Aug162012

42 Comments

3 Survival novels you should read & a Video Review

I used to read one book after another and even won an award in 1st grade as an official, “Prescott, Arizona,Bookworm!” If I ever find the photo of myself wearing a bookworm costume standing in front of the city library, I’ll post it.

These days I’m more likely to be found reading non-fiction survival manuals and rarely have time to read simply for pleasure. However, last month I set a goal to begin reading survival, or apocalyptic, fiction and have 3 books under my belt.

Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

This book came highly recommended by a number of friends who are avid readers, and they were right on the money with their positive reviews. I thoroughly enjoyed the book once the action got started, about 25% into the book. Here is my review on video.

The Jakarta Pandemic by Steven Konkoly

Again, a winner in the category of survival fiction. This time around it’s a worldwide pandemic that threatens humanity. No family is untouched by the ravages of this virus, but fortunately, our hero, Alex Fletcher is a prepper and his family is well prepared for this and just about any other crisis.

It’s apparent from the first pages that everything Alex does, in terms of being prepared, is for the sake of his family. His wife, Kate, is completely on board but occasionally challenges Alex’s decisions and judgement. Together, they make a strong team, determined to protect their family from, first, the flu and then multiple dangers that come from neighbors and strangers alike.

Alex has three advantages: he’s a former Marine, is a pharmaceutical sales rep with access to a lot of medical information, and has an extremely well stocked basement with every sort of provision his family will need.

This book really kept my interest throughout and made me think about how prepared our family isn’t for a large scale pandemic. Unlike many other disaster scenarios, this one would require an individual or family to remain completely isolated for months. I had never thought that something as simple as my mail could transmit a virus or that a deadly pandemic would shut down power plants, water/sewage plants, and virtually eliminate most first responders.

There are a few odd notes here and there, such as Alex’s ridicule of Fox News and his obsession with watching The Today Show. Often these details didn’t dovetail with the picture I was getting in my mind of this character, his motivations, and state of mind.

Survivalists and preppers will enjoy reading about Alex’s stash of food, weapons, and other supplies, as well as some of his tactical and strategic decisions.

The Jakarta Pandemic has been recorded for readers who enjoy listening to their books, and that recording can be found here. It’s available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Overall, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars and as a mom, give it a PG rating for language and a bit of graphic violence.

77 Days in September by Ray Gorham

Survival fiction authors seem to love the idea of an EMP (electro magnetic pulse), and that’s the disaster du jour in this fairly short novel. The EMP happens early in the book, so we have the remaining 220+ pages to watch the survival story unfold.

Kyle Tait of Deer Creek, Montana, is headed home from Houston and looking forward to spending time with his family. Unfortunately, two coordinated teams of terrorists have other plans which they know will change the world forever. Like clockwork, missiles are launched from the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Hatteras and 40 miles west of Newport, Oregon, in the Pacific. One missile malfunctions but military brass based at NORAD watch, horrified, knowing what is about to happen.

If you’ve read One Second After, you have a good idea of the effects of an EMP, and many of these are detailed in 77 Days in September. Our hero, Kyle, is fairly quick to realize why planes have crashed, cell phones no longer work, and there are hundreds of stranded cars in the street. He knows that, above all, he has to get home to his wife and three kids in spite of a 1500+ mile journey.

Kyle sets out on foot with nothing but a cart filled with some camping and survival supplies, a bit of food, and some water. Traveling through Texas is easy but with winter approaching, he knows the real challenge will be forging through Wyoming and Montana as winter sets in.

I’ve never written fiction, and it’s easy to criticize and second guess what Kyle should or could have done, but he shows himself to be a survivor with a powerful determination to get home or die trying. His wife, Jennifer, isn’t made of the same strong stuff, though. She has to deal with a shortage of food, an obnoxious sheriff who is determined to seduce her, and, gasp!, taking notes at the community’s survival meetings but unfortunately, she doesn’t come across as a take-charge Survival Mom. Instead she spends a lot of time missing Kyle and seemed to be the type of woman who would rather someone else do all the survival stuff for her.

Ray Gorham is a new author and did an excellent job of creating a few characters that I really cared about. I kept turning pages into the night, wanting to know whether or not Kyle made it home. When Kyle arrives, nearly dead, at the home of Rose, I wanted them to fall in love and stay together. I loved the character of Rose more than Jennifer.

If a reader is looking for survival tips tucked away in this novel, you will find very, very few. I would have liked to know more about staying alive on a long trek across rough terrain, how to stay warm in a blizzard, and how to forage for food, but those details are missing.It’s a page-turner but falls short in this area that, I know, interests a lot of preppers.

This book deserves 3.5 stars out of 5 and a Survival Mom rating of PG for mild language and minor sexual situations.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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(42) Readers Comments

  1. I’ll have to check these out. I love the Restoration series by Terri Blackstock. It’s what first made me think about emps. And moving beyond basic 72 hr kits and food storage.

  2. I read Lucifer’s Hammer last summer, and it is actually what lead me into prepping. A week after I finished was the Southern California black out. We sat around, so grateful for the outdoor barbecue so we could could cook, and made a list of the things we needed if this ever happened again. We’ve slowly purchased the items off the list, and we would be so much better prepared if this (or an earthquake or ….) were to happen again.

  3. The Jakarta Pandemic was the first prepper book I read. I didn’t know that’s what it was called but was really fascinated that there were other people in the world that “bought way too much stuff” as I had been told I was doing. That started me wondering if there were more books like that and I “accidentally” bought one of Ron Foster’s books. Then I found out there were terms for my madness. Yay!! But I’ll always be glad I found The Jakarta Pandemic while looking for something to read while I had the flu (ironic.) Because of that, my family and I will be prepared for the zombies, aliens, pandemics, droughts…

  4. One thing I liked about “Lucifer’s Hammer” was that it takes place in my neck of the woods. What was silly was how easily they overtook Bakersfield. There are, and have always been, more guns than people here. Some assorted gang members from LA would never have stood a chance.

  5. Not having read the Jakarta Pandemic, I don’t know what the authors negative comments about FOX news were. But, just because one is a prepper does not mean they like FOX News. I have read many comments from preppers about FOX being just another mouthpiece for the banksters.

    • Josh, I remarked on the Fox News element because it seemed out of place. There were other little details that were jarring, as I mentioned. I think the author was trying to flesh out his main character but to me, all the little pieces didn’t quite fit. Vegetarian Marine with a stocked up basement, tactical plans for moving around the neighborhood, weapons, spends hours playing military video games, but then carries an unloaded shotgun to a confrontation because he doesn’t want anyone to get hurt…that kind of thing.

      • I am reading the book now. It is pretty good. You are right about the wierd mix of details.

  6. Lisa, I hadn’t heard of “The Jakarta Pandemic” or “77 Days in September”. Thanks for the reviews.

    You probably are already aware of this book, but I mention it only because I don’t see it mentioned yet in any of the comments so far: “Patriots, Surviving the Coming Collapse” by James Rawles is widely thought to be the go-to novel for how-to information. It’s good enough that I’ve read it twice. The best part of the book (for me) is the first two chapters wherein Rawles describes a very plausible economic collapse and the ensuing falling dominos that this triggers. (I just noticed that Rawles has a new novel coming out this September or October called “Founders” that I’ll have to order.)

    I’ve also read “One Second After” by Wm. Forstchen, which is liked by a lot of people, but that one didn’t do a lot for me. It’s an EMP story. What it has going for it is great character development, and I ended up caring for and relating to some of the characters enough that I was in tears at one point toward the end of the book. What I didn’t like is that it’s the military that, eventually, comes to the rescue, which I find highly unrealistic considering recent developments. I think those in the military who don’t revolt will be a large part of the problem for preppers. “Sorry sir/ma’am, we need to confiscate your garden produce, your rain barrels, and your stores of dried food for use by those who didn’t commit the crime of hoarding. And we’re under orders to confiscate all firearms and ammunition as well. Just following orders.”

    While not a novel, Michael Bunker’s “Surviving Off Off-Grid” is one of the best, most thought-provoking books on preparedness–on anything, actually–that I’ve ever read. Without belaboring it here, I suggest perusing the reviews of it on Amazon.com.

    • Flick, you underestimate our military. Most of us remember our oath and take it seriously. We aren’t Syrians or Lybians. I’d be more concerned about a civilian Security Force, like the “Presidential Strike Force” in Jerry Ahern’s “Defender” series. Fortunately, there’s nothing like that in existence, right?

  7. Consider also Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon (1959) and Robert Merle’s Malevil (1972), as well as Robert A. Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold (1964).

    All of these are post-catastrophe novels which address the requirements and expedients of survival.

    • I just bought Alas, Babylon and can’t wait to read it.

      • I loved Alas Babylon! I really liked the way that one person took the iniative
        to care about others and invite them one by one into his home. Somehow
        throughout each “crisis” they were able to find strength and creativity to survive.
        I thought that I had decided on my next reading project, but Alas I discovered that I must purchase a Kindle to read “77 Days In September”!

    • I love these kinds of after the disaster books. after first having read “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Pat Frank in high school. I am reading “The Dog Stars” by Peter Heller now. I like it because it takes place in my state of Colorado and I can picture the locations in my mind as I read it. As a dog lover that recently lost a dog the first section is a tearful one.

      • OOPS A Canticle for L… was written by Frank M. Miller. My mistake.

  8. THE HUNGER GAMES

    CATCHING FIRE

    MOCKINGJAY

    Dystopic fiction with a sobering message/warning/history lesson for the current population of North America.

    *The powers of governments to control the people by controlling the food (Stalin, Mao, the Kims)

    *Current “food sovereignty” issues with (usually frontyard) veggie gardens, rain water collection, GMO label battles, pharmaceuticals

    * Children as pawns in this government control

    *Surveillance “hovercraft” in the 3 novels, a.k.a. “drones”, and the GMO jabberjays

    *How would you survive if your family members were all in different “districts” and travel was forbidden?

    *The usage of primitive skills and technology keeps people alive longer than fancier tech (bowhunting)

    *Numerous references to the bloated and decaying decadent Roman Empire, including the gladiatorial nature of the Games

    *Resilience of the human spirit and the birth of a popular uprising

  9. You might like:

    “Wolf and Iron” by Gordon R. Dickson. This one I read in college and really got me thinking about an economic collapse and how quickly things could degrade.

    “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

  10. My favorite “survivalist” books are still “Last of the Breed” by Louis L’Amour and “Alas, Babylon,” a 1959 novel about nuclear holocaust. They are classics.

    • I read Last of the Breed many years ago and loved it! It’s an excellent book.

  11. One book that must be on your read list is “Lights Out” by David Crawford. Thus was an internet book published on the Web then later independently published. Downloaded real time by over a million people before it was published, it is one of my all time favorite novels dealing with emp and survival. I even liked it better than JWR’s Patriot, the coming collapse. Please put thus on tour list and keep up the excellent blog. I’m male and me and wife don’t plan on having children but your site is a daily read for me.

    • I really, really liked Lights Out. In some ways I thought it was better than One Second After.

  12. “warday” is good too.

  13. The scene I love best from Lucifer’s Hammer is the surfers catching the ultimate of ultimate waves, but that is not survivalist.

    The next best scene is the rallying speech about what separates serfs and citizens and the legacy for the grandchildren. I always thought the best opening scene for the movie adaptation is a close up of the lightning bolt logo with a fading back to view a lineman at a work repairing a downed power line.

    That way when the the movie ends, your are back where you started: with line man at work repairing a power line as the credits roll.

  14. “Unintended Consequences” by John Ross combines a history lesson with laws, the “mission creep” of government which is bent on curtailing civil liberties and possible solutions . . . I could not put the book down (800+ pages). Techniques for self-defense and defense of the realm also figure. It is out-of-print and pricey, bue well worth obtaining . . .

  15. Gift upon the Shore by MK Wren. Survival after nuclear winter and pandemic. This is an Oregon author who lived near my family’s beach house where the novel is set.

  16. Haven’t read the other two, but Lucifer’s Hammer is a very good answer to those who look forward to economic collapse because this will cause the government to shrivel up & go away. Not gonna happen.

    Two other disaster / what now? books are: The Stand by Stephen King, and A Canticle for Liebowitz, by I forget who. The first is well known; the second is a 60′s sci fi book about the aftermath of WW III. Way after, centuries later. The only human institution which has survived, & which has single handedly [reserved civilization, is of course the Roman Catholic Church. Really. I mean, who else?
    HTH,
    Phil

  17. “Dies the fire”
    by S. M. Stirling
    Starts out pretty normal, then the lights go out and no one knows why,the planes start falling at the same time There is information about how to rebuild but what i found the most interesting was how the different groups survive and what kind of societies they evolve into.

    • Adored the “Dies the Fire” series, which starts out as a prepper/survivalist sort of story and eventually evolves into something akin to the legends of King Arthur. There’s a definite spiritual/supernatural bent to the series – in fact, the disaster that causes TEOTWAWKI is supernatural in origin, but rather like an EMP – and people need to be prepared for the fact that many of the central figures are practicing pagans (either “the old religion” that is a variation of Wicca or “the really old religion” that you read about in Norse mythology). But they also show how other religions – notably Catholics and Mormons – adapt with the times.

      I live in Oregon, so the initial “Dies the Fire” books are basically set in places I’ve either lived or visited frequently, which made it fun to read. The evolution of the various forms of society and governance as time passes is fascinating, and the things people learn, including old world skills that are adapted for the new reality, made me really want to become an apprentice bowyer or possibly cheese maker!

  18. One Second After William R. Forstchen

  19. Three more interesting books:
    “Pulling Through” by Dean Ing is a good novelette about surving a limited nuclear war, followed by a series of techniques and improvised devices (air pump, radiation counter, lighting, etc.) for doing it yourself.
    “Earth Abides” by George Stewart is a 65 year old novel about the aftermath of disease epidemic which almost makes humans extinct. It is set in the Sam Francisco bay area and describes the begining the post-apocalypse from almost nothing — reads a little like the “World after People” TV series. The writer also wrote interesting books about the Donner party and the “technical” novels “Fire” and “Storm” about the people and effects of a major forest fire and Pacific Storm (50 years ago) that would appeal to Alex Hailey fans.
    “The Last Centurion” by John Ringo is a modern military/action novel about a “double whammy” event: a “bird flu” pandemic (30 – 80 percent world-wide death rate) followed by a micro ice age due to reduced solar activity. The hero “callsign Bandit Six” leads a Stryker batallion from eastern Iraq to Greece. This novel and it’s author have a definite ideological leaning which may bother Hillary Clinton fans so it may be a love it or hate it experience. I includes some interesting results and discussions — particularly on the topic of ad-hoc response to disasters.

  20. My favorite book is A Distant Eden by Lloyd Tackitt. I have read it multiple times and always picked up new information. The book is written as a story as well as an instruction manual.Susan Gregersen has also written quite a few that combined a story with valuable info.

  21. I found your review of Lucifer’s Hammer via Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s blog here:

    http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=9233

    Dr. Pournelle wrote: “I will say now that we left out a good bit on purpose. In particular we used mustard rather than another war gas for reasons of social responsibility. An interesting review.”

    Like John Hartman I strongly recommend Dean Ing’s “Pulling Through”. I must caution that the reprint from Baen Books (paper and eBook) leaves out half the book. The reprint only contains the novel. The original paperback edition also contained a large section of step by step instructions on how to build many of the things the characters in the book did. Find the original!

    You may find a lot to like and learn preparedness things in other books by both Dr. Pournelle and Dean Ing.

    As John Hartman wrote, John Ringo’s “The Last Centurion” has much to say about survival situations. It is also (for John Ringo) a fairly “clean” book. Some of his other books tend to be Science Fiction with a soft porn flavor.

  22. One of our bloggers just linked to your review over at Ablehaven – the social network for preppers. Thanks for everything you do for our community. http://abarbaricyawp.ablehaven.com/2012/08/28/3-prepper-novels/

  23. Lucifer’s Hammer…one of the best apocalyptic novels of all times (and I’m not just saying that because Jerry Pournelle linked from his Chaos Manor to my site last week…but he did!). Read it twice as a book and listened to it once as audio over the years.

    Read Jakarta Pandemic last month. C+ read…pretty good for the apocalypse hits the subdivision drama. Lots of looking out the window and telling the wife and kids to get somewhere safe.

    Gonna go buy 77 days now on audible if it’s available…

    Cheers,

    Andrew J. Jackson

  24. I just read “77 Days in September” by Ray Gorham. I really enjoyed it and it was a quick, easy read. I couldn’t put it down. I cried at the end!!

  25. I’m curious what everybody thinks of the new James Rawles book “Founders”? I liked the first book in the series (“Patriots”), tolerated the second, and now this one is getting crushed in Amazon reviews. Any thoughts?

    Along similar lines, I read “The Jakarta Pandemic”, and agree with Lisa that there is definitely some weirdness in there. I got the feeling that he was using the book to childishly slam mildly-camoflauged former coworkers and such as part of a personal agenda, which taints an otherwise fine book. Still a good book, but you have to self-filter some nonsense.

    “One Second After” is still the one to beat!

    • I hope you’ll read my interview with Steven Konkoly, the author of The Jakarta Pandemic. He explains some of those issues and questions that I raised. If you liked One Second After, you’ll love Lights Out by David Crawford.

  26. I liked Preppers Road March which rwlls a fuctionalk account of how one man survives after a gepmagnetic solar storm takes the grid out. ARkStorm by Ron Foster was also a interesting scenario.

  27. This may sound silly but the book 77 Days in September made me get walking directions to my home state where all my family is and I put them in my grab and go binder

  28. Pingback: Why I Read Disaster Novels, and You Should, Too | WROL Newsfeed

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