Mahaffey’s Book Review: Bugging Out to Nowhere

Bugging Out to Nowhere a novel by Paylie Roberts  (ISBN 9781470010447 Published in June, 2012.) 

“During the height of economic collapse in the US, Rachel and Tom flee for the countryside a day too late. With the comforts of city life unlikely to be seen again, they are determined to survive on their own out in the middle of nowhere.”  (From the jacket cover)

This fictional work is told from the first person perspective, set in the very near future. Rachel and Tom are ordinary folks just trying to make ends meet. They struggle with everyday needs while preparing for what they believe is coming down the road. They have a very good start on their efforts, when suddenly the beast of collapse is no longer down the road. He’s here. The story is a series of preparations, incidents and accidents, good and bad decisions, mistakes and corrections. This is an entertaining read with heaps of “how to” loaded on a multiplicity of topics related to survival preparedness.  Nearly every page has a teaching moment. The amount of information compressed into these 285 pages is astounding.

In addition to the bounteous information offered, I believe one of the most useful aspects of this novel is the dissection of the decision making process. Countless deliberations are rotated, twisted, and uncurled asking many of the same questions that Joe and Judy Average would ask. This book is an asset to anyone struggling with the questions of “what, how and why” of prepping. This aspect alone is worth the price of the book. The story line has enough developments to keep the reader engaged while learning a lot about the not-so-smooth journey into sustainability. All of this is told through the pragmatic perspective of the woman of the house. Although this book would be enjoyed by both genders, women will find a friend in “Rache”. Among her many qualities, Rachel is intelligent, brave, and practical. She has attained experience in gardening, animal husbandry and is pretty handy with a hammer. It’s refreshing to have protagonist without even one super-hero skill.

The novel is clean with only a couple of flimsy curse words. Sexual content is nil with the exception of a reference relayed by a third party. Even then, no specific content was described. Violence is to be expected in the post-collapse world. The action is there to a slight degree, but this is not the book if you want a hack- ‘em-up, blood and gore, zombie-feed-read. The end product is an appropriate read for high school age or mature middle school age children with parental discussions. Although opinions of the protagonists are woven throughout the book, the author doesn’t invest a lot of ink toward political rants.

As to the inadequacies of this novel, Paylie Roberts is a talented author- in need of a good editor. This book has a lot of needs. I found the numerous deliberations tedious at times with topics visited and then revisited in confab dialogues. The central characters are enormously likeable although lacking dimension. For me, a missing character is God. Given trials and, the long sessions of contorted soul searching, He seems glaringly absent. People tend to turn to God in times of trouble. We turn to Him to plead, to curse, to doubt.  Some will offer thanks and praise for His mercy. When the discussions of morals and values or new characters were introduced I would anticipate some religious deliberation. But, no go. Whether that topic was ignored to be politically correct, an omission of deliberate intention or a simple oversight is not clear. This would have been an opportunity to add depth to the characters and make the pain of loss and the reality of fear tangible.

There are inconsistencies in the storyline. Trite solutions magically fall into place at several junctures. The plot meanders, then suddenly, the ending falls into place. It arrives faster than Grandpa’s gelding through the barn door at suppertime. I found editing issues: grammar, spelling, sentence structure, present/ past tense, repeated sentences, repetitive information, and one humongous issue that I must rectify for safety’s sake. 

! Spoiler Alert! After declaring a person in anaphylactic shock, the author writes, “…this epi pen expires this month, I’m not sure if it’s safe to use. Most expired medications are okay to use expired, but not epi: it could seriously harm him. I can’t tell by looking at it.” It was not obvious by my reading but perhaps Paylie was trying to make the point, “do your own research and use common sense”.

Epi-pens are safe to use after the expiration date. The problem occurs with the loss of efficacy, not a creation of toxicity. There may some loss of potency but the benefits far, far outweigh the risk. In a truly anaphylactic situation if that is all that one has available, slap that in the thigh!  I have a medical background and corroborated my knowledge with a pharmacist and two emergency physicians. (Two sources of confirmation for you: NIH web page and Doctor Solve web page.)

It may seem paradoxical to endorse this book in light of my assessment of missed opportunities and mistakes, but there are several reasons to recommend this novel. This book is motivating and informative. Various potential scenarios within the realm of possibility are explored making this book a great gift opportunity for a couple to open discussions. I guarantee you will re-check your larder with a new eye after reading this book.  Paylie allows the reader to envision prospects to increase survival potential while managing a very tight budget. This book is a cut above many of the self-published works found in today’s survival genre. Paylie Roberts is a writer driven to share her knowledge. How ironic, the protagonists were not quite ready to bug out, but they needed to do so anyway; like Tom and Rachel, this book is not quite prepared by editing standards, but it is praiseworthy read nonetheless.

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