You’d think I would know better by now. Having read the first two books in this series, I’m already familiar with how exciting Bradley’s writing is and how compelling the overall story has been thus far. So, I certainly should have known to not start reading the latest installment late at night. I was up way later than I should have been, but I just couldn’t put the book down.
Yes, this series is that good.
It is difficult at this point to go into great detail about the story without divulging spoilers. But, here’s the gist of what’s going on.
A pandemic has resulted in the deaths of untold millions of people from coast to coast. Some of those who were infected with the disease and survived are mutating and becoming…different. What little remains of the Federal government is scrambling to do what it can, which isn’t much. Most of the country has devolved into lawlessness, with some small towns becoming tiny bastions of freedom. In many areas, criminals and other ne’er do wells have formed gangs and are looting and pillaging everywhere they go.
Throughout the series, there are essentially three slowly converging story lines:
1) Mason Raines may very well be the last surviving U.S. Marshal. As this third volume in the series unfolds, he is on the trail of a group of mercenaries who he suspects were responsible for the deaths of many of his fellow Marshals.
2) Meanwhile, his father, Tanner Raines, has taken a young girl named Samantha under his wing. Honestly, some of my favorite scenes in these books feature these two very different people learning to trust one another, with Tanner teaching Samantha (and the reader) a fair amount about survival. In Judgment Day, Tanner and Samantha are traveling to New York State in hopes of fulfilling the last wish of a dying man.
3) As all this is playing out, there are conspiracies against the President coming to fruition. As she is working hard to do what she feels is best for the country, Madam President is anxiously trying to determine the fate of her daughter.
Bradley’s writing is top notch. The characters are fully realized on the page. Their actions are always consistent with the personalities and backgrounds he’s given them. The dialogue is exceptional as well.
With all that said, I’d highly suggest you don’t start the series with this book. Simply put, you’ll feel very lost because each book in the series starts out exactly where the last one ended.
If you haven’t started the series yet, here are links to my reviews of books one and two.
You can pick up Judgment Day, as well as the others in the series, here on Amazon.
The first edition of Build the Perfect Survival Kit was one of the very first books I ever reviewed here. Long time readers may recall just how much I raved about it. The new edition adds about 25% more content (256 pages vs. 192 pages in the original).
This is a dangerous book, to be honest. I’m sure I’m not the only one who recalls how, as a child, the day the Sears or JC Penney Christmas catalog arrived in the mail was truly an event. I and my friends would spend hours going through the toy section of the catalog, making lists on top of lists of what we wanted. Build the Perfect Survival Kit is sort of the Christmas toy catalog for preppers and survivalists. I can all but guarantee that within a few minutes of sitting down with the book, you’ll want to grab a piece of paper and a pen to start a wish list of gear and supplies.
Build the Perfect Survival Kit covers all of the necessary components to a kit:
Fire & Light
Shelter & Protection
Water Purification & Containers
Food Rations & Collection
Cookware & Stoves
Knives & Tools
Medical Components & Kits
For each category, McCann offers a dizzying array of products as well as some of his own innovations. One thing I really appreciate about this book is that McCann has obviously field tested every item he recommends. Another thing I like is how he offers DIY solutions in addition to commercial products. For example, in the Cookware chapter, he talks a bit about the use of a foil mini loaf pan for boiling water and cooking, rather than buying a full set of camp cookware, a set that you’d never squeeze into a small survival kit. The foil pan can fold up flat and fit almost anywhere.
McCann also includes a short chapter on modifying your gear. Here, he gives detailed instructions for several projects he has completed, such as modifying an old military canteen cup so it can be easily suspended over a fire as well as fashioning a cover for it.
After covering all the kit component sections, the remainder of the book is how to put it all together and actually make the kits. Here, McCann illustrates in great detail what can be put into kits small enough to fit into your pocket and all the way up to full-blown bug out bags.
Examples of mini kits include those made using cigar cases, waterproof pouches, and the venerable Altoids tin. From there, the kits grow larger, from belt pouches to day packs, safari vests to shoulder bags and beyond. The idea here isn’t necessarily to just duplicate the kits shown but rather to give the reader suggestions of what can be included in each size container, including as many of the necessary components as possible. Customization is the key to building any survival kit.
As with the first edition, this isn’t a book of survival skills. While there are certainly little tidbits of bushcraft and such scattered here and there, you aren’t going to learn how to set snares and such. For that sort of information, check out McCann’s Stay Alive! book. What Build the Perfect Survival Kit will do, though, is get you thinking about all the different types of kits you can make yourself.
Build the Perfect Survival Kit (2nd Edition) is highly recommended for both newbies and those who have been prepping for decades. Pick it up here on Amazon.
I picked up a copy of this magazine at least a few weeks ago but noticed recently it seems to be popping up on newsstands everywhere. American Frontiersman is being put out by the same great folks who do New Pioneer magazine, a publication I really enjoy. Near as I can tell, this is the second issue of American Frontiersman. I’m not sure how often they are looking to publish it–annually, quarterly, or ???
In any event, I really liked the first issue of American Frontiersman so I was excited to see the new issue. I was not disappointed, either, let me tell you.
In the 130 pages of this magazine, there are about 38 or so articles. There is a TON of great information here. Seriously, this is one magazine you will want to read cover to cover.
Here is just a sampling of a few of the articles.
In Putting Bones Back to Work, Jill Easton shows us how to repurpose bones from our hunts, such as using them for handles or fertilizer.
Go Nuts For More Game! by Will Brantley explains how to use different nuts as bait when hunting.
Survival Spring Snares by Len McDougall illustrates just how to craft the venerable pencil snare for catching wild game.
Frontier Feasting by J. Wayne Fears contains several old-time recipes for things like bannock, squirrel brunswick stew, hoe cakes, and pemmican.
Denis Prisbrey reviews several different water transportation systems in Have Water, Will Travel.
Off-Grid Food Storage by Dana Benner is a great overview of several different methods for keeping your food safe without refrigeration, such as using root cellars and caches.
In Mountain Man Tools by Linas Cernauskas, we are given information on several new products, a few of which I’ve reviewed myself, such as the BioLite Camp Stove and the Brite-Strike CAPSS2 alarm system.
With a cover price of $9.95, it is pricey for a magazine. But, considering the vast amount of information here, and the extremely low number of ads that clutter things up, I feel it is worth the price.
The latest issue of Self-Reliance Illustrated landed in my mailbox about a week or so ago. As always, it is stocked to the gills with just absolutely stellar information. What I really appreciate about SRI is that the articles are being written by folks who have truly been there and done that. These aren’t armchair adventurists who read a couple of articles on Wikipedia and then whip out 2,000 words on wilderness survival.
I was particularly keen to get this issue as my good friend Tammy Trayer has a couple of articles in it. Being that this issue of SRI is focused on homesteading topics, Trayer’s inclusion makes perfect sense. Remember what I said about folks who have been there and done that? Trayer and her family live the life and have for quite some time now. In her article, What’s In My Pantry?, we are treated to an excellent discussion of what Trayer keeps on hand in her home and why. While admittedly this isn’t necessarily “breaking news” type of material, I loved hearing about what a true off-grid prepper keeps around just for daily use.
Trayer’s other article in this issue is How to Butcher Chickens. Here, she takes us step by step through the process, even including instructions for making a butchering cone. This is all great information for those new to this vital aspect of homesteading.
In Eatin’ Weeds: Acorns, by Craig and Jennifer Caudill, we learn all about gathering, preparing, and using acorn flour. They even include recipes for acorn cakes and pemmican. Helpful tip–concentrate on gathering acorns from white oak species rather than red. The red oak varieties typically have higher concentrations of the tannin that must be leached out.
Joshua Johnson gives us a great overview of different grain mills in Living Sustainably by Milling Your Own Grains, Nuts, and Seeds. He discusses several makes and models and also gives a brief overview of why a grain mill is an important component of disaster planning.
Scott Wickham Jr. teaches us about stopper knots in his Knots column. These are rather handy knots and aren’t something I’ve seen covered much at all in other survival publications.
In Making It Home, Conner Marshall talks about sea navigation. This is vital information if traveling on water is part of your disaster plans.
Tim Stetzer (aka Woods Monkey) reviews the Olight M3X XM-L2 Triton flashlight. At 1000 (yes, one thousand, that’s not a misprint) lumens, this thing sounds like you could guide a plane or Santa’s sleigh on a foggy night with it.
Brian Andrews gives a great review of the EcoZoom Rocket Stove, an item I’ve reviewed favorably myself.
There are also extensive user reviews of:
–Streamlight Septor Headlamp
–Grillo 107 D Two-Wheel Tractor
–Hydroflask Tactical Bottle and Growler
–Wetterling Small Splitting Axe
All in all, another great issue of Self-Reliance Illustrated. I cannot recommend this publication highly enough, folks.
There are books you read through once, then toss aside or trade in at a used bookstore. On the other hand, there are books you read and then want to keep on hand for future reference. The Simple Survival Smart Book is definitely in the latter category.
It is written by Patrick Shrier. He comes by his knowledge honestly, having spent a lifetime in wilderness pursuits as well as a couple of decades spent as a Cavalry Scout for the United States Army. He absolutely knows his stuff.
The Simple Survival Smart Book is not focused on long-term prepping but rather short-term solutions to keep you alive when bugging out or during other similar emergency situations. As a result, you’re not going to find a ton of info here on food storage plans, emergency power systems, and the like. What you will find, though, is great information and tips on staying alive while on the move.
Here is the table of contents:
Chapter 1: Survival Planning
Chapter 2: Preparedness Kits
Chapter 3: Outdoor Survival
Chapter 4: Map Reading and Navigation
Chapter 5: Acquiring Food and Water
Chapter 6: Combat
Chapter 7: Basic Field First Aid
Chapter 8: Useful and Helpful Knots
Appendix A: Tips, Tricks, and Hints
Appendix B: Minefield Record Card
Appendix C: Foodborne Illnesses
If Chapter 6 wasn’t enough of a hint, this book is written with a decidedly military bent. That’s neither good nor bad, in my opinion, just an observation. Given Shrier’s background, this makes perfect sense. Personally, I rather appreciated the insight provided in Chapter 6, as well as throughout the book. I also genuinely enjoy his writing style. He is not at all dry but is, in fact, pretty humorous in spots. He writes as though he’s standing next to you, showing you how to perform different tasks. This is refreshing when compared to many other books in this niche.
This is a self-published book, rather than one traditionally published. As with many self-pubbed books, there are a few formatting mistakes and such. Nothing earth-shattering and nothing that should cause great alarm among potential readers. But, I’ve found that for some reason self-pubbed books seem to suffer more of this sort of thing than traditionally published books. Likely it isn’t the fault of the author but of the printing process itself.
One area where the book really shines is with Chapter 4. Navigation and map reading can be very confusing to someone who isn’t familiar with at least the basics. However, Shrier does very well with explaining this complicated topic in easy-to-understand steps.
Another chapter that is outstanding is the first chapter on survival planning. Here, he goes into detail as to how to create an effective plan to achieve an objective, primarily by using a variation of the military decision making process. Using this tool, any objective can be broken down into incremental steps.
The Simple Survival Smart Book would be an excellent addition to the bug out bag or other kit. It runs 240 or so pages, so it isn’t too huge or bulky. Slip it into a ziplock bag and toss it into your kit after you’ve read it. The book would be a valuable tool for any time you’re forced to abandon civilization for a bit.
As of this writing, it is going for about $12.00 on Amazon.
The new issue of American Survival Guide dropped a bit ago and I’ve finally managed to get through it. Time, as of late, has been getting away from me. If you’ve passed by any newsstands recently, you probably saw this issue and wondered if it was worth picking up.
In my opinion, yes, it is definitely worth the purchase.
At 130 pages, it is a bit thicker than many of its counterparts. As with past issues of this new version of ASG, it is professionally done, with excellent photos and great writing. All told, there are about 18 full articles in this issue, covering a wide range of topics.
The articles are divided into sections — Chemical Warfare, Urban Preparedness, General Preparedness, Homesteading Preparedness, and Wilderness Preparedness. While I liked most of the articles, a few really stood out to me.
Lock Picking 101 by Jack Richland covers a little discussed area of interest for preppers. Richland makes a great argument for the need for preppers to learn this skill and gives some basic instruction. While you aren’t going to be able to run out and open any door you wish with nothing more than a bent paper clip after reading this article, it does provide some great basic information.
Doable Drills by Larry Schwartz talks about the need for practicing your plans as well as keeping up with your skills. There are several suggestions for things you can do on your own or as a family or group to keep everyone ready to go if the proverbial balloon goes up.
Fireside Fortification by Michael D’Angona covers how you can use several different common campsite tools as self-defense weapons.
The Dope on Soap by Barri Segal provides instructions on making your own laundry detergent. This is great information for budding homesteaders.
Covert Digs by Alex LaGrand is all about using caves as natural retreat locations, including vital differences between caves and mines.
Included in this issue are five different buyer’s guides — binoculars, solar, knives, water filtration gear, and airguns. I always appreciate these buyer’s guides as they allow me to see side by side comparisons.
As with many magazines in this niche, the cover price is a little higher than I’d like — $8.99. However, they do offer discounted subscription rates, 1 year (six issues) for $21.95 and 2 years (12 issues) for $34.95, which brings down the cost quite a bit.
Finally, I’d once again mention that this American Survival Guide is not connected in any way (as far as I know) to the ASG many of us remember from years ago. Different publisher, different writers, slightly different focus. That doesn’t mean this is a bad magazine, far from it actually. I just don’t want anyone to get confused, thinking they are buying one thing and getting another.
I have to tell you up front, this isn’t the typical sort of novel I review here. It is neither apocalyptic nor dystopian. Instead, imagine just for a moment if the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks had taken place not on a deserted island…but a deserted planet.
Mark Watney is an astronaut and part of a team that travels to Mars. They are there to study the rocks and soil and do all the sorts of things astronauts typically do in space. While such missions aren’t necessarily routine within the scope of this book, this team is the third to do so. A freak storm causes the team to scrub the mission soon after landing. As the astronauts scramble to board their ship, Watney is struck by storm debris and separated from the team. He is thought to have been killed and the rest of the crew departs the planet.
Watney, however, isn’t dead. At least, not yet.
He is stranded on Mars, all alone, and with no way to contact either his team or NASA back on Earth. Now, for those of you who don’t remember your science classes, Mars has almost no atmosphere, nor plants or other natural food sources. Watney is forced to improvise with the equipment his team left behind. As the story progresses, he battles with that old scamp Murphy, he of the famous Murphy’s Law, time and again.
Along the way, we are also treated to some truly hysterical writing as Watney is a Class A wise ass. The bulk of the story is told through journal entries Watney writes. In fact, it isn’t until a few chapters in that we are even introduced to any other characters, other than through Watney’s referencing them in his journal. As we go along, though, the reader is given glimpses of what people are doing back home to try and reach Watney, once they learn of his survival.
Being both a botanist as well as an engineer, Watney is uniquely qualified to handle the problems he faces. My understanding is that the story is grounded in real science and everything that happens is at least feasible, rather than outlandish pseudoscience. I don’t have much more than a passing blush of knowledge about astrophysics and such so I’ll have to take others’ words for it.
I loathe spoilers so I won’t tell you how the story ends. Suffice to say, from start to finish this book is a wild ride. I do have to mention a language warning, though. If strong language turns you off a story, you might think twice about this book. While it certainly isn’t cover to cover cuss words, Watney is rather liberal with his use of the F work and such. I can’t say I blame him. If I were stranded on Mars, I’d probably be cursing a fair amount myself.
I truly enjoyed the heck out of The Martian. The author, Andy Weir, has a wonderful ear for dialogue and Watney’s character truly speaks to the reader. You feel his joy and his sorrow and it doesn’t take long at all before you’re rooting for him every step of the way. While this book will really be appreciated by fans of hard science fiction, anyone who enjoys a edge of your seat story will likely enjoy it as well.
You can find it on Amazon here as well as through any bookseller.
One thing that is often lacking in our preps is organization. Sure, we usually have at least a rough idea of what we have on hand and what we need to fill in gaps but is that really good enough? I mean, how many times have you stopped at the store to pick up a couple cans of whatever, only to get home and find you already had eight cans scattered amongst various cupboards and cabinets?
The Preparedness Planner is an excellent tool for keeping your preps under control. There are essentially two components to the planner. First, there are lists on top of lists of things you may wish to have on hand in case of emergencies. Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a comprehensive list of food storage, bug out bag components, and other supplies. I’d be willing to bet you’ll see at least a few things you’d not thought of before.
The second component to the Preparedness Planner consists of forms you print out and use to keep track of your goodies. These forms are the heart of the Planner. There are forms for keeping track of:
–Bug out bags
–Toiletries and cleaners
–Seeds and plants
–Animal and pet supplies
–Gear and tools
Each of these forms can be printed out separately, allowing you to only use what you need without wasting paper and ink. You can then insert these forms into a binder so everything is in one place.
As you add to your supplies or use them up, you update the Planner so you’ll always know, at a glance, what you have and what you need.
The Food Storage section even includes forms for menu planning. An excellent approach to devising a food storage plan is to create possible menus for a few weeks, then calculate what you’ll need to have on hand for each of those meals. Using the tools in this Planner, this is a piece of cake (no pun intended).
Many preppers have devised their own homemade methods for tracking supplies and food rotation. Some use spreadsheets on their computers, others use notebooks and pens. The Preparedness Planner is a great middle ground between those approaches. The forms take the guesswork out of organizational difficulties, letting you just fill in the blanks that apply to your situation.
The Preparedness Planner is a tool, nothing more and nothing less. Sort of like a hammer, for example. It might be difficult to build a house without a hammer, but merely owning one isn’t going to give you the knowledge and skills to be able to do so. What I’m getting at is, don’t look upon this Planner as being the end all, be all, when it comes to learning how to incorporate prepping into your current lifestyle. It is a great tool, and one that I recommend to both new and seasoned preppers, but you’ll still need to do the work and not just let this Planner languish on a shelf somewhere.
All told, the Preparedness Planner runs 87 pages or so. The majority of those pages are the printable forms, with a scattering of very well written instructions on how to use them as well as the aforementioned comprehensive lists of food and other supplies.
You can purchase the Preparedness Planner from AreWeCrazyOrWhat.net.
This is, I believe, the second issue of OFFGRID Magazine, which is an offshoot of RECOIL. I reviewed the first issue here. As with that first issue, the cover price of $8.99 is a bit steep, in my opinion, for a magazine but there is a ton of great information here.
All told, there are 16 full length articles in this issue, spanning 114 pages. One of the best articles, I feel, is Short Range Comms: Understanding FRS and GMRS Two-Way Radios by Raymond Chang and Martin Anders. It is an excellent overview of this often misunderstood topic. The authors go into great detail on how these two-way radios can be useful without overestimating their range and capabilities.
Another great one is Bug-Out Gone Bad: Surviving the Loss of Your Disaster Gear by Tim MacWelch. We preppers usually have multiple kits lying around in our homes and in our vehicles. As a result, we are often no more than an arm’s length away from those goodies. But, what if we were separated from our kits? What are the priorities for survival? How can we plan ahead for even this contingency? All of those questions are answered quite well here.
In Prometheus Unbound: A Guide to Portable Stoves by Gordon Meehl and Martin Anders, they talk about the different options for small stoves, from those that are fueled by propane to those that use sticks and pine cones. Personally, I find I often enjoy “buying guides” in these magazines, where they do side-by-side comparisons of the different products available in a category. This one is no different, illustrating the various options with eight different stoves.
Another buying guide is found in Crucial Tools: Guide to Hands-Free Lighting, where they review no less than 16 different lights, from headlamps to those you can wear on your wrists. While many of these are rather pricey, the article does explain what you should look for when shopping.
In Meat You Can’t Beat: Canning Animal Protein, author Gordon Meehl explains the ins and outs of pressure canning meat. This article even includes a sidebar on how to preserve one of our favorite foods — BACON!
Other articles in this issue include information on selecting and using generators, fortifying home windows, treating hypothermia, physical fitness drills for small spaces, and even a few true stories of recent natural disasters.
All in all, I enjoyed this new issue of OFFGRID Magazine quite a bit. I’ll certainly be looking for the next issue in a few months.
I’ve mentioned more than once how sick I am of zombie books. To my way of thinking, of all the potential disaster scenarios out there, both plausible and outlandish, a zombie apocalypse would be among the easiest to negotiate. I mean, in most stories the zombies are rather slow-moving, so they’d be easy to dodge. Plus, it isn’t hard to pick them out of a crowd, y’know?
With all that said, I rather enjoyed The King of Clayfield. Unlike many other zombie books, this one comes across as at least somewhat realistic. A virus dubbed Canton-B is sweeping the nation, turning people into rabid, cannibalistic monsters. While they lack much of any intelligence, they are strong and quick-moving.
The protagonist is left unnamed and the book is written from his perspective. He’s a museum curator, which is a nice change of pace from the typical ex-Special Forces/Navy SEAL/Recon Marine that is all too commonly the hero in these sorts of tales. He has little to no inherent survival skills, though he is somewhat intelligent and quick-thinking as the story progresses.
The Canton-B virus sweeps through his town like wildfire one day, with mobs of people going crazy and attacking anything that moves. He’s at the museum when this occurs and runs outside to try and help those who are trying to escape the zombies. He meets up with a woman who’s unseen brother is obviously a prepper/survivalist. Upon realizing our hero has not a clue what to do about this disaster, she tells him to start downloading and printing out as much information as he can glean from the Internet on topics like water filtration, growing food, and other survival skills. Her brother soon picks her up from the museum, battling zombies all the way.
He then comes across an old high school classmate whom he’s spoken to perhaps a few times since graduation. They manage to flee the city center and head out to the countryside, though not without some difficulty. Jen is at times flighty and a bit…off. But, she is also a fighter and not afraid to do whatever it takes to survive.
They had both heard a few news reports indicating that alcohol consumption seems to kill the virus if you are infected. So, the acquisition and imbibing of Southern Comfort is high on the to do list after any encounter with the zombies.
As the story moves further along, we meet other characters, both good and bad. What I really appreciated as a reader was how most of these characters had distinct personalities and motivations. While their back stories weren’t fleshed out very much, that made for a leaner story overall.
They discover that some of the people they’ve killed in self-defense come back to life later, becoming what we readers might recognize as true zombies, the undead. This, however, isn’t discussed much in the story, with the characters just being confused about this new development.
All in all, The King of Clayfield wasn’t a bad read, but it does have a few minor faults. The book begins 8 months after the virus outbreak, with the protagonist talking about being thankful he’s learned how to grow food and not have to rely upon scavenging canned goods to survive. From there, the basically becomes a giant flashback about how the virus started and all that happened to the hero along the way. But, the book never reverts back to the time frame at the beginning of the story.
The book also ends somewhat abruptly. However, I later learned there are two sequels to The King of Clayfield, so in retrospect I guess this makes sense, at least to a degree.
The King of Clayfield is fairly well written, lacking the typos and other errors that are so common nowadays. The dialogue rings true, with each character having their own “voice.” The actions of the various characters are true to their personalities and motivations.
What I really liked, though, was how the zombies in this book were sort of secondary to the story itself. Rather than focusing on the states of decomposition and trying to shock the reader with scenes of gore just for the sake of gore, Gregory instead concentrated on the survivors, which I felt was a wise choice. This is a story of people, not the undead.
The King of Clayfield was certainly good enough to get me to search out the sequels — All That I See (book 2) and Fire Birds (book 3).