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Customer Review

1,951 of 2,097 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but misses the boat, October 6, 2009
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This review is from: How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times (Paperback)
Rawles is a great non-fiction writer, and this is a well written book. However, it has some major faults:

- The book is for hard core survivalists only. It assumes complete and absolute break down of civilization. It does not deal with "simpler" short-term emergencies (tornado, fire, flood) that you can ride out living in your normal urban or suburban environment. The book is practically all about establishing a well-stocked remote rural retreat, which you defend tooth-and-nail against looters and invaders, while keeping the curtains down not to let them see your window lights.

- Rawles preaches to the choir, not to the uninitiated. If you are not familiar with the survivalist vernacular and have not read similar books / blogs, you will find this book a little jarring and over your head. In fact, Rawles often cross-references his fiction novel Patriots as supplementary guide. Speaking of preaching to the choir: all these five stars reviews which are highly rated as helpful - feel free to ignore the ones written before October 2. Given that this book started shipping on the last day of September and is not available for Kindle, there is simply no way people could have received and read the book before Friday October 2. Rawles is known for encouraging his blog readers to all buy the book on the same day to create a "bestseller" effect on Amazon, and this carries over to the reviews. So beware.

- Book is way too tiny and short for much useful learning. In fact, each chapter is basically a thoughtful intro followed by a list of items to get, with some quick facts (e.g. how long honey or wheat can be stored, where to buy the containers, etc). There is barely any attempt to teach survival attitude and skills - those are farmed out to other books or training courses. To the author's credit, he has plenty of great pointers to other books and courses. However, you are much better off going there in the first place.

- Rawles has a misanthropic, dog-eat-dog sense to his writing, both in this book and in Patriots. It is too much about hunkering down in your darkened bunker, eating MREs, and using plenty of ammo to keep the less fortunate souls away. While it is possible that a major event could end civilization as we know it, I do wish Rawles had a more positive tone and attitude, at least when trying to covert newcomers to his cause :)

There is one really big issue with hard core survivalism in general. If a truly massive global or nationwide disaster comes to pass, the likelihood of surviving it is low, no matter how well you prepare. Surviving a nuclear war or a mass epidemic is unlikely, and more about random chance than preparation. The survivors are bound to come together in sizable groups for strength and protection. If a well armed gang or ex-military unit converges on one of the Rawles-style rural retreats, game is over. So at the end of the day, at least to me, hard-core survivalism comes across as a militaristic make-believe game, mostly indulged by paranoid guys. Last but not least, unlike "soft-core" temporary disaster survival, what Rawles recommends is expensive and requires major lifestyle changes, which limits its appeal tremendously.

So, what's good about this book? The chapters on food storage and vehicles stand out. Also, if you are looking for a primer on surviving a major end-of-civilization disaster, this is a great starting point. To the author's credit, his survival blog has more readers than most daily newspapers, so he knows his stuff, whether you agree with him or not.
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Showing 1-10 of 91 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 7, 2009 4:46:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 12, 2009 6:46:25 PM PDT
I think this is the first valid (less than 5 star) critical review I have seen, well done. I am a Rawles fan and share his view that the worst may tend to come out in people in a cataclysm. I hope we're wrong. I also agree with your analysis that his style is geared toward a "true believer" audience. There is much to be learned from him but you have a valid point that there is another group of people that seek a more positive message whether they know it or not, and will ultimately fail to benefit from Mr. Rawles knowledge because of the delivery.

Posted on Oct 21, 2009 1:48:12 PM PDT
Tad says:
"It is too much about hunkering down in your darkened bunker, eating MREs, and using plenty of ammo to keep the less fortunate souls away."

I am new to Rawles, so I don't come with any preconceived baggage of him. Considering how frequently he focuses on having extra supplies for Charity, I don't understand that last bit at all. He speaks of ammo for defense against harm and hunting. He speaks of Charity for the 'less fortunate souls'.

Nevermind that he dismisses MREs as only useful for your get-out-of-dodge bag and instead preaches relying on a well-stocked larder / farming / hunting once you're into the 'hunkering down' phase.

Posted on Oct 25, 2009 2:11:08 PM PDT
Terrific review. I just wanted to note that books are often released as advance reader copies for reviews. They may not be in final form, but close. That may be a source for legitimate early reviews.

Posted on Oct 29, 2009 9:11:32 PM PDT
Ha! I was expected to get slammed for this review. Thanks for your encouraging words.

I just want to add that Rawles's blog is a really good resource. In fact, based on it, I was expecting the book to be stronger overall; there is plenty of material that could have been added to make this book an even better reference.

Posted on Nov 13, 2009 9:50:03 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 13, 2009 9:50:41 AM PST
The Man says:
There is no sense in being only halfway prepared. Rawles prepares you for the worst. If you are ready for the tiny chance that the worst might happen and you are lucky enough to live through it, you can survive all of the more common survival situations (power outages, short term unrest, disasters).

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 22, 2009 7:23:04 PM PST
J. G. Runner says:
I agree. I, nor my family, are fully prepared for a cataclysmic or worst case event as depicted in the book Patriots. So, obviously we are unprepared for the worst case scenario. We should not prepare for 72 hours without water, power, gas etc. It is all or nothing right? I should not prepare for 72 hours of emergency power or even radio communications as a licensed ham. I should only prepare for the "worst." There is no sense in being prepared for a day, week, month or even a year!!!

Posted on Dec 17, 2009 5:18:45 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Dec 13, 2010 10:07:38 AM PST]

Posted on Jan 4, 2010 7:22:47 PM PST
"The book is for hard core survivalists only."
"Rawles has a misanthropic, dog-eat-dog sense to his writing,"
"I do wish Rawles had a more positive tone and attitude"
"what Rawles recommends is expensive and requires major lifestyle changes, which limits its appeal tremendously. "

Uh..... the title of the book is "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It", not "How to Win Friends and Influence People While Saving Money During a Blackout"

Sheesh!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2010 12:52:19 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 8, 2010 12:52:36 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2010 8:27:26 PM PST
W. Reid says:
Exactly, this isn't how to survive a "Weekend at Bernie's".
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