Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: A Distant Eden
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on August 10, 2012
I wasn't sure I should write a review for this one. It falls into the "Meh" category as liking it, meaning I didn't really. On top of that, I noted that most critical reviews have a suspiciously high number of "not helpful" votes, indicating partisanship not in line with anyone accepting unbiased reviews. Nevertheless, I had to write it simply because of the mistaken impressions it seems that many who liked the book came under with respect to the advice and the attitude.

Overall, the story revolves around a fellow named Roman who, as our protagonist, ushers us through the events following a major solar flare that disrupts our modern life by frying our electronics.

For anyone who "toshes" that this can't happen, be assured that such an event can happen and has surely happened in the past to varying degrees. For the most part, we human animals wouldn't really note much of it and haven't been significantly impacted by it. With electronics, the whole game has changed and it would present a watershed of change that we would be ill equipped to deal with. In that respect, I also respect the author's attempt to help and do so in a manner meant to be entertaining.

But that is pretty much where my admiration ends for this book.

Some of the advice is downright deadly. Food is not just for calories, it is for a variety of nutritional needs that includes fats, vitamins and minerals and so on. Anyone who believes that old dry beans and corn will do, is in for a nasty case of scurvy, bodily weakness and other illnesses in the long run. Beans become hard with age...yes, even those #10 cans packed for Long Term Storage. They require milling into meal after a while and even then will not necessarily soften but rather be small enough for a very long boil followed by incorporation into a sort of bread or mush with other ingredients. Just an FYI for folks.

As for the action situations, some of it was disturbingly arrogant, foolhardy and would not work. As another reviewer wrote and I concur with, riding a bike in the dark at high speed is probably one of the stupidest things ever. The concept of moving up in a wave like that is smarter...always have someone watch your back...but the way it was done is very likely to leave anyone who tries it in real life laying on the side of the road with a broken leg or head right when there is no technology to help heal him or her.

And the morality...good grief, who would do this? While I tend to be considered rather "hard" when it comes to the "what would you do if..." situations get spoken of, the hypocrisy and hubris here is just astounding. Killing a woman and child because the man with them poached a deer? Because they have no "protector"? So, by some miracle of omniscence Roman knows it would be better to be murdered than for them to make their way in life? And exactly how in a world without GPS where so many are dead is a wandering bunch of people going to know that they happened upon a deer that happened to belong to a person who was still alive? And then to have to thin the deer herd later. What an asshat.

Let's be real. If it is okay to go collect stuff from areas where you know folks are dead but not okay for someone to grab a deer in a desolate bit of country then someone is a tad delusional. Just as the collector knows there is a chance that the owner or their legitimate heirs may, somewhere, be alive the hunter may not know that the property he hunts belongs to a private entity jealous of it's bounty.

Also, I had to laugh about the whole special forces thing. As a 26+ year (and still going) military officer I can safely say that getting a few days of training from a bunch of shooters does NOT a special forces soldier make. The scene was to pat and far too easily done.

Overall, this book reminded me of a lot of the more poorly done fiction on the message boards done by people whose only real experience with a major "hit the fan" episodes is via the same message board and a lot of fantasies. I really can't recommend this book and utter a caution to anyone thinking to use these tactics, preparations or justifications as a part of their planning.
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on March 27, 2012
The basics: The technological, civilized, industrial world comes to an end with a giant Carrington event (solar storm). The author looks at the efforts of a small group of people, led by a man who planned carefully, to survive.

If I were rating this as a $9.99 novel, it would deserve one, at most two stars. However, the author is very upfront about his intentions: he wants this to be not simply a novel, but at least as much a guide that will both provide information on concepts he develops in detail, and inspire people to search out more information on concepts he sketches over lightly.

As a result (and to give him credit, he acknowledges this), he falls woefully short on sketching realistic characters, to say nothing of showing character development. For a presumably self-published work, basics like spelling, grammar and word choice are generally quite sound with only a few errors/quirks. His female characters are particularly lightly sketched, though no worse than some fairly big-name authors like Harold Coyle.

The author's style can most kindly be described as workmanlike. That implies a bit of stodginess, but it also implies competence. He develops the story in parallel threads, each reaching a climax of suspense/violence at the same time. A trifle cliche, but in his hands he makes it work reasonably well as a technique. The quality of his dialog tends to range from adequate to penny dreadful, with most of it being adequate. As noted above, there really is no character development, something the author readily acknowledges.

The temporal flow of the story feels somewhat forced: the author is clearly trying to pack in information and forcefully present some fairly abrupt (but rational) shifts in morality.

Not surprisingly, he is at his strongest when conveying information (and opinions) relating to survival after a catastrophe. I also rather liked his dry, but competent exposition of the potential for social redevelopment and [re]construction of a trading society from the ashes.

Given his intent, I give him three stars, and a bonus star, partly for effort, partly for the harsh but rational way he presents moral choices, and partly for a surprisingly good execution overall.

If you're looking for a good disaster novel, this isn't it. If you're looking for a post-apocalypse novel with zombies, this really, really, really isn't it. But if you're looking for something that's a decent read and is filled with fairly good research (and many more starting points for your own research) on survival, then this could be it.

Overall, I commend the author. This was clearly a labour of love, and his effort shows. At $0.99, I'd definitely enjoy seeing more from the author, provided he works at polishing his craft.
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on June 13, 2012
The author says this is intended to be a combination survival manual and novel. Both are bad.

First, as a survival manual, there is a bunch advice that will get you sick or dead. As an example; "pasteurizing" water will NOT kill the spores of Giardia and, if you're in a warm climate, a whole host of other water-borne parasitic spores and eggs. Riding a bicycle without lights and full-speed on a moonless night on a road with unknown obstructions is an invitation to broken bones. Eating beans and corn as your sole diet will keep you going... until you develop scurvy in about a month. Example after wrong example; where did the author get all this?

Then I realized; it's all from books. The author read some books and became a survival "expert". Didn't check his sources, either.

It shows in the novel, too. One of the characters kills a poacher (who just killed a deer), then kills his wife and kid because "they no longer have their protector, it's the only merciful thing". After some doomsday philosophic babble, it's decided that it was the right thing to do. A few chapters later, it turns out that the protagonists have to go a kill "at least 20 deer" to thin the herd. This isn't only a moral issue (and bad moral judgments eventually have very bad consequences); these are the kind of people who are a danger to everyone. Another example: they go and attack a well-defended compound because they were spying on them and kill everyone (justification: they had slaves and were "bad"). No problems there, either; machine guns, military advice and a perfect defensive setup don't stop them because they have five SF super-soldiers who train them for a few days. And everyone they meet is either a helpless victim or an incompetent "bad" person who freezes in astonishment when they attack.

Armchair survivalist, armchair general and really, really bad neighbor if a disaster happens. But really, really sure he knows what he's doing. If you follow this advice you won't last long; if the parasites don't kill you your neighbors will.
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on June 15, 2012
I went into this with a open mind, particularly after reading the author's introduction. My mistake. The author is very up-front when he mentions the "minuses" of his particular style of writing. Unfortunately I discovered this was much like a mechanic saying "This is my first day..." while tearing apart your transmission.

"...a cross between fiction and a survival instruction manual" should read "...a cross between fantasy and a litany of survival hyperbole while invoking images of "Camping with the Manson Family".

The writing was bad, even with the author's disclaimer at the forefront: One-dimensional good-guys who are incapable of making bad decisions or mistakes and zero-dimensional bad guys who are only capable of bad decisions and mistakes, which usually are merely the result of being within effective rifle range of the "good" guys. And of course, every survival group must have a Rambo-style super-soldier with reflexes "six-times faster than the average person" and, incidentally, the Army's top hand-to-hand fighter to boot! Really? Can I order one for my survival kit? That is belayed a tiny bit by the bad-guys having the 7-foot tall "champion all time cage fighter" (How did he get here?!).

The author's first-hand knowledge of the military certainly doesn't show. (Note: The author's bio states that he joined the Army in 1971, "... one of the few volunteer soldiers of the era...". I would submit that volunteers compromised 75-80% of US military during the Vietnam era (1964-1975).)
All the secondary soldiers are carbon-copy clones and automatons with no personal moral codes or ethical thoughts: Not a one has any family anywhere else they might want to get to or are even concerned about? And pasting all soldiers as cold-blooded killing machines capable of turning their own weapons on desperate, starving civilians without the slightest moral objection or even consideration is a major slam to the U.S. Military and something I personally take offense to.

As a survival instruction manual, this is way below par. The techniques mentioned are not really going to help anyone. And there is a lack of logical thought behind them. For instance: I am just curious why someone who has been planning for this exact situation all his life would wait until after the event to make a fish trap from bamboo when good quality metal ones could be purchased before hand? Boggles the mind... .

Otherwise, the whole "mindset" thing is just ludicrous. Agreed, mindset is the most important part of survival. However, the author's definition of mindset takes what we would assume to be well-adjusted members of society and turns them into homicidal sociopaths whose actions are tempered only by paranoia and itchy trigger-fingers. It appears the author feels that the only method to survive is to kill everyone you meet simply based on the assumption that they are as maladjusted as you. In one instance, the main character drives like a maniac toward a police officer waving him down. The officer then justifiably draws his service weapon, so the main character murders him without a second thought. All before anyone really knows what is really going on. Another character (identified as a good Christian(??)) murders a woman and child and self-justifies it as a mercy killing since their "provider" was killed moments earlier after "poaching" a deer (ironically in order to feed his family) from a herd that had to be thinned out anyway.

If the author is to be taken seriously as a survival "expert", it in a way confirms the suspicions of some that "survivalists" or "preppers" (the new popular term) are crack-pots who need to be watched carefully.

I would recommend "One Second After" by William R. Forstchen
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on October 30, 2012
The first part of the book was interesting, generally providing some good survival advice. As stated, the book was supposed to be a hybrid survival guide/novel. Unfortunately halfway through the book I started rolling my eyes constantly. Portraits of vicious feral swine predators went way too far. Swine can get mean, I've spent my fair share of time on a hog farm, but they are opportunistic, and won't go actively tracking down prey like a predator. Also, all the characters are psychopaths. I know survival would be tough, and take some hard decisions about sharing food. But this is extreme, murdering people just becasue they may compete for resources? Then not even eating the people they shot? If I'm the type of person who kills an unarmed woman and child, then I sure as heck am the type of person who eats them to stay alive. Thats about as far as I got. When I constantly have to roll my eyes or say "You've got to be kidding me!", it's time to close the book and spend my time elsewhere.
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on November 4, 2012
I got this in the Kindle edition for free a few days ago during a free day. I like PA fiction, and it had a lot of good reviews, so I downloaded it. At free I am not out anything if it turns out to be not worth paying for.

This one has a bunch of reviews. Most quite positive.

5 star: (47)
4 star: (31)
3 star: (11)
2 star: (4)
1 star: (10)

It bills itself as both a story and an instruction guide. It really is not especially good at either. I read the whole thing so it gets the minimum of 2 stars for a book I actually finish. But, like a lot of self publsihed PA fiction, it really is not very good.

The story starts with some kind of EMP like event that destroys the electrical grid. Apparently in the author's world, it is OK to be a cold blooded murderer as long as one is a Christian, as a couple of the main characters are portrayed as Christians and go around murdering people for their stuff, and if they think the people might be some kind of even remote threat, or just too clueless to survive (they murder them out of mercy).

There is some level of creativity in the depiction of events that I have to give the author credit for.

As for the instruction manual side of it, it is pretty pathetic. A few parts have some decent advice, but most of it seems more likely to get you killed then to help you survive.

The dialog between characters is classic - in an "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" bizarre kind of way. Here is a sample that is pretty typical.

"You guys are ready. You guys are good. I am proud of every one of you. I know we're going to win. We may take casualties, but our enemy will cease to exist and we will remain standing."

Of course they take no casualties and slaughter the enemy, in part by sneaking into their barracks and slitting the throats of every other soldier.

I could pick on this book for many pages, but it would serve no real purpose. Read the other 1 and 2 star reviews.

As for the writing, it is not too awful. Better then average for PA fiction from self published authors, but sadly, that is saying very little. I found the dialog to be mostly bizarre, with much of the action scenes better written, if not real believable. There are the typical typos, spelling errors, grammar errors, and continuity errors that you almost always see in self published stuff. In this case, they were not too awful, nor real numerous, so I kind of gave the book a bit of a pass on them as I tend to do with self published books. The author just cannot afford to pay someone to edit and proofread his book, so you get what you get. The poor writing does not improve the book any, but it does not kill it either.

I can't explain the number of 4 and 5 star reviews for books that are this mediocre, bordering on just plain bad. But I have seen it before with other books of similar quality.
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on December 30, 2012
This book is as poor of a work as I have read in the past 5 years. It bills itself as both a survival guide and a novel and fails spectacularly at both. It is profoundly misogynistic and shows that the author has little respect for the abilities of women. I really wish I had not read it but I enjoy the genre and you unfortunately encounter works of such poor quality as this one. This author makes so many assumptions based on no kind of science or rational thought that it is boggling where he got his information. I hope that any of you reading this will take a look at the other reviews and decide to bypass this work. If you are observant you can see that the "author" attacks the critical reviews and praises those who don't know enough to see through this low brow stab at survivalist lore and fiction. I am not going to go on about the many poor elements of this book but in short, there is almost no character development, a completely amoral view of humanity and survival, and very very poor information that is not applicable to urban or country living off the grid and current distribution system. If this author would actually practice the way he writes in a horrible event then I hope he and his kind are the first to go for the benefit of all humankind. The advent of self publishing has been a wonderful thing but has also made many people with no talent take up writing and propagate uneducated and unsubstantiated information. Also, when an author encourages friends and family to write positive reviews based on their personal feelings for the author instead of their ability to write, they are stealing from you. If anyone cares to do just a little detective work with social media sites it is easy to see the "reviews" that correlate with people based on personal relationships. This author may be a great person and friend but is not a great author and hopefully will not publish any more. Best of luck and happy reading.
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on October 13, 2013
SPOILERS

You can read all the other low stared reviews to find the bad advice, and moral issues. One thing I haven't seen mentioned is the "Boss Fight" at the end. A stereotypical 7 foot tall 350 pound behemoth, who has been in a thousand fights including ones where he has killed several men, and is extremely full of himself, gets challenged by a little guy who kills him in a second. Nearly everyone has heard the story of David and Goliath,you do not need to retell it.

And secondly, It is revealed at the start of the book that Roman is working at an office job in rural Texas, but throughout the book it tells of more and more and more things he has saved up for this day. How did he afford all of this? It is possible but i find it extremely unlikely that an average salary could afford all the books, the still, saved up food and its packaging on top of raising children and living a normal life.
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on November 30, 2012
End of times books, have become my genre of choice lately.
I started to enjoy this book (even when the survival "tips" became drawn out). I read the forward, so I knew what to expect. However, the ending was just boring. The author gets you pumped up and leaves you very flat. I also feel as though you really never get to know any of the characters.
In a genre that has many books to chose from, I would skip this one.
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on February 6, 2014
There are lots of previous reviews, so I'll be brief.

Summary: Kill everyone else who might be hungry. And their families. Then thank God you're a decent Christian. Soldiers are saints and supermen, the rest of us are stupid dependents of the state.

Tackitt posits that a huge solar flare could occur at at time when the earth has a polar magnetic reversal, two extremely rare events that could occur together once in a few hundred million years or so. So he recommends wrapping your spare car fuses in foil to block the EM force. Trouble is that this is crazy. Your fuse won't blow, because it is not a part of a large connected circuit. It's just a little piece of metal. Even if it could (and it couldn't), some aluminum foil would not stop it. Drop a nail in an empty beer can and wave a magnet over it. The nail will rattle around as if the can was not there. You may as well use the foil to prevent the CIA from controlling your mind.

His protagonist (Roman) has been preparing for this almost impossibly unlikely event for decades. So he drives 80 miles to his lair every day. He is prepared with food and arms, and therefore deserves to survive.

Why doesn't he prepare for the calamities that are far more likely? Or even try to prevent them? Global warming will kill lots of us in our lifetime, according to people who actually know about this. That fossil fuels will eventually be gone is a certainty, with about the same result as in the book. If Roman had spent decades riding public transit and trying to persuade others to limit consumption, instead of persuading them to arm themselves to the teeth and kill without mercy, I would respect this character.

The author notes how quiet and efficient and useful bicycles are, after TSHTF, why doesn't he recommend them now? Another 'hero' of the book controls and viciously defends a fenced 1000 acre area. How practical is this for the average Joe?

This is a readable, if very immoral and absurd book. I worry from the comments that many readers will buy some water, dried food and a bunch of ammo. What they should do is assess the likelihood of potential problems and work on solutions in advance.
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