The sub-title for the book is One Man’s Story of a Dangerous World and how to Stay Alive in it, which is a fair summation. Covering several years, journalist and author Neil Strauss documents his rising anxiety about the state of the world, feeling its collapse is imminent, and his preparations to survive the aftermath; including applying for a second passport, storing money out of reach of the government, learning how to survive in the woods using only a knife and being taught how to shoot a gun, ride a motorbike and find his own food. In the current climate it sounds a reasonable idea.
The book starts back before Y2K with Strauss talking to some of the survivalists who believed the end of the millennium would being about the end of the world. We all survived it, but since then the threats have come thick and fast — largely fuelled by the media — from the banking collapse, to terrorism, to the growing threat of nuclear proliferation. It was strange how some of the thinking chimed with comments in Civilization about how historic civilizations have risen and then collapsed.
Strauss is far from an advocate for either camp, seemingly swaying along the dividing line between hard-line survivalists and those who view them as crackpots. It leads to a better, more open discussion about some of their views and skills. Even Strauss seems unable to believe he’s siding with some of the people he meets. The book certainly isn’t about poking fun at hillbillys, but while it offers a sometimes grim look at the world.
Having said that, the book certainly isn’t a doom-sayer’s bible of how to hide in the mountains with a lot of guns. Instead, it covers a vast array of skills, techniques and approaches that provide life skills rather than a ‘batten down the hatches’ agenda. Far from a negative look at the world, the book shows just how many people are prepared to help one another, which should is reassuring.
The book finishes with Strauss deciding that WTSHTF (from the book, I’ll say the last three letters stand for ‘hits the fan’) he’d rather stay and use his newly learnt skills to lend a hand (not just because he’s developed a big support network that will be important).
As the sub-title suggests, the book provides one man’s view of the fears we seem to face and how they affect society while providing a look at the skills and techniques that may help should society fail. It’s interesting and entertaining and well worth a read even if you don’t plan to implement any of the preparations.