The world through apocalypse eyes: Emergency by Neil Strauss


(Harper Collins, 2009)
Are you concerned about a massive, wide-scale catastrophe that brings the world to chaos? Do you lie awake at night fearing societal collapse and the emergence of a fascist police state? Are you overcome with dread at the possibility of becoming a refugee from your safe, comfortable lifestyle? Do you look at the world through “apocalypse eyes?”

Relax. Just follow these steps:
1) Take a deep breath.
2) Get a grip.
3) Read this book.

Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life, follows author Neil Strauss’ own personal journey through a survivalist’s curriculum. Despite appearances, Emergency is not a how-to manual, but rather a narrative that follows Strauss’ first doomsdays fears during the Y2K scare and his subsequent plans to escape or survive any catastrophe that comes his way.

Strauss is a journalist and author who mainly covers entertainment topics, like rock stars and such. In 2005 he wrote The Game, an account of the secret life of pickup artists. So Strauss is not what you’d think of as a typical “survivalist.” He’s basically a regular, modern, urban-centered guy, used to the comforts of civilization, so I enjoyed reading about him learning to shoot a pistol at Gunsite, or learning how to live in the wild at Tom Brown’s tracker school. He even went so far as to become a certified paramedic and participated in a Community Emergency Response Team, assisting in the aftermath of one of California’s worst train accidents in history. All the while, his long-suffering girlfriend serves as a foil to his endeavors, sometimes bringing up pithy observations about Strauss’ new hobby. Between every few chapters or so are illustrated sequences by Bernard Chang showing a disaster/adventure scenario as a sort of make-believe parallel thread to Strauss’ narrative.

While, as I said, this is not a manual or guide, there are certain learning points to be had for the observant reader and aspiring survivalist. However, the value of Emergency is not so much “how to” but “what for” as Strauss comes to realize that while his initial quest for the ultimate survival plan stemmed from fear and a selfish desire for escape, his new attitude toward survival was more in the community vein, helping those that needed help and being part of the solution rather than running away from the problem. The final result was that Strauss, rather than succumbing to the fear that survivalist nuts hold precious, became a confident, capable and productive member of society.

Strauss’ writing is light and easy with a good dose of self-deprecating humor, making Emergency an entertaining read, although I have to admit that I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more practical advice in it. Nevertheless, for anyone with survival and preparedness in mind Emergency offers interesting insights and is worth a read.

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