Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bugging Out to Nowhere: A Review

Paylee Robert's Bugging Out to Nowhere, surprising given its name, a rather gradualist apocalypse-in-progress set "somewhere" in the United States.  The book is printed in Kentucky, and the little town of "Nowhere" (adult population circa ) is at 3,300 feet of elevation, so it seems likely that it is sitting somewhere on the Western slopes of the Appalachian Mountains.

Paylee Roberts (most likely a pseudonym) is an Ann Rand-style libertarian who became a homesteader in 2007.  She states that the basis for much of the novel is her own experiences, and her perception of what is wrong with many peoples "bug-out" strategies.
The novel has the Randyian (Atlas Shrugged) paranoia with big government and  lays the blame for the slow economic collapse at the doorstep of a slowly creeping overreach by the Federal Government.  It thus shares some of the same style of background as some of the militia style collapse novels, but without the heroic resistance fighters battling rogue military units, or U.N. forces with Molotov cocktails.  Similar to some of the militia-style novels, there is very little mention of children, other than their being turned away from the approaches of the town, and presumably sent off to starve.  The authoress is obviously rather suspicious of organized religion, and makes no personal references to divinity. So it also differs from the many of the militia style novels in that aspect as well.  So it is sort of an atheists militia-style collapse, without the children....or the militia.
The story is told through the eyes of a middle aged woman who works for the federal government in a low level administrative function, but sees the trouble coming.  The economic collapse is relatively slow, but government restrictions on travel create the need for a "bugout" to their secret home in the mountains, and this is where the story begins. This early portion of the adventure is the only first person action we see.  They get to talk about their body armor, and weapons, and while it is all very interesting, the action is left somewhat hanging, and is never clearly resolved.  Through various plot mechanisms that don't make a lot of sense (other than possibly the "sense" of personal persecution that Ann Rand fans seem to feel is their lot) our bug-out heroine is forced to stay hidden from view when they reach their hide away in nowhere, so most of the remaining activities are relayed to her by people who are under no compulsion to stay hidden.  She doesn't go to the little town meeting, she is told about it, she doesn't post guard duty, she is told what happens, and so on. It is sort of Ann Rand meets Anne Frank at the apocalypse.
All of this makes the actual story line somewhat moot.  It is not a story, it is all intended as a teaching moment.  In the limited communications by her on her book she even notes the intent to correct peoples mistaken notions of survivalism/prepping.  The story is a very very loose fabric used to hang detailed dissertations about roughing it techniques, with occasional bursts of Gestapo-style government activities thrown in.
So is it an enjoyable read?  Well if you like to read prepping manuals disguised as fictional stories, and a lot of people do, than you may very well like this story.  A storyline, even a thin one, does give some more immediacy to the activities.  It is the same reason I did some posts a long time ago where I updated western skirmishes to a modern setting.  The storyline is thin, but it hopefully might put some information in a different context.
But as a story, the plot line is just too thin.  You are in a non-place, in an unknown State, with relatively thinly developed characters.  Maybe I missed it in all the survival lessons, but much of the activities of the various government types never made a whole lot of sense to me.  Most of the people problems resolved themselves by the annoying people going away in some fashion.  It is an amazingly self centered book.  That most of the town would actually starve out long before the end of the story is never realistically dealt with.  A cattle rancher plays the part of the great unifying benefactor who eventually brings the town together- something that the couple are very reluctant to do themselves.  The wrap up was somewhat quick and perfunctory, and by that point in the novel, I was happy to be done with it.  So, no, it was not a particularly enjoyable read.
For our two descriptive ratings: Realism and Readability: 1 to 7; 4 is our mid-point and 7 is high.
Realism, we have somewhat discussed above.  It is an odd book, because it has all these teaching moments, that are in theory about "real things", but the plotting is so driven toward making all of her pet little survivalist points that you feel you are following a connect the dots drawing.  Probably the biggest problem, is the one already noted, that all the bad guys just somehow wander off on their own.  I can't even get annoying coworkers to wander off in a relatively peaceful workplace.  In a pressure cooker survival setting, I suspect people aren't going to be less in your face.  There are a few magical chip reading satellite type technologies, which of course the government will roll out to no expense, when they can't even keep the highways open.  The lessons, and the concern with food supplies is a positive, so we will put it above our mid-point: a 5.
Readability is not its literary merit, this novel has little of that in any case, but how easy/painless is the effort.  Well if a comic book, or a page turning thriller is a 7, than a textbook has to be somewhere closer to the bottom.  Maybe not as close to the bottom as an intentionally difficult novel with lots of esoteric symbolism, and magical realism, but toward the bottom none-the-less.  It is a two.

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