“Survivors” by James Rawles (read 12/8/13)
God, Guns, and Gold make up Rawles’ holy trinity of the post apocalyptic world –and God isn’t mentioned all that often. In this “novel of the coming collapse” the world is plunged into darkness via American hyper-inflation, creating the classic lawless environment that vindictive authors love to torture their characters within. Rawles puts a new twist on the classic apocalypse, however, instead of torturing his characters he tortures his readers.
His main tool of choice is endless descriptions of guns, ammo, and silver transactions. Not a single item is allowed to pass by without detailing its value in silver. Not a single gun is ever mentioned without detailing its model, caliber, state of maintenance, number of spare magazines, and associated ammo supply. I wish I was joking, but these two events: the gun description and the value-in-silver item appraisal make up 80% of the book.
Out of the remaining 20% we are treated to some hilariously inept emotional moments. The chapter detailing a character’s romantic involvement with his girlfriend before the collapse of America is worth its weight in post-apocalyptic gold. I haven’t read a romance story so poorly written since, well, since the Left Behind series. Instead of 30 year old non-Christian virgins, however, we are treated to long and detailed scenes of creepy friend-stalking, which is an archaic version of face-stalking --apparently, Rawles doesn’t know that facebook exists. Another humorous scene includes our intrepid hero trying to talk about how hot his girlfriend is in a full length swimsuit with attached shorts; the reader certainly gets mixed messages. The awkwardness climaxes in a marriage proposal before the couple has even held hands. He has literally touched her only twice. The first time was an accidental brush against her hair when he put headphones on her head. The second was a pat on the shoulder. Then he pops the question.
But that isn’t all of the blundering emotion-related writing. Other standouts include a couple’s daughter getting burned alive by Molotov cocktails, which gets precisely one sentence worth of grieving. Also, the death of our hero’s brother, which causes our macho man to “try to hold back a tear”, and then continue on as if nothing ever happened. Lastly, we have an average citizen ease his family’s fear of rioters by offering to mow down the rowdy crowd in the middle of the suburban street with his silenced machine gun. The family is comforted by this offer and sleeps easy that night. The weirdness and wrongness continues almost indefinitely. A man throws away his food and water so he can carry more ammo. The evil and secretly powerful United Nations conquers America. Etc.
While it is awash in poor writing, this book has one fundamental flaw that eclipses all others; it makes the apocalypse look dangerous and undesirable on one hand, while preaching hard-core Ayn Randian values on the other. It never reconciles the fact that the government-less principles that its characters repeatedly espouse don’t match up with the actual government-less reality that they are living in. “There is no government like no government” the characters happily chant, meanwhile gangs rape and pillage their way across no-government-America. It should be a satire, but it isn’t. 3/10