Customer Reviews: Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life
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on March 31, 2009
I read an excerpt of this book on Tim Ferriss's blog, and I bought it on the presumption that it would answer some of the questions set forth. Namely, how are wealthy people preparing for potential economic emergencies and how will Neil, a not-so-wealthy author, use that information to prepare himself? Tim Ferriss talks about how he gets "in" with the author to find out about the "mysterious 5 flags." He later summarizes the book as follows:

"Neil's new book, Emergency, teaches you how to become Jason Bourne.

Multiple passports, moving assets, lock-picking, escape and evasion, foraging, even how to cross borders without detection (one preferred location: McAllen, Texas, page 390)-it's a veritable encyclopedia of for those who want to disappear or become lawsuit-proof global citizens."

That is not at all what this book is actually about. It has more in common with 'Travels with Charley' than 'Bourne Identity'

What this book is not:
1. A manual that dwells on options. Example, the only solution Neil offers for economic safeguarding is wiring $500,000 to St. Kitts and buying property there, and later becoming a citizen. Not a scalable solution.
2. About currency, passports, swiss banking etc. - basically all the topics about becoming a "lawsuit-proof global citizen" or opening up your personal options internationally are glossed over. The law firm in charge of "lawsuit proofing" Neil is under investigation by the end of the book.
3. A practical guide to anything really that can save your life, unless you take it to be advice that you should take a half dozen survivalist courses and practice sleeping in your backyard.

What this book is:
1. Aw-shucks musings about his girlfriend, who he presents as nails-on-chalkboard ditzy and selfish, but gosh darn it, if ya look at it the right way, downright wise! If the phrase "I'm going to Kendra's" will somehow save your life, then perhaps this is the book for you.
2. A page turner - all in all a pretty good story. I read it in one sitting without too much boredom.
3. FULL of celebrity name dropping and other very dishy stuff about his billionaire friends. "When I saw Leonard Cohen..." "When I crashed Tom Cruise's bike..." "I looked over toward President Clinton..." "Trisha (Yearwood) wanted us backstage..." Lots of glam setup for a story basically about a guy learning to camp.
4. A classic 'city slicker wises up' type story with the feel good ending that Neil decides to help people at the end by becoming an EMT. It even features the "begrudging respect" when someone he initially dismisses turns out to have some value in their "potato head."
5. Very heavily weighted toward caching/stashing food, emergency toilets, camping, foraging, knife and gun skills, tracking etc. However, all of these topics are approached anecdotally, as in "I can identify over 700 kinds of tracks" with only one photographic example, and no real segue into how this relates to anything.

All in all it was an entertaining read, but I wouldn't recommend it to perform as advertised because there isn't anything in it that is truly useful.
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on March 10, 2009
The book is a good read for its entertainment value. Sure, with enough money you can really do and buy whatever you will want or need. Some of the things in the book are basic boy scout things. If you were not a boy scout, or you lived in a big city all your life you will learn lots from the book. If you grew up hunting, fishing, and camping you will do alright if stuff gets that bad. Beware, Neil is heavy on the George Bush bashing so if you are tired of that...... well.... maybe not your type of book.

The second half of the book is much better than the first half. Most of the cool stuff is after the halfway point. After looking up some of the things he bought and was taught, it was an expensive endeavor for sure. Learning to shoot a handgun cost him more than $2,000. The Rokon, more than $5k. The biggest thing I walked away with, from the book, was that it is probably a good idea to teach/introduce your kids as much non-book knowledge as you can while they are young. Fear is learned, lack of understanding comes from lack of experience, and little kids are like sponges.

Although I gave it a 3, I do recommend the book. After all, given the times we are living you might just have to use some of the things in the book.
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on March 11, 2009
Truth can be stranger than fiction, and that's the case in Emergency.

Neil Strauss wonders what he would do if the world as we know it failed to function as it does currently. What would he do if an event the magnitude of 9/11 or Katrina took place in his hometown? No more electricity, iPods, takeout food or Seinfeld reruns.

The book begins with him as a typical "city boy", knowing nothing about survival. In similar fashion to The Game he seeks out the best of the best to learn the skills he feels he needs to survive. And also similar to The Game he takes all this knowledge and moves beyond it, creating his own interpretations.

At times while reading this book I was tempted with ideas ranging from calling my financial planner to see about moving my money to something more secure to thoughts of leaving the country. Other times I was laughing hysterically.

This was one of those books that I just couldn't put down. Within 24 hours of purchase I had read all 418 pages. It was entertaining, it made me laugh and it made me think.

Highly recommended to any American living in 2009.
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on March 15, 2009
As with Strauss's previous two books, I read this one in one sitting. Strauss's very interesting technique of submerging himself in a subject and its sub-culture and becoming an exemplar member of it, to then come out and write a book, full of wit, intelligence and relevantly pondering important questions related to it, is why his books are so enjoyable.
In his book The Game he proposes that our main drivers are the need to survive and the need to replicate. The Game and The Rules of the Game were about how to acquire replication value. Emergency is about Survival Value.
His previous two books, even-though they were about a more superficial group of people (pick-up artists), had a inspirational quality to them, an underlying optimism and their greater point was more about self-actualization (to use Maslow's term) than about pick-up. Emergency, though it was clearly about becoming a better human being, about learning to connect with our basic needs, about developing the self-reliance needed in the absence of the social fabric, was (for most of the book) a rather pessimistic book. The first one hundred and change pages of the book are spent justifying and setting the stage for this pessimism, and it gets quite boring at one point (unlike any of his other books).
As for style (no pun intended for those who read The Game), this book lacks Strauss's beautiful and distinctive language, the clever turn-of-phrases used in his other books, his typical intellectual musings (though this book has a few, at the end). The book, compared to the others, seemed rushed in parts, and perhaps over-edited in others. It also seemed under-developed in some important parts(therefore rushed), as for example in the part where he lives in the wild for three days with nothing but a knife, and the part about learning personal defense. These were clearly worth much more than the one page dedicated to them. As Ayn Rand would say: "you could see the stitching on this book". It's almost as if the editors asked him to fit this book into a formulaic pattern, mirroring the Game, which it can't and it shouldn't attempt to do. The pleasurable characteristic of Strauss is his originality and his clever, honest and unexpected way to show (not tell) the intricasies of a subject. That is not completely lost on Emergency, by the sheer strength of Strauss's quest and the depth of his personal pursuit, but stylistically, the book is far inferior to his previous ones.
I'll still read his next one, though. I can't wait for what other sub-culture I'll discover through him.
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on July 6, 2009
If you are looking for a survival book, this is NOT it. This IS an engaging story of how a liberal city boy, who couldn't change a light bulb, attempts to become a competent, self-assured man. It is a moving and inspiring story and hopefully it will prompt a lot of self-reflection and awakening. It that regard it is an excellent book.

For those of us who were raised in the country, read Tom Browns field guides 20 years ago, have trained at Gunsite, plan for survival every day, and generally don't worry because "we have it covered", the book is outrageously funny. There are many laugh out loud moments in the book as the author 'fesses up to his ignorance and ineptitude. It is easy to forget the mistakes made decades ago, this novice journey recalls all of that in a very human way.

Strauss has a talent for telling a good tale. I recommend the book, but it most definitely will not save your life..
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on June 12, 2010
Like many people that bought this book, that feeling of being mislead comes to mind. Sure, this isn't a survival manual as I hoped and, like one reviewer states, any practical advice can be summed up on one page. However, this does not make it a useless book.

And, to clear any air, it does say "Memoir/Current Events" right by the UPC, so the classification is right on the book. We all fell for the cover.

Anyway, besides the spattering of useful information, Strauss writes about his experiences and, by him making the mistakes, you can avoid your own. He writes about the years that it takes to get a passport, which clearly is a mistake. Helpful, maybe, but it's one of those long-term plans that needs to be long term in itself.

He also talks about the various schools he went to so he could learn more skills. You won't learn anything he did, but if you're interested in a hands-on approach to survival, at least you have an idea where to go. He also talks about what he went through, so if you can't stand reading it, you'll know better than to go and waste the money.

Mostly, this book is entertainment. Yes, Strauss uses swear words (dear God, no!). There are pictures of anti-American paraphernalia, which, if you ask me, is more effective than being told people hate us. If you can't stand being told that your own country can't protect you, you will hate this book.

However, if you're willing to learn from the mistakes Strauss made, and just enjoy it rather than taking it too seriously (like lamenting over the fact he has the money for eight years of survivalist training), you'll find a great book.
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on January 10, 2010
This book for me was not much of a how to book as it was about how one city slicker changed his views of the world. Others seem to think he bashed certain people but for the most part he stays out of the polictical view. It is a very personal book and offers a good shift of someones blind ignorance of things will be alright, they will take care of you, they being the government.

He does a good job explaining how he became a survivalist, even when he starting off making fun of most of them. He seems to have a lot of money yet claims not to. I know how much things cost, as well as the time to go to the different classes he goes to. The avarage working class person can't afford either the time or money or both to travel across the country to attend some of the classes. I have taken a couple, one he talks about and that just happened to be close or we made a family trip out of it.

He glances over thing to stock up on, and makes the mistake of calling MREs, Meal Ready To Eat, feeeze dried. They are not. I have lived on those things for 6 months and to my way of thinking they are fast food for the long term, quick but just as unhealthy. They also take up way too much room to be useful, as you can store a lot more dried food in the same space.

Over all if you are having a hard time understanding the survivalist mindset this is a good place to start. If you have people close to you that think you are a bit off because you stock food, weapons and are a survivalist, then get this for them and maybe they will come around. That is my plan with people I know.

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on March 21, 2009
Having perused the previous reviews, let me start by disagreeing with two negative, and recurring, responses to Emergency.

1. Contrary to the obviously wounded righties out there, Strauss' politics in this are irrelevant. It's obvious that he's no fan of Bush, but he makes a point to note that his focus on "escape" came from observing the momentous events that took place from 2000-2008 (causation Bush, or no). Since he pushes no political agenda, we should take him at his word.

2. This book is not meant to be a survival manual. Anyone who evaluates it on that premise has entirely missed the point. In saying, "this book could save your life," Strauss, I think, is being somewhat tongue-in-cheek on one hand and very serious on the other. He's tongue-in-cheek as a send up to a real life survival manual, and he's serious because the insights he gleaned along his journey clearly have saved his life (figuratively speaking).

Now let me agree with one negative review point.
1. I did feel that the book was a bit unbalanced. Granted, there was a backstory that needed to be told to provide context for why Strauss would do all of the things he did. However, it didn't have to be 100 pages long. 25 would have sufficed. And I also agree that more should have been included in the later parts of the book - particularly the wilderness survival and personal self defense.

That said...

I really loved this book. I've entertained notions of needing an escape plan for many years, so this subject matter appealed to me instantly. Having read The Game and Don't Try This At Home, I knew I'd enjoy Neil's take on it.

What I like the most about The Game and Emergency is that they both have that classic moral revelation component that is essential to good fiction. (Seems like lots of nonfiction writers don't see the value of that in their work. Strauss does.) Neil, as a character, evolves throughout both books, and ends up a completely different person than he was when he started, and he never ends up where he thought he would. Kind of like life for those of us who are determined to live it. Riding shotgun for that transformation was a blast, and both times, I found Neil's endpoint completely satisfying. He landed where he should have, at least according to my moral compass.

And, of course, I can't neglect to mention my profound respect for how committed Neil is to what he grabs onto. He's a freaking pitbull - pursuing lead after lead and getting so far out of his comfort zone he can't even see it anymore. It's truly inspirational.

So go get this book. Forget about the politics, and have patience with the groundwork. You'll laugh, cringe, and keep turning pages till its done. And if you're open minded, you'll be a little different on the back end. That's money well spent if you ask me.
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on January 27, 2013
I'm in the rare position where I have met Neil Strauss and several of the characters that are mentioned in his book. I do CERT, I've attended OnPointTactical as well.

He's a fantastic author in writing a story that is a page turner, and for that I would recommend this highly entertaining book.

However, I want to put out a disclaimer that he scripted and doctored some of the events he mentions in order to make for a good book, according to people who have worked with him that I have talked with. The goat incident, which he uses to set the emotional tone of the book, is misrepresented. He actually knew what he would need to do to the goat beforehand, and specifically signed up for it because it would be good material for the book, according to a friend who he consulted beforehand.

I'm not trying to hate. Again, it's a great read. But in the end, after getting to know a few people around him, I do feel a bit cheated knowing the author was disingenuous and that he deliberate misleads the reader into thinking that this is non-fiction.
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on December 2, 2013
This book made me laugh. It was enormously entertaining.

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.
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