Book Review: Patriots by James Wesley Rawles

July 28, 2011

Book Reviews, Security

America’s spending habits have grown increasingly worrisome to many in recent years. Voices of concern have continually risen from individuals within the United States and from governments around the world. Unfortunately these concerns have fallen on the collective deaf ears of Congress who, seeking re-election, focus on short-term successes rather than longer term fiscal responsibility.

Has America’s financial crisis gone past the tipping point? Have we out spent our ability to pay? Are we heading for a financial collapse? Many think yes.

The Coming Collapse

That’s the premise and setting of James Wesley Rawles’ Patriots, A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse. In it Rawles projects forward to a day in the not-so-distant future where America’s financial house of cards is dramatically shaken to the point of collapse.

The novel begins with a economic meltdown, referred to as The Crunch. Few specifics are provided about the exact trigger for The Crunch; it’s left open to imagination. That’s not a criticism since it’s not really relevant to the story.

The book centers around the 10 or so members of a survivalist group. Prior to The Crunch the group purchased a retreat in a remote area of Idaho and stocked it with lots of weapons, survival equipment, and food. They installed underground fuel tanks, customized pre-1980 vehicles, and bought the best of everything in preparation.

As soon as the collapse begins, they each make their way to the retreat.

Upon arrival, the members set up their day to day operations. Descriptions are given about their security details, their choice of weapons, their stockpile of supplies, and their chain of command.

Eventually, the group meets other like-minded groups and defends Idaho and the American way of life against the globalist who seek to take advantage of the country’s vulnerability.

An Instant Classic

The book has met with great success in the prepper and survivalist communities. Upon its widespread release under the Ulysses Press imprint in April of 2009, it  quickly shot up to #6 on Amazon’s rankings, largely due to its prior releases with smaller publishers and to the promotion on Rawles’ blog site,

It seems most everyone in the the survival circles has read the novel. At a recent gathering of four dozen survival-minded people, almost everyone had read Patriots.

A SOP Manual Disguised As A Novel

Despite it’s sales success, the book has its critics. Many readers have commented that the book is more of a how-to guide and a Standard Operation Procedures manual than a novel.

I’d agree with that assessment. There is very little character development throughout the book. In fact, by the end of the book, I still could not remember who was married to whom, which character had what skill, and who was part of the original group and who joined after The Crunch. Yet it didn’t really matter. The characters were largely interchangeable.

Some chapters and characters seemed to be introduced into the story for the sole purpose of providing a method of describing some technology or operational method. It was as if Rawles remembered “Oh, I haven’t discussed communications and I need to do that.”

The prepper and survivalist information provided in the book was very good. Lots of good information about weaponry, improvised devices, and operational security.


On the whole, Patriots was worth reading if you are a prepper or survivalist. The plot is entertaining enough and the discussion of techniques and supplies is sufficient to have some educational value.

I would not use the book as a way to introduce your non-prepper friends to the need for prepping. A good case is not built for why it may be necessary. For that purpose, I’d use another book like Lights Out by David Crawford; I enjoyed that book more than I did Patriots.

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7 Comments on “Book Review: Patriots by James Wesley Rawles”

  1. Beck Says:

    Have you had a chance to read Solar Flare by Larry Burkett yet? It gives a pretty good description of what life will be like in the event of power outages created by a huge solar flare. There is chaos in the cities as mob rule takes over and the police are outnumbered. The government’s first response is to use the military to move civilians out of the cities and to set up camps where people can begin to grow their own food. They pattern a lot of what they do from the Amish communities. Very good book with a good story line.


  2. Steve Says:

    Where to start. First, would-be buyers of this book should be aware that “James Wesley, Rawles” – what’s up with that? Old English spelling? – runs an excellent “preparedness” website. He has a devoted following and he knows his stuff. I just don’t agree at all with his philosophy.

    As you read this book, you will note, that as far as plot, characterization, dialogue, and the other elements that make a story worth reading, this “novel” is dog vomit. The publisher, Ulyssses Press, apparently caters to self-publishing authors, because if Mr. Rawles would’ve submitted this book to a real publisher, it never would have seen the light of day. It’s that bad.

    The writing and storytelling are horrendous. The dialogue, such as it is, is coma-inducing. While renegades manning highway roadblocks might randomly kill and rob you, Rawles won’t let them use profanity. All of the characters, good and bad – there’s nobody in between – make cardboard seem vibrant and engaging by contrast. None of them are remotely memorable. I often had to flip back a chapter or two to remind myself who was who, since all of the “preppers” of the so-called Northwestern Militia are essentially interchangeable: colorless people with some specialized survial skill. Rawles’s grimly dogmatic King James Bible worldview is omnipresent throughout. There is no coherence or logical flow to the “novel,” thanks to herky-jerky plot shifts (or what passes for a plot) and Rawle’s frequent indeterminable tangents that introduce new “single-serving” characters and various odd/esoteric themes that add little to the story and in some cases are downright disturbing.

    For example, two of his characters, “Matt and Chase Keane,” are depicted as God-fearing Patriot boys who make a living as selling firearms at gun shows. Their deep-seated resistance to government “tryanny” i.e. such arbitrary and oppressive rules as the legal obligation to carry a valid driver’s license and registration, come from their interpretation of arcane laws dating back to the Revolutionary War years, which Rawles delves into in excruciating detail. Clearly Rawles has never been T-boned by some DUI jackass driving on a suspended license and with no insurance, as I have been. These two principled, church-going Christian lads happen to be pulled over by a jack-booted, proto-fascist State trooper – depicted as fairly representative of state and Federal law enforcement – itching to carry his scorn for “patriots” into extrajudicial roadside murder. However, the Keane Brothers valiantly defend themselves in a shootout in which no one suffers a scratch, speed off, then go underground. What Rawles neglects to mention is that his “Matt and Chase Keane” characters and their shootouts with the police are lifted unimaginatively from the real-life Chevie and Cheyne Kehoe brothers, twins and hardcore white supremacists who committed at least three murders, including that of a woman and eight-year-old girl who they tortured with electrical cattle prods and suffocated with a plastic bag over her head during a home-invasion robbery. I was flabergasted that Rawles would use these psychopaths as inspiration for Christian patriot “heroes.” Of course, in the novel the brothers immediately renounce their white separatist views when they encounter one of the token minority survivalist-patriots whose sole purpose in the book seems to be to deflect any criticism that any militias or book scenario itself could possibly be racist. Riiiight….

    The cause of the apocalyptic societal collapse is plausible enough – a collapse of the currency caused by excessive spending and Weimar Republic style inflation/money-printing. The Fed’s ongoing binge of “quantitative easing” (printing trillions of dollars out of thin air) brings this scenario closer by the day. However, the plot takes a hard turn toward the outlandish when a UN-backed Quisling governent tries to impose itself on the collapsed US. Even by Rawles’ standards these UN stooges are particularly comic-book evil and simplistic in their depiction. Never mind that in a worldwide financial collapse, European nations would almost certainly see the rise of far-right nationalists adamantly opposed to supporting any UN-imposed New World Order. Never mind that Eurozone eoconomy’s are collapsing and their military budgets are being slashed. Never mind that the US pays about 85% of the UN’s budget, so if we experienced a total economic collapse, there would no one else to underwrite such prohibitively expensive UN military deployment. In “Patriots,” however, German and Belgian troops make up the shock troops who arrive on our shores to occupy the devasted, mostly depopulated US under a UN banner, under the auspices of international bankers. Never mind that European publics have shown themselves vehemently against foreign military interventions in recent years. Witness how ineffective the European members of George W. Bush’s “Coalition of the Billing” were in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how quickly they found reasons to pull their forces out when the going got tough. U.S. troops in Afghanistan have sarcastically noted that “ISAF” stands for “I Suck at Fighting.” Why Belgium and Germany would support such a folly as invading and occupying the US landmass is never explained, nor can Rawles explain how the UN, which has botched every military action it has undertaken since its inception, is suddenly vaulted to the rank of first-rate military power. Yes friends and neighbors, the same UN that has failed miserably to impose order or security in pissant places like Bosnia and Sierra Leone will somehow muster the forces and military prowess to forcibly subjugate a dangerous and chaotic America – as if. I suspect the otherwise ultra-straitlaced Rawles must’ve been hitting the bong when he concocted this scenario.

    Personally, I would’ve used the motherless Commie hordes from Mainland China as the aggressors, since a collapse such as Rawle’s describes would leave Beijing holding the bag on over a trillion dollars in US dollar-denominated obligations and T-bills. Be that as it may, the patriot militias surge forth to banish the UN, since we all know that paranoid loners form the most disciplined and cohesive military formations – NOT! Suddenly the Red Dawn scenario of Soviet paratroops storming Colorado High Schools for some inexplicable strategic purpose seems totally plausible by comparison. The danger, of course, is that on the lunatic fringe of the militia and survialist movements they take such “threats” and scenarios seriously, raising the potential for some nut-job to confuse fact and fantasy and act accordingly.

    Rawles and his minions make much of the fact that he was a former Army intelligence officer. If so, he couldn’t have been a very good one. He seems to uncritically accept lunatic-fringe conspiracy theories on such topics as the Oklahoma City bombing, which he darkly insinuates was a Federal Government plot to smear the patriotic militias and/or serve as a pretext to accumulate police-state powers). This despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, including Timothy McVeigh’s own extensive revelations and admission of guilt in “American Terrorist”. Rawles seems to view everything and everyone through the prism of his paranoia about the New World Order or End-of-Times views, rather than honestly and objectively evaluating verifiable facts to come up with reasoned, well-supported assessments and analyses. His seeming admiration for the murderous Kehoe brothers is especially telling, which makes me wonder how much of a borderline personality he really is.

    I bought this book on a whim at my local Barnes and Noble. The cover and jacket blurb looked interesting and I’ve had growing concerns over the possibility of a serous economic crash playing out both globally and in the US. Plus, I’d recently read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and the topic of preparedness has captured my attention ever since. So I don’t regret buying this book, if only for the simple reason that I can now say I’ve read the worst novel ever published in this or any other galaxy. To be fair, “Patriots” does have some redeeming value from the standpoint of making people think through how to prepare for various man-made or natural disasters. But as a story, it fails miserably.



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