book Contact would give about as much of an edge in surviving a nasty situation as two books can. If you can find a sale that is cool but don't hold off to find one. Get yourself a hard copy of Patriot Dawn sooner instead of later.

For the sake of full disclosure I received a copy of this book to review.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: The Blighted by Archer Garrett

Our long time friend, advertiser and overall collaborative partner Archer Garrett wrote a new book The Blighted. After reading it the logical thing seemed to be talking about it. So here we go.

The basics are that the world is hit by a global Zombie event. It follows multiple groups of people across the world and in the American Gulf Coast area.

The Good: It was a fast and enjoyable read. The book was able to delicately balance staying interesting and being action packed with being fairly realistic about the characters skills and capabilities. I find stories (like this) about fairly normal folks more interesting that the super duper survivalist/ Sammy the Seal fantasy.

This book was a good example of how you can switch from character to character and keep things cohesive. It did not get choppy or unduly confusing at any point. Along these lines it has been great watching Archer develop and improve as a writer.

The Bad: Few significant survivalist/ preparedness lessons. Definitely a book to buy for entertainment not a manual wrapped in a fiction novel like some books. This is not really a bad thing, just something to be aware of.

The Ugly: Nothing to speak of.

Overall assessment: Solid read. I enjoyed this book and think you will also. For $3 it is a great value for your entertainment dollar.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Book Review: Brushfire Plague by RP Ruggiero

Brushfire Plague is a book about a man by the name of Cooper, his family and community during a Pandemic that makes the 1918 Spanish Flu seem like a case of the sniffels. While everything falls apart our hero Cooper tries to hold things together and figure out what is going on. Onto the usual format.

The Good: I was sucked into the book and pages flew by. Most characters were pretty normal and the action was (except 1 scene we will discuss later) pretty realistic.

The Bad: The way things fell apart seemed a bit off to me. At one point the main character goes to the grocery store to stock up because of the pandemic and ends up shooting a guy. He skips paying, pushes the cart to his vehicle and goes home. This was the local neighborhood grocery store. I do not think that was at all realistic.

The Ugly: Sort of like Lights Out the characters seemed to magically stumble into enough food and weapons to be fine. For vague reasons their little subdivision was just fine while the rest of the area went all Mad Max. There was one survivalist in the bunch who conveniently had a whole bunch of guns to pass out to friends which was just too convenient.

Overall I would recommend Brushfire Plague to others. It is solidly enjoyable survivalist fiction.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Book Review: Founders by Jim Wesley, Rawles

Founders is the third fiction book by Jim Wesley, Rawles. These books are a bit different than most because they run contemporaneously. So  in other words Patriots, Survivors and Founders are all happening at the same time.

This book covers the Layton's cross country treck from Chicago, Ill to the super retreat in Idaho in significantly more detail than it previously was touched on in Patriots. It also wraps in a couple other sets of characters from the second book.

The book spends a good bit of time on the composition of the new Provincial Government out of FT. Knox and how it occupies new areas and regulates occupied areas. I don't want to get too much deeper into the plot and spoil anything.

I have heard some criticisms of this book that deserve to be addressed. Some folks said they got less out of this book then previous ones. These books, in particular Patriots, have been characterized as survival manuals worked into fiction novels. This viewpoint certainly has at least some truth to it.

Using the old fiction series The Survivalist as an example you are going to get less out of book 6 than book 1 if you have read them all in order. It isn't that book 6 necessarily has any less value than 1 but that you have heard most of the authors major points and pet ideas by then. At some point in a series it is sort of inevitable that you will have been exposed to most of the major lessons the author has to give.

That point aside onto the usual format.

The Good: I appreciated that this book displayed a lot of fairly regular folks and their effort's to make it through a hard time. It had some interesting points where characters tried to stock up at the last minute and found the obvious guns/ammo/fuel missing. This is good because too many books let folks somehow get 4 guns, 12 cases of ammo and a years worth of food after an economic collapse. The characters then picked up some other useful items that were still available. Stuff like extra rifle scopes, hunting clothes and such. Interesting food for thought.

Even the more skilled and prepared folks made some good moves and some less good ones. There were not John Rourke figures who get into gunfights with 40 hard core bikers and kill them all. The more survivalist fiction I read the more I appreciate this.

Now that I think about it the book was fairly low on violence though some is realistically present. The book dealt more with folks getting prepared, day to day issues and the structure of both Pro Gov as well as the resistance. This worked well and made things interesting without getting all ridiculous. In this regard the book had a sort of different focus than Survivors which focused on less prepared folks figuring out how to get by or Patriots which had the uuber prepared group with the sweet survivalist retreat.

The threads about folks in the US military and how they did and did not cooperate with the Provincial Government and UN were pretty interesting. This part was well thought out and entirely plausible. Also it gave us some credit which is appreciated. Definitely something to think about.

Also this book did a pretty good job of staying off the gear and all too common specific model gun porn soap box. It seemed much more 'got a pistol, a rifle and a .22' so guns are covered than folks falling short because they lack the coolest Blast O Master 6000. This made me happy.  

The Bad: There were a couple gun porn .308/30.06 moments. At one point a character inferred that the M4 was not effective at intermediate distances (I think it was about 300 meters) which is just ridiculous. There was also another moment that fell into the 'battle rifle' long distance 'ambush' point of view which in my opinion is not really a viable strategy. That being said we all have our 'things' and the 'battle rifle' is one of the author's. It didn't detract from the book and was easy enough to just ignore.

Also the 'pre 1899' firearms came up in what I think is a less than plausible context. The new evil government that was banning pretty much everything kept the current loophole of exempting pre 1899 firearms. Like some evil UN Mercenary is going to stop and look up if a 30-30 or a 12 gauge was made in 1899 or 1935 or 1957? These guns have some distinct benefits today but thinking this would help you out in a totalitarian gun grab is probably wishful thinking. 

The Ugly: Like the second book Survivors this one follows multiple characters and sort of jumps back and forth between them. It just didn't to work quite as well here. I think it just moved a little too fast. Sometimes we just stayed with a character for just a few pages and then moved on. A couple character threads would have been better served by either getting filled out a bit more or otherwise cut out entirely.

Overall Assessment:  I liked this book and enjoyed reading it. At this point if you have read the previous books Patriots and Survivors you know JWR's beliefs/ writing style and generally what to expect. If you liked his previous fiction books (particularly Survivors as it is more similar to Founders than the first book) then I think you will like this book. Founders can be purchased here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book to review.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review: Contact by Max Velocity

Today we will be reviewing Contact: A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival by Max Velocity. Max has a background in both the British and American armies and has deployed multiple times. Certainly he seems to know what he's talking about. The basic premise of this book is just what the title says a tactical manual for post collapse survival. In this regard I would say it is an overall success.

The Good: If I had to give someone a single book to train them to fight and survive this would be a really good candidate. I appreciate that this book sticks to it's purpose not trying to be another everything in one book type survival manual and also hit on food storage, lighting, sanitation, etc all. The guy knows his strengths and sticks to them instead of getting over his head in different subjects. I sure appreciated that.

The basic concept of distilling military manuals and tactics into plain and simple language for a militia or survivalist audience is not particularly new. Max does it better than most and all in one place. The resulting book is a solid resource. Most folks would get bogged down in FM 7-8 and lost with acronym's and considerations for non applicable threats like attack aviation or technology typical civilians do not posses.

I particularly liked the chapter on vehicle movement which is available more or less in it's entirety at WRSA. It is definitely worth taking a hard look at potentially with some action to follow. Many chapters have interesting little pieces based on likely survivalist scenarios that relates them to military tactics. Seriously good stuff.

The Bad: The book gets a bit excessive in terms of 'translating' terms and acronyms into plain English. At times it seemed this was being done just for the sake of itself without really relating them to anything survivalists would need to do. Probably 7-10% of the book could be removed by cutting this unnecessary  stuff out.

Additionally while the book stays out of having the obligatory food storage, sanitation, communication and maintenance chapters that are almost totally generic it slips into firearms training, medical and some other areas. The piece on shooting which is 2-3 pages without pictures or diagrams (we will revisit this) is awkward and not helpful. The piece on casualties aka medical is a confusing mix of explaining US Army trauma care, partial lists of components for various kits and brief description of how to treat various injuries that is particularly painful. I am not entirely sure what the answer is. Maybe more space could have been put to these areas if other parts (like explaining needless acronyms) were omitted. Maybe fewer such areas could be covered at more length. 

The Ugly: This book is sorely in need of pictures. The parts on mounted and dismounted movement were explained with some basic sketches. The usual dot people and vehicles moving with arrow type stuff. The rest of the book would have really benefited from pictures.

Overall Assessment: If you want a book that breaks down a lot of useful Army type stuff into civilian this is a good option. In fact it is the best I have seen to date. I can't think of a better single book for a survivalist without a military background to use to train and plan from. That being said it probably isn't for everybody. Folks with a solid combat arms background probably don't need this book for their own purposes. They would be better off referring directly to applicable FM's or TM's. For twenty bucks one could have a good hard copy reference that translates basic military tactics into civilian which could come in handy some day.

Anyway if this book interests you it can be purchased here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

IPR #1: Stacey's Quest

I often seem to have a wait list for books. Stacey's Quest finally worked it's way to the top of the pile. I am about 1/3rd of the way into it.

Stacey's Quest is about a teenaged girl living in Philadelphia as well as her family and friends. It starts out with them going to the mall and then well, things fall apart. The girls try to make their way in a situation they are totally unprepared to handle the best they can. I don't want to say much more at the risk of spoilers.

This book is very different when compared to most survivalist fiction.  There are not (at least yet) any John Rourke characters with unbelievable skill sets and ridiculous arsenals, years worth of food and awesome bunkers/ hinter boonies retreats. While those books can show the value of being well prepared as well as some interesting ideas they probably aren't representative of most survivalists, let alone average folks.

The characters don't seem to have magically found a bunch of cool gear and sweet guns, learned to fight like a pro MMA guy and shoot like a 3 gun champ which I appreciate. The books where Joe Shmoe all of a suddent turns into Sammy the Seal annoy me a lot. People get lucky or unlucky but nothing completely ridiculous has happened yet.

A lot of the interesting stuff in this book is conceptual. The way people think and are dependent on the system, ethics and morality when it comes to other peoples stuff and accepting new realities among other things. Looking at people with a variety of perspectives instead of just folks who all think the same conservative/ religious and or libertarian train of thought is interesting. [I also don't miss the long rants about the federal reserve or entitlements or whatever that are present in many books.] Maybe not as cool as making improvised explosives to blow up a convoy of raiders or first person shooter style gun porn but probably more thought provoking.

Anyway I am eager to continue reading this book. If you are looking for something with a bit of a different perspective, Stacey's Quest may be the book for you. Things are still in the works but we should be giving away a copy pretty soon.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Review: Our End Of The Lake by Ron Foster

This book is about a middle aged “prepper” who finds himself far from home after a natural EMP (Carrington event, sun spots, whatever). He is at a job interview in Atlanta when the whole event kicks off. The main character and his new boss (just got hired by FEMA) are busy getting day drunk to celebrate his new employment. He walks out of Atlanta towards the west with the bouncer from the bar. The main character immediately begins acquiring things that do not belong to him to aid in his survival and trip west.

Along the way they meet some people and get drunk with them. He gets a nice little .380 by trading money  he knows is worthless that he acquired from an abandoned semi with the bouncers relative. Shortly therafter he gets an operational tractor in a lopsided deal and uses it to drive the rest of the way home. He makes it home to Montgomery and his elderly mother, ex girlfriend (who is a “prepper” and they are still close) and some other acquaintances. After some hanging out and drinking they decide that they need to bug out because things are going to get dangerous. They proceed to “acquire” a couple more operational vehicles and then the whole tribe heads out to some lake.

They get there and via a friend he made earlier and take over a few houses for everybody to live in. After getting to the lake they begin systematically searching empty homes for food, booze and things that they can use. They also find a couple boats to use. Along the way they start making friends and setting up some means of trade and small scale commerce. Anyway now I will get to the usual format.

The Good: It was a fun easy read. Also this is a pretty nice vision of a genuine end of the world event. Travel around, take whatever you want and get drunk pretty much every day.  This book portrayed people in a generally positive light which is sort of refreshing. Many survival type books have everyone turn into rapist cannibal murderers if the power goes out for an hour. On the other hand as far as I recall not a single bad thing happened in the book, not violent conflict or even a nasty accident or illness which probably isn't realistic either.

Also the book did have some pretty good primitive living/ outdoor skills stuff. It was sort of awkwardly placed in and at some points it seemed like 2 pages of a random wilderness survival book were accidentally inserted to the story but it was good none the less. I have a good background in this stuff and I picked up a thing or two.

The Bad:  A significant part of the book was pretty much a big cocktail party. It didn’t really have a purpose in the book. To a certain degree this is a reflection of actual human behavior like hurricane parties and such and I didn’t really mind it. I’ve passed more than one power outage with a few folks and a case of beer. However to me about the time when I pull a rifle out of the safe because the world is going crazy it is time for the party to slow down or stop entirely. At one point he is visiting a guy and they have a few beers. He goes to leave and the guy hands him a cold 6 pack for the rest of the trip. Not saying I have always been perfectly responsible in that regard but it was a bit much. While they are could represent human behaviors as folks do tend to hit the bottle or whatever more in bad time,  getting hammered every night and driving drunk are not the best plans for a survival situation.

Also the author seems to have a need to use the words “prepper” and “72 hour bag” a lot. I wish I had a count on how many times each phrase was used. It wasn’t quite The Survivalist style needless repetition but it did get old.

The Ugly: We could debate looting vs. scavenging or whatever (got a post brewing about that) but in any case they take everything they want which isn’t nailed down or guarded. In any case as Suburban Survivalist said “there is enough looting to make Jim Rawles go catatonic.” According to the main character everything that they find is abandoned and they need it so it is free game. At one point they break into an auto shop to take a pair of ATV’s. 

Also they went to a “bug out” to a place where they did not own any property or have an agreement with those who did. They made an agreement (one in a long series of totally lopsided, convenient and essential agreements in this book) with a homeowner once they got there but I am not sure if they planned to just squat or what the exact deal was.  It could have been touched on and I missed it but they occupied several houses which they did not own or compensate the conveniently absent owners for.

 In any case after they occupy a few houses at the lake they begin systematically breaking into and searching every empty house for things they can use. In fairness to the characters in the book they seem to not have a problem with other folks taking everything that isn’t nailed down so at least they are not hypocrites which is good. Regardless of ones take on looting vs. scavenging in real life I suspect a group of people who acted that way could realistically face some consequences.

Conclusion: For the price of $8ish I thought it was a decent value for my entertainment dollar. I got a few things out of it and it provoked some ideas. I don’t regret reading it but doubt I will read it again.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Book Review- The Western Front Part 1

I read The Western Front Part 1 last night. The basic plot is that southern Texas is facing a defacto border war with Mexican drug cartel's. The economy is on the verge of collapse and the dollar is not doing well. The book follows a few characters including a rancher and a Texas guardsmen (of sorts) through this ugly scenario.

Part 1 of this book is pretty realistic and entertaining. I was pleasantly suprised that the frequent tangent rants which can happen in this sort of book were not present. At 60 pages it was a quick read. The scene was set and things got going just enough to hook me. I can't wait for part two.

Since this novel is being released in parts I am going to hold off on the traditional review format until the end. In any case I enjoyed The Western Front Part 1 and recommend it to readers.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book Review: Without Rule of Law by Joe Nobody

Today we will be reviewing Without Rule of Law by Joe Nobody. This book talks about how to assemble basic equipment consisting of (there is some discrepancy in the "line" concept between what he uses and what I am used to) your chest rig/ web gear, a rucksack and an assault pack put together with mission specific stuff. The book is broken into 4 sections about hiding, escape and evasion, infiltration and scavenging.

The Good: One of Joe Nobody's advantages is that he has no military experience (unless I missed something). Folks like myself, AP, John Mosby and Lizard Farmer spend half of our time explaining the terms and acronym's we use and inevitably miss a few. The way we talk is corrupted like people who live out in the Swamp and rarely come to town (nothing personal to folks in the Bayoo, I like you just fine but it was an arbitrary example and could have easily been mountains/ desert or whatever) so it is often hard for civilians to understand what the heck we are saying. Since Joe does not have this problem ordinary folks with no experience in the ground components of our armed forces (Army and Marines as well as some onesies and twosies elsewhere) will know what he is talking about.

Also at the end of each chapter (the sections have chapters) there is an exercise or two. These exercises logically flow from the subject of the chapter. The exercise for a chapter on putting together your web gear/ chest rig is to make a checklist of what your rig is, laminate it and keep it with your kit. A solid plan, especially for those items like weapons or electronics like a GPS or NVG which may be stored elsewhere. I especially appreciate that most of the exercises involve actually doing something. It is not "think about X, Y, Z" but "make a meal with the stuff from your kit" or something else that gets you out, using your gear and doing things.

While there were some tangents, both valuable and of questionable worth, the book sticks to a pretty concrete organization that makes sense. Some small how to's slip in with context and elements of operational planning (squad level) work their way in throughout the book.

Also Joe does a good job of touching on gear without getting bogged down that you need a Tan XYS Pouch from SammySeal industries or whatever.

The Bad: Some of the topics covered like camoflage really don't lend themselves well to a book. This is compounded by the use of terrible black and white pictures to illustrate points. I would say to either figure it out to print decent quality color pictures or cut out the pics that are too greyish and pixelized to be useful.

Joe seems to have a weird obsession with time. "Do a test to see how long you need to poop in the woods" and consider this in your operational planning. His desire to put small and nonimportant things into a timeline for an event baffles me. You need to plan a realistic timeline for the whole event that includes any hard times as well as plans involving other people or organizations. The best way to do this is to work backwards from when you want to be somewhere to figure out when you need to start preparing to go, when you need to leave and some timehacks in the middle to follow your progress. You do not need to figure out that of the 30 minutes you give yourself between waking up and starting the final packing list layout you will spend 5 minutes staring at the alarm clock wishing you could sleep another hour, 5 minutes using the toilet, 2 minutes washing your hands, 3 minutes brushing your teeth, 10 minutes drinking coffee, and 5 minutes getting dressed. In my opinion having been involved with numerous operations in training and the real world this is a utter waste of time.

This is odd because it links with a compliment from above. While Joe does a good job of not getting bogged down in Geardoisms at times more information would have been helpful. Joe talked about how cool a "survival net" is a lot and kept coming back to it. He has a serious net crush. Anyway I got to thinking this is kind of a cool thing and maybe I want one. Dude didn't mention a link or a model or even a brand. He mentioned all kinds of specifics but nothing I could put into google to find one and buy it.

I disagree with Joe on the composition of some of gear. Not going to debate point by point but there were times he suggested this or that and I disagree. In particular the chest rig he mentions carries TWO magazines, leaving you with three including the one in the gun. Personally that is far too few for my comfort.

[I think 3 mags is a decent home defense load but if I had to go outside or was going on some sort of trip/ mission I would carry at least 3 times that. You go through ammo so much faster than people who haven't experienced it would think. If the ammo is too heavy I recommend losing some weight off your middle and doing more running/ rucking. The argument of "I'm not looking for a fight" is to me invalid. First of all what you are looking for bears little relationship to what you might get. Second of all you aren't bringing a rifle because you think things are going really well.]

Ugly: In some areas I think Joe is reaching to the edge of, or past, his knowledge base in the writing of this book. Not saying he isn't a smart and skilled guy. Just that he may have at times ventured a bit too far from those areas. The saying "write about what you know" comes to mind here.

Discussion: A good section of this book is devoted to talking about finding and taking stuff. Stuff that doesn't necessarily belong to another person but certainly does not belong to you. Some folks call this looting and a lot of people would call it theft. I have seen other reviews for this book that are pretty critical of this.

Personally this section does not bother me. I am pragmatic so separating the head knowledge on how to do something from the ethical considerations and ultimately decision to do it is not an issue. In other words it might be useful to know how to do something even if I never decide to do it. However some folks might take offense at this. Joe doesn't go into detail on his ethical thought process or whatever but on this topic. However considering roughly 1/4 of this book is on the topic his views could probably be guessed.

Overall impression: I would recommend this book for folks without a military/ tactical background interested in some basic information on gear, camoflage and fieldcraft and some light operational planning. These folks could pay full price and probably be happy with the book. They will get a lot out of it though I do recommend they use it as a starting point, not a finishing point. Folks who have some experience in military fieldcraft, patrolling and basic operational planning (typically an Infantry type background) might want to avoid paying full price. These folks will likely get something from the book (I did) but it is better to pick up a used copy or borrow one from a friend to find out.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book to review.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Books Worth Reading: Guerilla War and Insurgencies

I was talking to a fellow recently who asked me about potentially putting together some sort of book list. I guess this is the first in the series though if you dig through past book reviews you could get some ideas. Maybe at some point I will make a stand alone page or something.

I really enjoyed On Guerilla Warfare by Che Guevara. Yeah the guy was a Commie but he fought a successful guerilla war. I have nothing in common with his beliefs or goals but I got a lot out of his writing. Now that I have a bit of a sense of the man (assuming he wasn't dead) it would be interesting to sit on a patio with a good bottle of run for an evening and discuss all manner of things. Definitely some lessons to be learned here. It is a quick read and I got a lot out of it. Definitely worth reading.

I also read Mao Tse-tung on Guerrilla Warfare. A total pedo and generally a terrible person but he did execure a successful insurgency against the Japanese then took control of China and kept it. This one is relatively long at 128 pages. It has that Oriental way of talking in a circular fashion around subjects. All the same I got some stuff from it.

Over the deployment I read and really enjoyed The Other Side of the Mountain. At some point you will see a review on it (I think it got stashed for a rainy day). The book is a sort of Soviet after action review from the side of the Afghan guerilla fighters. These two Soviet guys tracked down and talked to a bunch of former Afghan guerilla fighters and leaders. It is pretty long, some of the vignettes are redundant or boring and the maps are next to useless (I have absolutely no artistic skills and could make better maps after drinking a half bottle of Whiskey) but it is very worth reading. The insight of highly motivated and poorly equipped guerillas fighting a well equipped mechanized fighting force that has way too much ground to cover and varying motivation is very interesting.

The first book in the "series" The Bear Went Over The Mountain is also worth checking out. The guy I borrowed it from said it was best read while drinking vodka in a smoky bar. It was very interesting to me when I read it prior to deployment to Afghanistan. Maybe less interesting to most folks who read this site than the second book but reading one probably helps to gain understanding of the other.

Anyway that is some of what I have been up to in terms of reading. If you are interested in insurgencies or have been thinking G thoughts then checking some of these out (all PDF and thus FREE!) would be a good idea.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Book Review Trudge Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

This book and the second in the series “Soldier On” are written by Shawn Chesser. I am going to discuss/ review them together because it is just easier that way.

They are pretty much your quintessential zombie/ doomer porn type book. The basic plot is that a man is traveling across the country to find his family during a Zombie Apocalypse. A cynical person might say the author took “The Survivalist” series and added zombies. The main character is that a former special operations type, who used to be in an organization that rhymes with Shmenta Farce. They live in Portland, Oregon and his family went on vacation in South Carolina and he decides to go find and save them. The first book begins with the initial outbreak and ends at a logical break while he in inland West searching for his family. The second book takes off more or less where the first ended and finishes shortly after he is reunited with his family in Colorado. The plot leaves me with some solid ideas on where book three is going and it should be good. [I actually got confused and read them out of order but the second book does a good enough job catching you up that I got caught up enough for it to be OK which is always good. Also they aren’t exactly what you would call super deep.]

The Good: They are light, fast paced and entertaining. The action is consistent but pretty realistic. One guy doesn’t kill 30 dudes with guns who are shooting at him in an open field or head shoot 200 zombies in a row, no matter what his background is. Guns need to be reloaded and people run out of ammunition.
Also I appreciated that the books are quite fairly priced at 3-4 dollars for the kindle versions. Given the length and type of book they are I though it was a good value for my entertainment dollar. I do not think a physical book is available.

The main characters made use of back roads and forest service roads to get around. Certainly your best shot for travel in that sort of scenario. Also they used some basic convoy methods and had impromptu plans for communication (albeit on an open channel) which was smart, especially for a cobbled together group.
The main character uses an AR-15 and Glock 9mm’s pistols. Clearly he is a man of taste and distinction. I know it is dumb but I kind of like that they used guns I like.

The Bad: That the core of the book is that a guy decides to travel all the way across the country during the Zombie Apocalypse to find his wife and kid is a little bit implausible to me. I just don’t see that working for so many reasons. A nice sentiment and all but it is too ridiculous.

Also the supposed connection the character has, and the favors they get him are just not realistic. He a bit too conveniently always stumbled into an old buddy who can move mountains to assist him. Even for a guy who has better than average connections and a crazy time where folks bend our totally break rules it is just a bit too convenient. . I have a decent idea what kind of favors one can pull off and my BS detector was going off like crazy.

The Ugly: There really isn’t any ugly. If you are expecting a literary masterpiece you will face disappointment. One needs to realize that this is a definite nitche area and most folks in it are not professional book writers. For $4 doomer porn it is pretty solid.

Recommendation: It wouldn’t be my first recommendation for preparedness/ survivalism/ zombie fiction. However if you have worked through most of the more popular titles it is worth looking at. I didn’t really draw any lessons out of it but it was entertaining and fun to read. For the price it is well worth it but if you can get a copy free that is even better. Barnes and Noble promotional codes might save some change on more zombie or survival books.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Book Review Shatter by TC Sherry

This is book two of the deep winter series. To recap the last book began in the winter with a massive earthquake and ended with some other problems. This book sort of skims over the tail end of winter and covers the spring and summer. During this book bad turns into worse. It becomes apparent that the Spokane region and the PNW in general are not going to receive help from the outside and things are not going to return to any sort of old normal.

The Good: This book, as well as the previous book, lays out a compelling vision for a very bad future.
To me it is sort of a “and then what” kind of book. So things went to heck in a hand basket, you get stuff set up initially and after a couple months most of the looters have been naturally selected AND THEN WHAT. Folks start figuring out how to feed themselves in the long term, trade, reorganize society and move forward. That is what this book is about.

Basically in the first book after the earthquake things internationally then nationally go to hell in a hand basket. The dollar collapses and there is war.  In this book things get even worse, and then worse again, like dealing with all that had happened in the first one wouldn’t be enough.

The book brought up some interesting stuff when it comes to property rights, scavenging and ethics. What has been bothering me in a couple books I have read recently, and to some degree the first book in this series is hypocrisy. In this book the main characters actions on the whole were IMO were pretty close to what they expected from others. I won’t say that I agreed with every thing that happened but on the whole it wasn’t offensive and was very thought provoking so that was good.

I think this issue gets complicated if there is a significant die off or long term population shift. There are definitely more questions than easy answers as far as I am concerned. If folks are dead or gone and heirs are not able to be located who does the property belong to? If your neighbor was visiting his cousin in Maine and the balloon goes up at what point do you decide he isn’t coming back? What happens to his stuff?
I think it is pretty clear that stuff which belongs to people who are present or realistically may be present is theirs. However if things get nuts enough that big companies fall apart and such who do their buildings, stores and equipment belong to? Some level of nationalization albeit at a city or county level is likely, at least with this sort of stuff and is probably fairly ethical.

I liked that government didn’t magically go away. It is really a pipe dream to think that some sort of government won’t exist, especially at the local level of city and county. It will hopefully change and help set the conditions for people to take care of their selves, or at least not cause any real problems in a new world though it could get nasty and totalitarian.

In this book there was a sort of barter network that morphed into a sort of general store. For somebody with a knack for that sort of thing, access to a suitable space and some stuff to sort of seed the effort it might not be a bad idea to take some notes about that part. That people were more interactive vs just staying at their homes alone was good I think. People have a tendency to be social animals and it is difficult if not impossible to produce everything you could need or want. It definitely reinforced the desirability of being able to produce, above and beyond your own needs, something which people want.

Personally I do not stock things specifically for barter. However that is at least in part because I am not quite there yet. If one was so inclined they could probably do pretty well with a few hundred dollars of the right stuff. Stuff like kerosene, lamps, .22 LR and small game shotgun loads, sewing stuff, matches, booze, etc.
This book is a good reminder that in many ways local government is more important than at a higher level. To paraphrase Ragnar Benson the county zoning or agricultural commission is far more likely to cause problems in your life than men dressed in black carrying MP-5’s from an alphabet soup agency. This is probably far truer in a long term serious situation as they will have a lot more freedom to maneuver. Bad local governments could turn into little fiefdom’s or Stalinist collective experiments very easily.  It was also illustrated in the book that if people don’t stand up to these things as a group they will inevitably get dealt with piece mill and picked off accordingly.

The Bad:
There was a distinct flavor of population and resource control. Think checkpoints and fuel usage restrictions, curfews, etc. I think these would likely be reality in this sort of situation but it isn’t something I particularly like.
Checkpoints I think would be a fine idea, probably a necessity so long as they didn’t hamper the free movement of individuals in the area and allowed some sort of through passage through for those who need to get someplace. It kind of rubbed me the wrong way that there were passes for people who were deemed special which of course included the main characters. Personally in that situation I would be awful curious about who the heck decided which people were special and what the heck they thought gave them the right to say they could move around freely but I could not. They really didn’t go into detail on exactly what these restrictions were or how they affected people who, unlike the main characters, were not deemed to be special, so I can’t say if I really have an issue parse.

Fuel restrictions I have a hard time with. Now if the local government has fuel and is distributing it then some prioritization to EMS, food production, etc makes sense. However telling someone what they can do with fuel they have is another thing. If someone has a 300 gallon fuel tank in the barn and a 74 stingray and wants to go drag racing down their driveway it really isn’t anybodies business but theirs and their neighbors.
A few things happened that were just a little bit too convenient. The main characters stumbled into some stuff in a way that was awful darn lucky. Not so much as to really mess up the book but enough not to show the benefits of having some things squared away beforehand or the downsides of not having them squared away.
The author talks badly about politicians and government officials who are anything other than perfect public servants and folks who said public positions carry privilege. However the main character definitely uses his position to his advantage a few times getting favoritism or special treatment that Joe down the block wouldn’t. It was government choosing winners and losers at a small local scale. Nothing nasty parse, more like good old boy stuff.

The Ugly:
Not really anything ugly about the book in the usual sense that something is worse than the bad. However the book did expose (which is a good thing and thus doesn’t really belong in the bad part) a couple of ugly and very real possibilities. The first is that a default on our debt would cause all sorts of international problems. It is the kind of thing that starts wars. Even if our country fell apart we have a huge and awesome military. Somebody who thought we were weakened and that they could take advantage or attack our allies might be making a very serious mistake. Even if we were pretty tired and confused we could wipe the floor with most countries.

The next is that some places would try to continue suckling from the teat of government. Big, blue rustbelt and New England cities come to mind.

Lastly the balance of government would go all out of whack. Everyone more or less marches to the same drum in normal times and any pull from individual organizations or departments is canceled out by checks and balances or equaled out by pull from other organizations. However as people and agencies had competing visions, conflict over resources and such things might get crazy. The usually boring game of whose budget and staffing will go up by 3%, whose will stay the same and who might (though it rarely happens) face cuts could turn into serious infighting, like 3rd world stuff. Also in a die off scenario the whole line of succession thing could fall apart pretty easily leaving the US without a clear leader.

The vision of massive cascade failures laid out in this series is compelling, disturbing and seemingly plausible. I was familiar with that concept but had never heard the phrase before.

In closing I enjoyed this book and recommend it to readers. It is definitely worth paying $5 for the electronic edition.
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