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Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life Paperback – March 10, 2009
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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Terrorist attacks. Natural disasters. Domestic crackdowns. Economic collapse. Riots. Wars. Disease. Starvation.
What can you do when it all hits the fan?
You can learn to be self-sufficient and survive without the system.
**I've started to look at the world through apocalypse eyes.** So begins Neil Strauss's harrowing new book: his first full-length worksince the international bestseller The Game, and one of the most original-and provocative-narratives of the year.
After the last few years of violence and terror, of ethnic and religious hatred, of tsunamis and hurricanes–and now of world financial meltdown–Strauss, like most of his generation, came to the sobering realization that, even in America, anything can happen. But rather than watch helplessly, he decided to do something about it. And so he spent three years traveling through a country that's lost its sense of safety, equipping himself with the tools necessary to save himself and his loved ones from an uncertain future.
With the same quick wit and eye for cultural trends that marked The Game, The Dirt, and How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, Emergency traces Neil's white-knuckled journey through today's heart of darkness, as he sets out to move his life offshore, test his skills in the wild, and remake himself as a gun-toting, plane-flying, government-defying survivor. It's a tale of paranoid fantasies and crippling doubts, of shady lawyers and dangerous cult leaders, of billionaire gun nuts and survivalist superheroes, of weirdos, heroes, and ordinary citizens going off the grid.
It's one man's story of a dangerous world–and how to stay alive in it.
Before the next disaster strikes, you're going to want to read this book. And you'll want to do everything it suggests. Because tomorrow doesn't come with a guarantee...
Questions for Neil Strauss
Amazon.com: What initially inspired you to write Emergency?
Strauss: It happened over the last eight years, watching as everything that we thought could never happen in America suddenly started happening. So I decided to take control over my own life, rather than being dependent on an increasingly undependable system, and worked toward becoming as self-sufficient, independent, skilled, and experienced as I could. That journey continues today.
Amazon.com: You use the term "Fliesian" in the book (as in Lord of the Flies). What is a Fliesian?
Strauss: Someone who believes that people, if put in a world where there are no consequences to their actions, will do horrible things.
Amazon.com: So how can we hold on to our kindness and humaneness in a crisis?
Strauss: Fortunately, in my experience, it is precisely these situations when you see the best in people come out. The worst in some tends to arise only when the resources one needs to survive are scarce and there is competition for them.
Amazon.com: Do you think that this book is catering to a fear-based culture?
Strauss: Actually, the book is less about spreading fears than getting over them. What most of us fear is the unknown, and we fret about what’s going to happen in an uncertain future when we consider the calamities of the past. I decided to no longer react to the things I read in newspapers, but instead to understand them. So I took each worst-case scenario to the extreme, and experienced many of the things that used to make me anxious. I guess, in that way, it was like a more interesting, adventurous Prozac.
Amazon.com: A lot of writers these days are basing books on various year-long stunts: read the encyclopedia for a year, always say "yes" for a year, have sex with your wife every day for a year. But your brand of immersion journalism, in Emergency and in The Game, is more open-ended--and more personal--than that. Do you draw any sort of line between the books and your life?
Strauss: My books never begin as books. They usually begin as some sort of lack I recognize in my life and try to fix with the help of the most qualified experts I can find. Often, these people are not in the public eye, but hidden in a splinter subculture. And while I’m trying to get taken under their wing, I realize at some point I’m spending so much time trying to learn and improve that I might as well have something to show for it, so I write a book.
Amazon.com: One of the first subcultures you embedded yourself in was a cabal of billionaires. Are wealthy people safer than the rest of us?
Strauss: No, they’re more scared than the rest of us. That’s why they’re taking so many precautionary measures. They are defined by their money, and now that identity is crumbling around them. You can’t buy safety. Those who are the most safe are the ones with knowledge, skills, and experience.
Amazon.com: You describe the philosophy of the sphincter in Emergency. What is that?
Strauss: I learned that from one of my defense instructors. The basic idea is that, in a high-pressure situation, the first thing that happens is people get nervous and uptight. And as soon as your sphincter tightens, as the metaphor goes, it cuts off circulation to your brain. So one of the best survival skills you can have is the ability to quickly and coolly assess a situation rather than panicking and doing something stupid.
Amazon.com: From your wilderness survival training, it sounds like you're in pretty good shape if things ever hit the fan. But what if you live in the city?
Strauss: That’s a good point. A lot of the wilderness survival skills I learned don’t take into account that, in America today, there’s little actual wilderness left. So I took a class called Urban Escape and Evasion. As the teacher put it, “Once you learn lockpicking, the world is your oyster.” He also taught car hot-wiring, evading pursuit vehicles, and, as an exam, handcuffed me, put me in a trunk, and told me I had to escape. It was one of the most interesting classes I’d taken in my life. If I’d known these skills in high school, I definitely would have been expelled.
Amazon.com: The book has a surprising trajectory--surprising to the reader and I think to you as well. You start out looking for a way to get out of Dodge if one of many possible disasters strikes, but as you develop your survival skills, instead of becoming a lone wolf in the woods, you start becoming tied to your community, as an EMT and a trained crisis management worker (not to mention a goat midwife). It's actually pretty heartwarming. Did you see any of that coming?
Strauss: Definitely not. I had no idea that when disasters happen now, instead of running away from them, I’d be running toward them and trying to be of some use to the community. I think that, if there’s a silver lining in the dark cloud that is the economy right now, it’s that hard times bring people closer together. Now is the time to get to know your neighbors. You never know when you may need them.
Amazon.com: Has your experience writing Emergency affected you differently from your experience writing The Game?
Strauss: Yes, because now, at 3 a.m. on a Saturday night, my search-and-rescue pager will go off and I’ll have to stop doing what I learned in The Game and start doing what I learned in Emergency.
From Publishers Weekly
The controversial author of The Game is back with a safer—of sorts—guide. With the U.S. threatened from within and without (e.g., swine flu, all sorts of religious extremists, subprime mortgages), the author takes three years of wilderness survival and lock-picking classes in an effort to learn how to survive anything from online hackers to terrorist plots. Witty, self-deprecating, and full of weird tips (how to fashion your credit card into a knife), the book is done justice by Strauss's careful reading. The pacing is purposeful and Strauss's youthful tone is flush with humor alongside a steady emphasis on the key ideas. A HarperCollins/It hardcover. (Mar.)
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Top customer reviews
I have a lot of "dooms-dayer" and "prepper" friends and family members who are strong believers in the apocalypse and that right now is the time to stock up on food, water, guns, ammo, cigarettes, and tampons.
And before this book, those ideas just didn't speak to me. Not even remotely.
So I read it to become more educated about the mindset of the "dooms-dayers," and perhaps gain some insight on how to best prepare for an apocalyptic scenario, or at least the moment WSHTF.
Mission accomplished. This book delivered both outcomes for me. It also cracked me up, and made me quite grateful for my life, however temporary it may be.
After reading it, I walked away feeling all the more committed to living my life with the intention of making the world better, as opposed to preparing for my potential doom or limping survival.
Here's a beautiful, apt, and terrifying snippet that sums up the essence of what I gleaned from the book:
"On every highway, there's a drunk driver hurtling at 80 miles an hour in two tons of steel. In every neighborhood, there's a thief armed with a deadly weapon. In every city, there's a terrorist with a bloody agenda. In every nuclear country, there's a government employee sitting in front of a button. In every cell in our body, there's the potential to mutate into cancer. They are all trying to kill us. And they don't even know us. They don't care that if they succeed, we will never know what tomorrow holds for us.
The tragedy of life – robbing it of its fullness and brilliance – is the knowledge that we might die at any moment. And though we schedule our lives so precisely, with calendars and day planners and mobile phones and personal information management software, that moment is completely beyond our control.
Death is a guillotine blade hanging over our heads, reminding us every second of every day that this life we treasure so much is no more important to the universe than those of the 200,000 insects each of us kills with the front of our car every year.
Nature knows no tragedies or catastrophes. It knows no good or evil. It knows only creation and destruction. And one can never truly be happy and free, in the way we were as children before learning of our mortality, without At some point confronting our destruction. And all we can ask for, all we can hope for, all we can beseech God for, is to win a few battles in a war we will ultimately lose."
Neil is a great writer, and on top of these eloquent insights, he has hilarious stories peppered all throughout this. It's almost like reading a too-true fiction. I definitely recommend reading it if you're interested in the subject.
With that being said, I do not agree with the deliberately provocative title, even though I think it's a great curio. This book is not likely to save my life - but some of the ideas this book offered just might be worth pursuing well before the moment WSHTF.
Some of the other reviews criticize the book by saying you could only do what he did if you have a lot of cash laying around, but I do not think that is necessarily true. Granted, some of the things he did are expensive but (1) you don't have to do everything in a year or two like Strauss did and (2) I haven't looked but I'm sure there are cheaper options for many of the things he bought and/or did.
Other reviews say it's unhelpful if you were a boy scout or live in the country, and that may be true. I live in NYC, and as of now I have no idea what I would do with myself if society collapsed. But, I want to change that. For someone like me, the book is a great help because it gives you a place to start and it shows that even city dwellers can learn to take care of themselves.
I highly recommend this book to people who do not know where to begin learning about becoming a survivalist (I know the connotations that word has, but I cannot think of a better one). You will likely want to do some more reading when you finish it, but it's a great place to start.
The trajectory the author was on has more to do with what is happening and what steps to take in the USA, in my humble opinion. For someone who has more-or-less disconnected myself from that grid, it worked to shock me out of my complacency.
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Plus it should be followed up by reading another important Amazon book, Escape...Read more