Monday, September 24, 2012

The Coming Collapse: Book Review of FOUNDERS by James Wesley, Rawles

Post-apocalyptic, dystopian books are commonplace in my household. It comes with the territory, when you marry a zombie enthusiast, epidemiologist prepper. So, when I cracked open Founders: A Novel of the Coming Collapse I was already feeling a bit jaded.

After all, there are only so many ways that society can fall to pieces, right?

This action-packed, terrifying fictional account of life after the collapse of present-day American is full of good examples of what to do - and what NOT to do - in the event of an economic and societal melt-down.

When Founders arrived in the mail, I was half-way through reading the classic dystopian America novel by George Stewart, Earth Abides. This classic apocalypse novel is GOOD, and extraordinarily relevant for a book published in 1949. Billed as one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, Earth Abides chronicled the life of one man in California, following the implosion of American civilization and its socioeconomic crash.

So, when Founders arrived it was a struggle to set aside Earth Abides. I found motivation to do so when Sean swiped Founders when I wasn't looking, and started reading.

James Wesley, Rawles is a name that demands respect in the prepper community. Rawles is the founder of He's an avid survivalist prepper with a strong military background, a Christian, a rancher and (apparently) a Ron Paul supporter. He's also the author of two other novels about the economic and societal collapse of America: Patriots and Survivors.

Suffice it to say that Rawles knows his stuff.

Set in the very near future, Founders tells the story of what happens to America after "The Crunch". Debt is the culprit of our country's swift decline, and when the economy collapses it triggers myriad of catastrophies. The aftermath of the Crunch is where the real problems arise. A shortage of medical personnel and supplies, and information, is the perfect storm on the East Coast. A vicious flu wipes out most of the population along the Atlantic coast, and quickly travels across the country. The American government all but disappears, along with all of their safety nets. Millions of Americans die from illness, lack of food and medicine, and at the hands of their neighbors.

It's chaos, and it ain't pretty.

Those who do survive the initial Crunch are left to deal with the looter gangs and vigilantes who thrive in this vacuum, as well as the countless unprepared Americans who are left to fend for themselves in an new and dangerous world.

Rawles takes the reader across the new Midwest, offering a view of what it means to be an American in the years directly following the collapse. Founders has a distinctly military perspective. My eyes glazed over as I read paragraph after paragraph about various guns and other weapons, and how to best protect family and property in an unsafe world.

At first, I was turned off by all of the gun talk. The more I read, though, the more I began to understand the importance of having the right tools for the task at hand. I began this book as a novice, with little knowledge of or interest in firearms. Now, I'm eager to learn more about the differences between a rifle and an AR, and how to actually hit a target.

More importantly, Rawles repeatedly stresses the importance of community in times of great struggle. You have a much better chance of surviving "The Crunch" if you surround yourself with trustworthy people with useful skills and ideas. THIS IS SO TRUE. It's not enough to have good friends, though. You must also better yourself by learning skills that make you more valuable and adept in a crisis situation. We live in an increasingly "soft" society focused on money and the media. If this 21st century lifestyle disappears, will your "modern" skill set help you survive?

Spirituality is also key to survival in this new and unpredictable America. Rawles is a devout Christian, and he finds creative ways to express his beliefs in this novel. However, he gives ample attention to other religions as well. Rawles knows that the ability to believe in a greater power is more important than belonging to a specific religious sect. Belief helps buoy hope, and the characters in Founders need all of the hope and help they can get.

Sean and I raced through Founders in a matter of days, and discussed it at great length. I thought that there was too much gun talk. Sean did not appreciate the continued religious references. We both understood the significance of these facets, and how they helped the various characters survive (or not). The repeated references and quotes from George Stewart's Earth Abides were sprinkles on this horrifying cupcake of doom.

The necessity of community, the importance of working together, was what I most appreciated while reading Founders. I'm a strong believer in the value of a good group of friends. A pack fares better than the lone wolf in this dystopian world. People with strong morals and the motivation to help themselves and their loved ones fared far better than the lost masses, who searched for someone to solve their problems.

Plenty of bad guys thrived as well, in Founders. They were quick to take advantage of the lack of government leadership and law enforcement. As supplies became scarce, gangs grew in strength and numbers. Ranches and towns were besieged by raiding looters. A replacement government also rose during the chaos, but they were not of the people, by the people or for the people.Violence begets violence in Founders, and everyone is fighting for their own cause. This could only lead to a brutal second American Revolution.

So, how did I like the book? Well, I'm headed to the local library in a few minutes, the other two books by Rawles are waiting for me. I've come away from Founders with a greater awareness of what is and isn't important in the grand scheme of things. I'm also a new fan of James Wesley, Rawles - and this book is sure to win him many more admirers. I'm nearly finished with Earth Abides, and these other two books will be my reward.

Reading this book made me more paranoid, but also more hopeful.
I feel like Sean and I are on the right track. Are you?

Founders: A Novel of the Coming Collapse by New York Times bestselling author James Wesley, Rawles will be released on September 25, 2012. (Emily Bestler Books / Atria; $25.99)

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