Books – 1632 & Island In The Sea Of Time

Reminder: Uber-cool Hardigg cases for sale!

I have a weak spot for survival fiction. Two of my absolute favorites in this genre are “Lucifer’s Hammer” and, of course, “Alas, Babylon”. Both books came out many years ago so it’s not often I find something that I wind up dog-earring as much as those two. (My copy of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ springs to mind but I suppose that is technically not a book about survival.)

One book, or series of books, that I find myself reading over and over again is “Island in the Sea of Time” – the first book (although it can stand alone quite well) in Stirling’s trilogy.

SM Stirling, in case you havent read his stuff, comes across as someone who must have been kind of a geek in high school and played a lot of D&D and watched a lot of science fiction. His books invariably construct some sort of circumstance where modern technology is limited or nullified and SCA-style geeks wind up being the new badasses.

Having said that, he does do a good job of creating engaging characters and telling a story well, although in Tom Clancy fashion he can wind up getting too caught up in describing technology or methods.

The premise for Island In The Sea Of Time is simple: the modern Island of Nantucket suddenly vanishes and re-appears several thousand years earlier…people, infrastructure, buildings, and all. The mechanism of this is left unexplained and the story then proceeds to how this society of people can continue to survive without the resources it is used to having. Throw in a few opportunists who want to use the opportunity to set themselves up as king of the savages, a few cultural stereotypes, and a large amount of re-invention of pre-industrial technology, and its a pretty compelling read.

If youre notion of the apocalypse includes a general global catastrophe where all you have is what can make or had socked away in your basement, you’ll probably appreciate this book. Once the .223 is gone, the gasoline used up, the batteries dead, and the radios silent, it’s all a matter of what can you make and how do you learn ow to make it.

What I like about it is the notion of intelligence, creativity, and adaptation being the fuel that keeps the fire of ‘civilization’ going. The characters have to adapt to their limited supplies of modern goods disappearing, learn to work their way up to black powder and steam technology, and make the most of the dwindling modern technology that theyll never be able to replace (computers, for example). Its an excellent book and if you have some time to kill I recommend it.

A similar, although not nearly as well written, story is 1632 by Eric Flint. Essentially the same premise with a different locale and era. A modern (or as modern as it gets, I suppose) West Virginia coal mining town is dropped into feudal Europe.

1632 In the year 1632 in northern Germany a reasonable person might conclude that things couldn’t get much worse. There was no food. Disease was rampant. For over a decade religious war had ravaged the land and the people. Catholic and Protestant armies marched and countermarched across the northern plains, laying waste the cities and slaughtering everywhere. In many rural areas population plummeted toward zero. Only the aristocrats remained relatively unscathed; for the peasants, death was a mercy.

2000 Things are going OK in Grantville, West Virginia. The mines are working, the buck are plentiful (it’s deer season) and everybody attending the wedding of Mike Stearn’s sister (including the entire membership of the local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America, which Mike leads) is having a good time.


When the dust settles, Mike leads a small group of armed miners to find out what’s going on. Out past the edge of town Grantville’s asphalt road is cut, as with a sword. On the other side, a scene out of Hell; a man nailed to a farmhouse door, his wife and daughter Iying screaming in muck at the center of a ring of attentive men in steel vests. Faced with this, Mike and his friends don’t have to ask who to shoot.

At that moment Freedom and Justice, American style, are introduced to the middle of The Thirty Years War.

More heavily focused on 17th century European politics and intrigues, its still an entertaining, although not very compelling, read. On the bright side, however, it is free.

Both of these really belong to the genre of ‘alternative history’, but I think they dovetail nicely into the category of survival fiction….much the way some zombie stuff is technically the ‘horror’ genre but also fits.

Of the two stories, I recommend Stirling’s if you don’t mind dropping a few bucks for a book. I find it a good enough read that I often just pick it up. open it to a random page, and start reading. The two books after it, by the way, are also very good and if you enjoy te first one I don’t think you’ll be at all disappointed with the ones that follow.

Walking Dead compendium, thoughts on FD food

My copy of The Walking Dead: Compendium One arrived the other day. The new season of the TV show comes out next week, but I’ve been wanting to read the source material for a while now. Obviously, there are some differences…most notably that the books are Daryl-less, and the fella that lost a hand was Rick. Anyway, the compendium arrived today and its about as thick as a Manhattan phone book. Should be plenty of interesting reading. For a real ‘3-D’ experience I should read some of this right after eating a pizza and then head to bed…should pretty much guarantee zombie dreams.


So I was perusing storage food at the gun show and it occurred to me that no matter how cool the picture on the can, how razoo the can is, nor how long the shelf life is, there are some things that, to me, just don’t make sense in terms of purchasing. For example, a sealed #10 can of rice. Right off the bat, rice stores pretty well. Grab a clean and dry gallon pickle jar, fill with rice, screw the lid on, shove it in the back of your cabinet, and assuming there are no bugs in the rice you’ve pretty much done all you need to do. Why pay $$$ for a nitrogen sealed #10 can of rice when you can, virtually, get the exact same thing on your own? So, no, I don’t buy #10 cans of rice.

Another thing I was looking at was freeze dried diced tomatoes. Okay, I use tomatoes a bit but I usually keep dozens of cans of them in storage. They dont have twenty year shelf lifes, but I go through them enough that they get rotated fairly evenly and they certainly will last several years on their own. So why would I spend the money on more expensive freeze dried diced tomatoes?

Of course, there’s more to factor in than just the cost. For example, if I were to have to grab as much food as possible and beat feet outta here then the freeze dried #10 stuff gives me more food per pound than the non-FD stuff. Plus, the FD stuff in the cans is pretty much immune to low temperatures whereas ‘wet packed’ stuff may experience some issues in freeze/thaw cycles.

Then again, there are some things that simply do not store well over time in any other form except as freeze drieds. For example, I picked up some FD mozzarella cheese. Now, I can keep mozzarella frozen for a good while but the whole point of a disaster is that electricity is usually absent. In fact, if you’ve got electricity you really arent having a disaster..youre having an inconvenience. But you can’t take a brick of mozzarella (and we’re talking pseudo-mozzarella since real mozzarella is from buffalo milk and most of what we buy in the grocery store is not from buffalo milk) and stick it on the shelf and have it be edible in a year. So, in the case of this cheese, FD makes sense.

AN excellent example of this sort of mispurchasing was when I bought honey powder in #10 cans. :::headdesk::: Honey in its normal liquid form will store forever on a shelf…so there was no need to spend the extra bucks for powdered honey when regular honey would have worked just as well. (This discounts other factors like portability and packaging.)

Anyway, I was at the gun show and someone there had a table full of the Thrive stuff and they had quite a few flavors that Mountain House and Augason Farms don’t carry so I figured I’d pick up a few cans of stuff to sample and see if they were worth going long on. While I have a pretty decent selection of stuff it’s always good to have some variety..especially with things that open up the potential to create new dishes. There may never be a time when we have to live off of what we’ve got socked away, but if it ever does come to that I don’t plain on eating a ‘Gump-style’ menu of fried wheat, boiled wheat, cracked wheat, wheat gumbo, wheat pilaf, wheat soup, wheat stew, wheat cereal, wheat l’orange, wheat gruel, etc, etc.

My point is this – before you plunk down the money for the long-term freeze-dried version of a food ask yourself if the regular version of the food would store almost just as well.

Re-reading some Heinlein

I’ve been re-reading ‘Friday‘ (first edition!), one of Heinlein’s last works. My typical reading pattern is to read a book cover-to-cover and then, over time, pick it up again and open it to a random page and start reading it again. I usually do this while cooking or eating in the kitchen. While waiting for water to boil I’ll pick up ‘Atlas Shrugged’ or some other brick and just start reading from wherever the book opens up. (Yes, the authors most represented on my bookshelf are Ayn Rand, Robert Heinlein, L. Neil Smith and whoever wrote all that stuff for Penthouse Forum). I find that this tends to give me much more depth of understanding…don’t know why, thats just how my brain does stuff. I pick up the story and the basics in the first read but the subsequent, random reads really cement it into my brain.

Anyway…Friday is tasked by her boss to use their research network (which is the best early depiction of the internet I’ve ever read) to define the hallmarks of a sick culture. Her answers:

“What are the marks of a sick culture?”

“[......] it’s a bad sign when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group. Or a racial group. Or a religion. Or a language. Anything, as long as it isnt the whole population.”



“So far as I have listened, before a revolution can take place, the population must lose faith in the police and the courts.”

“Elementary. Go on.”

“Well…high taxation is important and so is inflation of the currency and the ratio of the productive to those on they public payroll. But that’s old hat; everyone knows a country is on the skids when its income and outgo get out of balance and stay that way – even though there are always endless attempts to wish it away by legislation…..”


Prescient, no? Bobby H. seemed to have a knack for that sort of thing by the time he got around to penning this book. By the way, it’s actually a decent book. Not as doctrinal or manifesto-y as ‘Starship Troopers‘, nor as instructional as ‘The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress‘ but there’s still plenty of the Heinlein philosophy in there.

I found it interesting that, to the author, the symptoms of a sick society are pretty much what we have today. However, to be fair. these are Heinleins ideas of what constitutes ‘sick’. Some might say that a lack of  ‘honoring diversity’, Keynesian economics, and ‘social justice’ is the hallmark of a sick society. Personally, between the two, I’ll go with Heinlein’s.

Is society sick? I doubt it. As a survivalist, it’s my job to keep an eye on how the social wind is blowing and to evaluate how it affects us. I don’t think society is any ‘sicker’ than it’s always been (but, again, my definition of sick may not match yours). Oh, society is definitely a little more dangerous but I’m not sure it’s sick. Sick implies an ‘out of spec’ or non-typical state of being and I think the typical state of society is to be constantly swinging around like the pointer on Ouija board. Society has bouts of ‘morality’ and ‘immorality’, ‘selflessness’ and ‘selfishness’, ‘indifference’ and ‘intensity’, etc, etc. All of those are subjective terms, though…so take ‘em with a grain of salt…my ‘immorality’ and your ‘immorality’ may be completely different, for example. (Although I believe mine is probably more fun.) While I don’t necessarily think society is sick, I do think government, on the other hand, has well and truly gone off the rails. Don’t see anything subjective about that.

The pulp that men do…..

To paraphrase Billy Wigglestick: The pulp that men write lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.

Yes, the last book in the series was twenty years ago
Yes, the author has been dead for almost a year
Yes, sleeping dogs should be left to lie (or lay, I suppose)
Yes, there is a new “The Survivalist” book featuring Ahern’s uber-mensch survivalist.

That’s right, kids. Survivalist #30 is now on Amazon. ( The Inheritors of Earth (The Survivalist) (Volume 30))

I know, I know…kinda left me speechless too. And what’s really, really embarassing is that I’m probably gonna buy a copy :::headdesk:::

I guess if they can ‘reboot’ Star Trek………….


h/t to: ModernSurvivalOnline

Book – Unbroken

Had a hiccup with the PayPal button for the Hardigg cases. Check the post if you’re interested, still have a few left.


I’ve always been fascinated, in a macabre way, with ‘extreme’ survival stories. When I was a kid I repeatedly read and re-read the account of the Chilean soccer team that crashed in the Andes and had to go all Donner Party.

My dad sent me a book the other day that he said he couldn’t get interested in, but maybe I’d enjoy it. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is about Louis Zamperini who crashed his bomber in the Pacific during WW2, survived 46 days in a raft, got strafed repeatedly by the Japanese, washed up on a Japanese-held island, was interred as a POW (with all its attendant brutality), shipped to an ‘interrogation/high value prisoner’ camp in Japan, and survived (barely) four years in captivity that would have killed just about any one of us reading about it.

One of the many interesting parts of the book was details about how poorly stocked the survival kits in the liferafts were. Meant to be upgraded, they were neglected and when the time came that they were needed they were woefully underequipped. (Some military survival kits with their contents can be found HERE).

The book details the trials of the survivors in the raft, the unbelievable brutality in the camps (including this very sad and depressing tale about 9 Marines marooned and eventually executed by the Japanese) and the eventual end of captivity when Japan surrendered.

Tough book to get into because it starts with his childhood and upbringing and, honestly, that’s not very compelling stuff. But, once his bomber hits the water the book is tough to put down. POW ingenuity and mindset abounds and it makes for a very interesting read. If, like me, you’re fascinated with true stories of people surviving against impossible and brutal odds, I think you’ll like this book.

Starship Troopers quote

From the scene shortly after a child-killer is executed by hanging:

That night I tried to figure out how such things could be kept from happening. Of course, they hardly ever do nowadays—but even once is ‘way too many. I never did reach an answer that satisfied me. This Dillinger — he looked like anybody else, and his behavior and record couldn’t have been too odd or he would never have reached Camp Currie in the first place. I suppose he was one of those pathological personalities you read about—no way to spot them.

Well, if there was no way to keep it from happening once, there was only one sure way to keep it from happening twice. Which we had used.

If Dillinger had understood what he was doing (which seemed incredible) then he got what was coming to him. .. except that it seemed a shame that he hadn’t suffered as much as had little Barbara Anne — he practically hadn’t suffered at all.

But suppose, as seemed more likely, that he was so crazy that he had never been aware that he was doing anything wrong? What then?

Well, we shoot mad dogs, don’t we?

Yes, but being crazy that way is a sickness—

I couldn’t see but two possibilities. Either he couldn’t be made well in which case he was better dead for his own sake and for the safety of others—or he could be treated and made sane. In which case (it seemed to me) if he ever became sane enough for civilized society. .. and thought over what he had done while he was “sick”—what could be left for him but suicide? How could he live with himself?

And suppose he escaped before he was cured and did the same thing again? And maybe again? How do you explain that to bereaved parents? In view of his record?

I couldn’t see but one answer.


I wondered how Colonel Dubois would have classed Dillinger. Was he a juvenile criminal who merited pity even though you had to get rid of him? Or was he an adult delinquent who deserved nothing but contempt?

I didn’t know, I would never know. The one thing I was sure of was that he would never again kill any little girls.

That suited me. I went to sleep.


:shrug::: Crazy people do crazy things because…they’re crazy. When someone commits a heinous crime all the hand-wringing in the world about why and how are pointless – they do it because they’re insane. It’s really that simple. You cannot prevent someone from doing it, but you can prevent them from doing it twice.

Heinlein gets a rough rap about Starship Troopers but, much like Ayn Rand’s stuff, if you can get through it you certainly do wind up doing some thoughtful examinations about the philosophies within. Might not agree with them, but at least you think about things in ways you hadn’t before…that, to me, is the sign of good literature.


Book – “Invasion” by Eric Harry

As many of you know, the recent re-make of ‘Red Dawn’ was tweaked ‘slightly’ in post-production. The original bad guys were changed from Chinese to North Korean. Nevermind that those two countries have a vastly different level of military capability. The change was, ostensibly, to make the movie more marketable in the lucrative Chinese market. The more likely reason is that when the original outfit that made this movie went under, it was bailed out by another outfit that had some close financial ties to the Chinese. In short, they didn’t wanna offend the new owners.


I was reminded of a book with a very similar premise – ‘Invasion‘ by Eric Harry. In the book, the Chinese invade the mainland USA in a conventional-weapon operation after isolating the US from it’s allies. The book is full of the things that make an ‘Invasion USA’ scenario interesting – the Special Forces stay-behind doing his one-man war in the captured South, quislings, super-weapon designers, political intrigue, etc, etc. Realistic? Probably more so than Red Dawn. A good read? Well, entertaining, certainly. It isn’t exactly Tom Clancy but it’s a step up from your average post-apocalyptic novel (no cannibal looter army, for example).

Like a lot of books I found fun to read, this one is outta print but used copies abound. If you want something to read to warmup to the new Red Dawn remake, this would be an excellent choice.

Link – Hazlitt’s ‘Economics in one lesson’

Hazlitt’s ‘Economics in one lesson’ is, I think, an excellent book. It’s very dated material, since it was written shortly after WW2 when the economy was very different than it is now, but it’s one main message remains: “…the whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”

Long-term thinking….yeah, I’m a fan.

Anyway, here’s an online copy for you to read at your leisure. You may not agree with it, you may think it is simplistic, dated, or biased in some areas, but it does get you to think.

How does this relate to preparedness? Well, first of all, looking at the long term effects of things is definitely in the realm of preparedness. Secondly, understanding why some things in the economy happen the way they do is also a big advantage…forewarned is forearmed, and all that.

I’d be interested in hearing the opinions of those of you who read the whole thing.

Books – Pt. IV

With GPS built into just about everything, most folks don’t put much effort into land nav anymore. I’m not saying you have to get uber-geek about it, but you should be able to read a map and figure out simple things like azimuths, bearings, etc, etc. Someday you might need to leave someone a message (ideally it would be encoded) saying something like “12 U 300015.6 539714.70″ or the more cumbersome “48 41 43.07377 N 113 43 3.95584 W”. (Who is gonna be first to leave a comment telling me whats at that location?) Without at least a background in basic land nav (and perhaps a small map overlay), you’d have a hell of a time finding that on a map. More importantly, when you hide something somewhere out in the boonies…a cache, a body, a bunker…you wanna be able to tell people how to get there and nothing conveys precise locations like grid coordinates.

Be Expert with Map and Compass – This is the classic book on the subject and, really, it’s very good. It is also probably a bit overkill and intimidating for many people. No mistake, it’s an awesome book and one that should be right there in your library. I like the thoroughness of it, but it can be kind of daunting…it’s the War and Peace of land nav. However, you should have it because you can always learn just what you need at the moment and then come back later and learn more.

Map Reading and Land Navigation: FM 3-25.26 – I don’t come across many military maps but it’s still good information to have. Much of the information is fairly dated, which means if you’re just planning on navigating with a simple magnetic compass and maybe a protractor, then this is a great book to have. I don’t know if there’s a more modern version that covers GPS systems, but still, this book is a good one to have as well.

Compass & Map Navigator – This is actually my favorite book, which is kinda odd since this book is sort of a ‘Fisher-Price’ version of the previous two. However, it is terrifically illustrated, concise, and explains things quite well.

Although these aren’t books, they sorta segue in there. There are plastic overlays for use with regular topo maps and UTM coordinates. This is the one I use: Improved Military UTM/MGRS Reader & Protractor “Super GTA”. These things are awesome. When using the UTM system it lets you locate positions on a map down to the meter, although I usually just go down to a 10m^2 level of detail. If you havent used the UTM system, it’s wonderfully simple and since it uses regular numbers instead of degrees, minutes, and seconds, it allows easier calculations. My favorite example is finding the distance between two points on a map – point A and point B. With UTM you find the difference between the two axes, slap on a little pythagorean theorem and – presto- theres your distance. Good luck doing that with longitude and lattitude.