Maynard Hutchings Rides Again!!!
Founders is the third fiction book from survivalist luminary James Wesley Rawles in a series with Patriots and Survivors. I believe this one came out in the last half of 2012, so it’s fairly recent.
I think Rawles’ fiction is a lot like what Don Quixote would look like if it were actually written by Don Quixote. By that I mean that everything seems a little too fantastic and idealistic. All of the good guys seem to be devout Christian ex-military firearms experts with hearts of gold and pockets full of silver that always manage to triumph over evil without saying any four letter words in the process.
I think the general consensus on Rawles’ fiction is that the overall writing is poor, but he manages to work in a lot of prepper/survivalist wisdom into the storyline. I read Patriots on a whim in 2009 and thought I had stumbled on to a thinly-veiled survivalist instruction manual. I got a lot out of that one. I think there are other writers in this genre that do a much better job painting a mental picture of SHTF scenarios, but I can’t think of anyone who does a better job than Rawles on the technical things like gear, gadgets and throwing in a little bit of how-to on some subjects.
Ok, on to Founders… Honestly, I don’t think this book had any real redeeming qualities. It didn’t do a good job of informing or entertaining. I found myself glossing over some parts and even thought about giving up around page 50 or so. Fortunately I had a slow night at work and was able to read the lion’s share of it there. FWIW, it got a little better after the first part.
The fact that he’s very vocal about his Christian faith doesn’t bother me, but I feel it was cranked up a notch in this book. I found myself getting annoyed with his lengthy depiction of one character’s religious awakening while sorely neglecting every other aspect of character development in the book. All of the good guy characters seem to blend together. Oh, he also wrote “piss” in this one, which is about as vulgar as he gets. I laughed when I read this. Although I think the clean language takes away from the realism of the book, I suppose I respect his decision to stick to his guns and “keep it clean”, even though he gets a lot of flack for it.
On the technical side of things, I think Rawles came up short compared to Patriots and even Survivors. Like I said earlier, Patriots did a great job introducing survival/preparedness topics and Survivors wasn’t too bad in this regard either. With both books I think someone interested in these subjects could find a lot of new things to look into. With Founders, I think only one book that was mentioned jumped out at me as something to look into….and I forgot what that was already. I also don’t think that this one showed the same range of cultural knowledge as Survivors did.
As far as the actual stories in the book, those weren’t great either. Nothing stood out as being that gripping or really evoking much emotion. Books like this are supposed to be full of all kinds of hair-raising situations. Hell, one character had his son shot and it read like a police report.
The three books in the series take place more or less concurrently, so some of the stories in this book are meant to fill in the holes on some things mentioned in the others. This book has the final days of the UN/Maynard Hutchings government and when reading the end of the book I got the impression that Rawles lost interest in this project and just wanted to get it over with. I can’t believe how quick and uninspiring he made this big events.
I would recommend Patriots and maybe Survivors to anyone new to the world of survivalism/preparedness with the caveat that you’re not going to get world-class storytelling, but there’s a lot of good information buried in all of that awkward dialog. This book, not so much. If you read the previous two and want to continue on with the stories and you’re looking for something not too heavy to read, it might be worth it.
At the end of the day, I respect Rawles and acknowledge his wisdom. I also think I understand that his primary focus isn’t exactly writing works that will earn him a spot among the western canon, but rather sharing what he knows about survivalism/preparedness with fiction as his canvas. If only he was a little better at story telling and character development…