Neil Strauss, probably most famous for his Motley Crue book the Dirt and his book about Pick-Up Artists, the Game, gets a little freaked out about the state of the world. Then he looks into it a little more and gets a lot freaked out, especially when he has to admit to himself that after a life lived in the city where a rolling blackout was the closest thing to the apocalypse so far, he is unprepared to survive any sort of calamity. So, throwing himself into his subject as usual, he decides to do whatever it takes to prepare himself.
The writing style is good. Neil Strauss has a way of writing that pulls you through just about whatever he’s covering. However, if you’re looking for a good book about survivalists, becoming a survivalist, or some kind of survivalist manual, look somewhere else.
A lot of the book is devoted to his attempts to get dual citizenship so that he has somewhere to go WTSHTF (When the Shit Hits the Fan). These parts are not very exciting. They mostly serve to make you understand that it’s tough to get citizenship somewhere else, which is a little scary, but the ultimate answer is that you can get a second citizenship just about anywhere, the only factor being how much you are willing to spend. Fucked up, yes, but not terribly surprising.
Because I don’t have a couple hundred thousand to spend (and I suspect most people don’t) I found those parts of the books pretty much worthless. It’s sort of like reading a book about a beginning chef who spends a shitload on ingredients that are way out of your price range. Other sections are more entertaining. It’s not so much that I was looking for survivalist tips, but reading about him going to a tracking school or spending a week without power and water is way more engaging than reading about how it sucks that shit is expensive and that the burecratic process in small island nations is very slow.
Other reviews say that he spends a good amount of time explaining the Why behind his wanting to learn survivalism. I would half agree with that. He does a good job highlighting events and policy changes that might make a person a little worried about living in the United States, explaining why he’s scared and why he thinks something bad might happen. What he doesn’t do (except for a brief section near the end) is explain the point of surviving in a wasteland.
When you read an apocalyptic book, like the Road, it has to occur to you that the main characters could just lay down and die. It does to me, anyway. But I never get to ask these fictional characters what keeps them moving, so the author has to make some attempt to explain it. In Emergency, I wanted to hear why someone would want to survive in an existence that most people, himself included towards the beginning, would consider hellish. Strauss was preparing himself to survive in the woods in a shelter made of sticks and leaves, but I don’t know why or what the point of that life might be. That was something I was looking for and didn’t get.
An unusual part of the book is that there is an armchair treasure hunt incorporated into it. There are short sections written in comic book form, and each of these sections includes a clue that is supposed to reveal the location of a cache that Strauss buried at one point in the book. Because I’m a dork, I spent a good hour trying to find the clues, figure out what they meant, and then figure out where the cache is. After that, I have no idea still. Okay, that’s not totally true. I have some idea, but nothing of confidence, so I’ll let you all know when I find the damn thing because now it’s an obsession. I bet my girlfriend will appreciate taking a vacation to some woods to unbury a box, especially when I don’t have the right spot and we spend three days digging holes.
The first thing I’d heard of like this was buried in David Blaine’s book. Supposedly there were clues hidden throughout that would lead you to $100,000 worth of treasure. And supposedly some lady found it. You can see the solution here: http://www.thefoolsparadise.com/db/solution.htm
To be honest, the whole thing is way too involved for me to even consider the possibility, and I question whether someone actually solved it or not. There’s a photo blog by the person who solved it, which seems pretty convenient as well, especially the part where she gives up when she’s almost there and then sees something on her drive home that gives her a Eureka! moment straight out of some Sherlock Holmes bullshit. Call me crazy, but I don’t trust someone who stands around in a block of ice and spends way too much time maintaining his beard and not nearly enough on those eyebrows.
On a similar books/treasure hunt path, there was and still is a circulating rumor that there is a secret ending to Chuck Palahniuk’s Survivor which is embedded in the hardback back cover of some first edition copies.
The rumor has never proven true, from what I can tell. Maybe it’s a ploy by someone with a few first editions to try and rarify it and drive up the value. Although I can’t personally prove it either way, I have to believe that someone who found it wouldn’t be against providing photographic or textual evidence. But it’s kind of a cool rumor anyway.
So, pick up Emergency if you’re looking for an entertaining read and that’s about it. If you get through the first couple sections with no problems, then you’ll only build up speed from there.