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Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life Paperback – March 10, 2009
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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.
“Like a George Plimpton for the 21st Century, Neil Strauss has mastered the art of the professional amateur. In Emergency, he manages to find the humor in an otherwise frightening time, with wit, wisdom and often hilarious repercussions.” (David Swanson, Maxim)
“If you’ve ever wanted to beat the system, get off the grid, or become an escape artist, this is your manual.” (Tim Ferriss, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek)
“Strauss is well versed in the wit of pop-culture speak, so whether he’s explaining the acquisition of citizenship in a tropical locale, how to cut and cook a goat, or modes of extreme self-defense, his engaging voice pushes things along.” (Flavor Pill)
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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.
Neil has a way to write in an entertaining, easy-to-read manner. While the book isn't exactly a step-by-step guide, Neil dives into the many different forms of survivalist culture, from Elites getting second passports to lock-picking expert "urban survivalists". Towards the end, Neil utilizes all the skills he's picked up along the way, stepping into action when a true catastrophic event lands on his doorstep.
It wouldn't be a Neil Strauss book without discussing relationships. Neil includes how his ever-consuming survivalist lifestyle affected the relationship for better and for worse with his then-girlfriend. Very entertaining.
Even if you read it for strictly entertainment purposes, you will find this book amazing. If you are a fan of Neil Strauss, I highly recommend this book.
Top international reviews
Summary of the book - how to camp, how to survive in difficult conditions, how to escape when you are tied up, how to survive without electricity and running water - all excellent skills you can learn.
I disagree with some of the reviews, I think the content in this book CAN DEFINITELY save your life. (Obviously its up to you to locate similar courses/materials in your own country)
I've often thought about what will happen if disaster strikes and thought about ways to prepare for is, Strauss has had very similar views to mine (eg learning first aid, operating a radio, knife fighting, a bug out pack etc, learning how to use a gun). I only thought of these things, It was very nice to hear that he took it further and actually did it. By doing so, he has shown a pathway for me on how I can duplicate it myself.
I'm usually slow with books, but I read this in a week, it was a nice read and enjoyable.
If you are genuinely interested about what to do if society breaks down, Id recommend this book as a starter for sure.
Its probably encouraging for the average reader who doesn't see themselves as tough, [p.s. I'm actually super tough myself! :0)] because Strauss confesses himself, he wasnt a natural survivor, its something he learnt how to be.
I will probably never read it, the impulse is now just a fleeting memory
Still, I enjoyed the experience of spending money on it for no apparent reason, so I'm giving it 5 stars.
In the end, you also get a better interior 'peace' in a world that is not getting apparently a better place to live in.
Fascinating story and experiences.
Also the narrative draws you into the whole world and takes you on a true journey.
read and enjoyable. Neil writes amazing books. Definitely would recommend to anyone looking for an escape!