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08 June, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: "Zodiac: Signs of the Apocalypse" (2014)

With this week's Doomer Fiction movie review, I'm going to be talking about "Zodiac: Signs of the Apocalypse" (2014), which actually turned out to be a fairly interesting film, even though I wasn't expecting much. With that said, by no means am I saying it's particularly great. Rather, I'm simply saying it actually was a lot better than I expected it to be before sitting down to watch it; and, considering it's just a little over $5 for the DVD, I would definitely recommend it for screening by readers of this site.

Basically, it proceeds under the premise that the Signs of the Zodiac (the symbols themselves) are actually representations of prophecy that ancient man has attempted to pass down to us. In other words, each symbol actually visually looks like a disaster that is going to occur in the future. And, of course, the film is set when those apocalyptic events are actually taking place. Tsunamis in South America that visually take the form of the symbol for Scorpio; explosive meteor showers that wreak havoc across much of the northern hemisphere and take the form of the symbol for Leo; that's basically what we're talking about here, and it is like the Signs of the Zodiac are basically a countdown to some sort of upcoming apocalyptic disaster. Definitely a different take on your average disaster movie, which made it interesting in my opinion.

I also thought the cast was fairly decent, featuring a few faces that are easily recognizable from previous shows of which I have been a fan on the Syfy Network, including "The 4400" and the absolutely stellar "Battlestar Galactica" reboot from a few years ago.


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07 June, 2015

Feeding the Garden

I posted the pictures yesterday that I had taken of my little container garden I'm growing this Summer, so I thought taking a moment to talk about plant maintenance and feeding might be a good idea also. I'm feeding my plants a good dose of this every Tuesday, even though I don't really like the idea of being dependent on additives that might not be available in an emergency. Still, no reason not to take advantage of it now and try to increase the yield of my little garden, especially seeing as how I went fairly small-scale this year. The instructions specify doing a feeding every 7-14 days, but I'm definitely going with weekly since each plant only has access to about half a cubic foot of soil within each bucket. That's also why I'm being sure to water them daily, even in instances when it has rained a little. I'm just afraid depending on rain and watering only every other day would cause the plants to exhaust everything available in the soil and either die or fail to produce for me.

What are your thoughts?


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06 June, 2015

Finally Got My Summer 2015 Container Garden Started

I know it's a bit of a late start, but I actually did this about a week ago. Just hadn't had time to post the pictures yet. The last frost was well after 15 May here in southern West Virginia anyway, so I'm only a few weeks behind the curve. As you can see, I missed the mark by a mile on my original plan to start seeds in the house before moving everything outdoors. Instead, I ended up having to just purchase existing plants in order to have a garden this year at all. And, for soil, you can see the stuff I purchased pictured below as well as a larger version of the picture you see at the top of the article. Figured I'd do that to make it easier for you to see the plants.

Decided to go small this year as a trial, so it's basically just a gaggle of tomato plants and one sweet yellow bell pepper. Of course, I overestimated and only used half of the gravel (bottom layer to keep the dirt from clumping around the holes drilled in the bucket) and the soil I bought, so I might go in the next week or so and get a few more buckets and put a few more plants in the dirt. We'll see.


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05 June, 2015

PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Mountain House Granola with Milk and Blueberries

It's been a minute or two since I focused my product reviews on a breakfast food, so today I gave Mountain House Granola with Milk and Blueberries a try to the expected awesome result. By the way, if you're dumb like me and not exactly sure what you would be buying purchasing this granola, it's basically a cold cereal not at all unlike having a bowl of flakes or Rice Crispies or something similar… except it's a lot healthier. When Mountain House tries to sell you granola, you should basically picture in your mind hippie health food, but be prepared to be happy instead of sad after you eat it.

Preparation was also exceedingly simple. You don't even need to heat the water with this particular meal, since it's meant to be eaten as a cold cereal. Also, something to note is that there's a slight discrepancy between the instructions on the back of the package I received versus the Camping Survival website (one of our most loyal sponsors) linked to above. The website says that this meal requires 2 cups (16 ounces) of water, but the packaging I received said you only needed a half cup (4 ounces). It even said you could use a bit less to make a thicker granola, so I actually used just under a half cup, stirred it really well for a few minutes, then ate it as you see pictured at the bottom of this article. Easy peasy.

As you can see, I wasn't kidding when I said it was very much like eating a bowl of cereal. And the blueberries even turned the reconstituted milk blue, which gave me good thoughts since that's exactly what blueberries are supposed to do. Let me know the ingredients are as they should be. I also really liked the fact that the meal you see in the picture above took only just under a half cup (4 ounces) of water to prepare. In an emergency situation, water is a particular commodity/resource that could become more difficult to obtain in quantity, so being able to prepare a meal like this without using up a lot of your supplies is very welcome. It's also worth taking note that, unlike most of these mylar pouch freeze-dried meals, this one is actually very low in sodium content. As usual, what you see in the picture above represents the contents of the entire pouch, so I would advise not counting on it being two full servings (at least, not for two adults), unless you're just looking for a light snack as opposed to a very filling breakfast. Other than that, color me 100% satisfied.


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04 June, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: "Holding Their Own: A Story of Survival" by Joe Nobody

Making an effort to get back on schedule, today's Doomer Fiction book review will be centered around "Holding Their Own: A Story of Survival" by Joe Nobody (Kindle edition), which represents the first installment in a whole series that I've been looking forward to reading. Most folks in our little niche have always spoken highly of the author. In fact, if you click on the links that take you to Amazon.com, you will see that 82% of the individuals reviewing this first novel in the series have ranked it at either four or five stars in their opinion, and so I'm happy to have finally gotten around to checking it out for myself. 

First off, let me apologize for not having published a book review at all last week, my final one being the article focusing on "Station Eleven: A Novel" by Emily St. John Mandel the week before that. My reading fell behind as the result of finishing up one of my classes and the untimely death of a friend, and so I had originally intended on simply swapping the dates between my normal Wednesday book review and the Prepper product review I try to do every Friday. Unfortunately, it simply became increasingly clear that time was not going to be on my side. Therefore, I decided simply to skip a week on the book review in order to give myself the needed time to finish the material. And, yes, I realize I'm technically still one day behind. Sorry if that through any of you folks for a loop, but I'm hoping to be back on the regular schedule now.

This first novel in the burgeoning series was written a few years ago, but through some quirk of timing I'm actually reading it when the story is supposedly taking place in 2015. Needless to say, the author's fictional 2015 is a bit different from the one we are living in right now. For instance, the 2015 in which the novel takes place finds the United States severely weakened by the Second Great Depression. Economically, things are a complete mess, and it shouldn't surprise you nor spoil anything for you as a reader for me to tell you that what you will be reading in this series of novels is a description of a virtually complete societal collapse as a result of the collapse of the U.S. economy. Essentially, the author will describe how some very well-timed terrorist attacks are utilized when the country is already at the brink in order to push us past the proverbial flashpoint and cause a virtually complete collapse.

Into this setting, we are introduced to a character named Bishop and his wife. They are residents of the city of Houston (NOTE: the fourth largest city in the country is a bad place to be when society falls apart) at the time of the collapse, and the early parts of the story revolve around their attempt to remain in their suburban neighborhood and ride out the disaster with their neighbors as everything around them dissolves into violence and anarchy. Needless to say, they eventually realize that the situation is completely untenable, and so they decide to make a run for some land that Bishop inherited in far-off West Texas with the supplies they are able to fit into their pickup truck with an installed camper top. This novel basically tells the story of their journey to try to reach their bug-out location across a Texas where the rule of law and order is no longer present.

Gotta say, after finishing this first novel, I'm definitely a fan and looking forward to the second book in the series. Interestingly, the author even managed to work in certain details that speak to the mind of those of us who consider ourselves Preppers / Survivalists, like the fact that one very rural community near their West Texas destination actually seems to have fared much better as TSHTF around them, even managing to form a barter economy to keep things going. Based off of this first novel in the series, I would definitely recommend these books. More to come as I continue reading and reviewing.


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01 June, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: "Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015)

With respect to my Doomer Fiction movie review this week, I decided to actually enjoy a little time out with a friend and do something more current with "Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015). As Preppers / Survivalism proponents, I'm wagering that most of you have seen the previous installments in this movie franchise of which this is the fourth film. The earlier films are considered classics in our little subgenre, though I'll admit they probably aren't for everybody. In essence, they depict different time periods in a post-apocalyptic Australia, where society has completely collapsed into a violent, anarchy-laden TEOTWAWKI landscape as the result of a non-specified disaster. That being said, it's pretty obvious that environmental threats such as climate change have ostensibly played a role as well as peak oil and other resource depletion, evidenced by the fact that gasoline is pretty much considered a form of currency and something that wars are fought over in the universe of these films.

It is never expressly stated, but interviews with the filmmaker during the release publicity tour have led many to believe that this most recent film – featuring a completely post-apocalyptic setting – isn't really the reboot it might seem. The original Mad Max film from 1979, for instance, depicted a world in serious decline where the rule of law and order was beginning to break down and violence was becoming more rampant; it was not, however, either complete TEOTWAWKI or a landscape so completely different from what we today might recognize as seen in the later films. This one, on the other hand, jumps straight to featuring a 30-something year old Max in a much-changed world where society has completely fallen apart and the landscape is ruled instead by vicious warlords who hold people in their sway through a tyrannical system of water and food rationing. Long story short: many now believe that the first film in the series is meant to be viewed as occurring in the near future, the second and third films occurring near each other in the timeline about 15 years after the original, and this one actually occurring 30 years after those... which would mean that the Mad Max in this film is a completely different individual from the original, perhaps even being the adult version of the feral child character from the earlier films who has grown up seeing Max as a hero and assuming his name. Now, for what it's worth, that may be complete bullsh*t fan speculation, but I really like the synchronicity and continuity of looking at it that way. YMMV.

The theory described above would go a long way toward explaining why the setting is so bleak, and describing it as post-apocalyptic couldn't possibly be more true. The landscape is, basically, parched desert as far as the eye can see with the viewer eventually being shown a glance of fetid swamp lands with what is described as poisonous ground, where nothing will grow. Also, as might be expected in a situation where the collapse of society occurred some time ago, what appear to be separate warlords have arisen, who apparently have their own separate territories, but also have some sort of treaty system in place where they can call upon each other for assistance in the event of an emergency. The culture and belief system in place also seems to be an odd mish-mash of real-world historical warrior cultures that the tyrants in charge have apparently built up, thus creating a strange combined form of mythology and religion that helps to ensure young warriors are willing to fight and die for them. That kind of society doesn't rise overnight, as those of us who are preparing for darker times are no doubt already aware, so it makes sense to think of this film as further into the continuity of the franchise, rather than a simple reboot.

However you choose to look at it, though, it's definitely a fun ride. To be brutally honest, I was not excited by the prospect when I first learned they were shooting a fourth film in the franchise that was being envisioned as a reboot. That was over a year ago, and my opinion had not changed. Prior to the films actual release, however, I started hearing some very good things, and so when my friend invited me to tag along I went with it, and I ended up being very glad that I did. My honest No-BS assessment is that "Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015) is actually one of the better pure action films to be released in many years. It's essentially a two-hour long car chase and adrenaline ride that is definitely worth the price of admission.


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27 May, 2015

PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Mountain House Noodles and Chicken

Slight change in the schedule for the week, so I'll be reviewing the Mountain House Freeze-Dried Noodles and Chicken Entree this evening, instead of the typical Friday schedule, and trading places with it and the usual book review I normally post on Wednesdays. This particular dish is another of the ones typically talked about by enthusiasts of the Mountain House brand of foods, so I was very much looking forward to finally getting around to trying it for myself. And, as usual, it was definitely a satisfying experience.

The instructions call for 2 cups of boiling water, and then it needs to sit for 8-9 minutes
Final product pictured above. A very satisfying meal that reminded me a great deal of chicken noodle soup (shouldn't really be surprised by that) minus the soup part. At the risk of sounding like a bit of a broken record, serving size is consistently an issue with almost 100% of these mylar pouch freeze-dried meals. This one is supposed to represent 2.5 servings, but – as you can see – all you get from making the entire pouch is one fairly substantial bowl. As always, my advice is to take the serving sizes listed with a proverbial grain of salt, and plan on serving these on a bed of rice or something similar in the event you're actually breaking into your supplies. Two cups of rice with a cup of this on top and maybe a bit of soy sauce for the rice would make a really nice meal, and it would serve the double purpose of making your freeze-dried long-term storage survival rations last a lot longer and keep costs down, since rice is extremely cheap and keeps very well.


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25 May, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: "The Andromeda Strain" (2008)

Our film review for this week focuses upon "The Andromeda Strain" (2008). As of the moment I'm writing this review, Amazon only has this film available as the DVD version (available for purchase by clicking the name of the film or the graphic depiction of the DVD cover to the left as always). I cannot tell you if there are currently any plans for them to carry a Blu-ray copy. This miniseries is, of course, something of a remake of the original 1971 film (though, admittedly, it's only a very loose remake thereof), and it can be described as being similarly loosely Based Upon the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. Honestly, I haven't yet read it myself (an oversight I will hopefully correct soon), but in speaking to those who have done so I would say that the typical Based Upon statements truly does mean Based Upon in this case as there are apparently quite a few changes from the original source material. Like I said, I don't know that for sure myself and I'm only taking it from what others have said, so YMMV with respect to your own assessment.

You will also quickly notice, I'm sure, if you follow my provided links to the Amazon site, that this film garnered decidedly mixed reviews. Some enjoyed it, while others hated it. I suppose it's possible that my own opinion is a bit jaded by the fact that I'm a Doomer Fiction fan with a special interest toward anything involving disease pandemics (because that's one of my greatest fears as a Prepper / Survivalist), but I thought it was a decent enough film. Far from the best example imaginable, but not nearly as bad as what some others seem to have thought. That being said, it is a Made for Cable TV miniseries produced by the folks over at SyFy that originally aired on their sister network A&E, so you can't go into this expecting Hollywood-level production values. The cast are some very capable folks. We're talking Benjamin Bratt, Rick Schroder, and Andre Braugher here, though, not Hollywood action heroes that make $20 million per film and win Oscars. Still, in my opinion, those involved did a pretty decent job with the script they were handed, and – honestly – while mostly relegated to TV acting, I think the stars of this one are fairly talented guys and gals. That being said, the script was a bit clunky at times and definitely could have been better. All in all, though, I think it's pretty decent.

The basics of the plot (without really giving away any Spoilers) revolve around a bunch of military and government liaison scientists tasked with investigating and putting down a sudden and deadly disease outbreak that is somehow related to a downed satellite in the American Intermountain West region. These folks are part of a team working under the auspices of a government program known as "Project Wildfire" that involves them being sequestered in a rather impressive underground facility, which includes its own dedicated state-of-the-art decontamination protocols, laboratory space and living areas where they must stay for the duration of the emergency, and is powered by its own small nuclear reactor. Together, these experts must work under the scrutiny of the government to attempt to ascertain both the cause for the sudden plague as well as how to keep it from spreading and, ultimately, to find a cure. Needless to say, being based upon original material written by Michael Crichton means you can expect a little bit of a deviation toward science fiction, but I really thought this was a pretty decent effort for a TV movie.

I think you'll enjoy it.


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22 May, 2015

PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Mountain House Turkey Tetrazzini

Anyone who is a regular reader here at Backwoods Survival Blog and has previously read my reviews of the different varieties of long-term food storage products that are currently available for purchase and stocking-up your survival pantry and supplies will, no doubt, already be aware that – with few exceptions – Mountain House brand foods are some of my absolute favorites. One of the particular dishes I have always heard good things about from others has been the Mountain House Turkey Tetrazzini, so I decided to throw my hat in the ring and give that one a try. And, I've got to say, I was mostly happy with what I found.

Just beginning the process of setting-up, which takes 8-9 minutes after adding 2 cups of boiling water

When it comes to taste, this one would have to be pretty high on my list of favorites, though there are issues to consider. Chief among those, at least for me (and this one seems to be a running theme with pretty much all of these freeze-dried pouch meals), is the fact that what you see in the picture above is listed as the manufacturer as being 2.5 servings. As you can see, I got one good-sized bowl out of making the entire pouch. Now, that's not really a dealbreaker for me, but it makes it quite a bit more expensive to stock these, and also there is the concern over the nutritional content: taking the amounts listed in the picture you see above for calories, carbohydrates, sodium, etc., one would have to multiply those numbers by 2.5, meaning you're getting a whole lot of sodium in the event you have to live on these for any extended amount of time. With respect to my weekly reviews, I just make a meal out of these and eat them for dinner one night, but I'm thinking stocking them for long-term food storage in the event of an actual survival emergency would have to involve planning on using them as part of a larger meal. I intend to use them, poured over rice. This way, you're not getting nearly as much sodium in your diet and you can actually stretch them to the listed amount of servings supposedly included in an effort to save money. YMMV.


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20 May, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: "Station Eleven: A Novel" by Emily St. John Mandel

Changing it up for something just a bit different this week, I will be reviewing "Station Eleven: A Novel" by Emily St. John Mandel (Kindle edition). Interestingly, this is actually a novel that does a very good job of spanning different genres… Well, that may not be 100% accurate. It isn't really that the genres are different, but rather the novel jumps back and forth in time to the before and after picture of a world ravaged by a terrible influenza pandemic. As a result, it qualifies both as Doomer Fiction as well as something more contemporary. It's definitely unique among the novels I am accustomed to reviewing for Backwoods Survival Blog, let's just say that. Personally, I would view this one as being a great candidate to recommend to anyone you or I might be attempting to entice into reading more typical disaster fiction as it would provide them with a view of the post-disaster SHTF scenario we always talk about where society has collapsed, while providing them with a bit of a softer landing in the more contemporary parts of the novel.

The novel quite literally begins with the death of a major character, who – even without living to see the state of the world post-pandemic for himself – somehow manages to touch on the lives of some of those few who do survive. The tapestry of this man's life and relationships also makes up a certain amount of the pre-pandemic story featured throughout the narrative, and his completely unrelated demise actually occurs on the same evening as the onset of the influenza outbreak in Toronto. From there, the story quickly follows a man with a peripheral professional attachment to the first, who receives advance information from a friend of his who works as a doctor at a nearby hospital ER, allowing him the time needed to stockpile as many supplies as he is able from a neighborhood grocery store and go to his brother's apartment. The two men remain barricaded there as they essentially watch the slow but steady unraveling of much of the world on TV (as long as the TV news stations continue to broadcast) and their own local area from the vantage point of high-rise windows.

The story also follows a young child who is present during the death mentioned above, fast-forwarded years into the future into a post-apocalyptic version of the Great Lakes region. She is a child who has grown up in the new world created by the terrible disease that wiped out much of humanity and tore society apart. She walks through this wasteland, a member of a traveling troupe of performers and musicians who tour the small towns and settlements that remain in a caravan of tents and old automobiles (pickup trucks now being pulled by horses) in order to perform music and Shakespearean plays in an effort to ensure the survival of art in a world turned harsh with violence.

Obviously, there's much more to the story than all of that, but I'll leave the specifics of the plot up to you to discover for yourselves. This is definitely a novel I would recommend.


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18 May, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: "The Towering Inferno" (1974)

Of all of the Disaster Films I have reviewed here on Backwoods Survival Blog, "The Towering Inferno" (1974) Blu-ray (DVD version) is, without a doubt, one of my absolute favorites. I'm a big movie guy, a Cinephile, and I'm embarrassed to say that I had actually never seen this film before screening it recently for this review. Let's just say that I am supremely glad to have corrected that oversight, because truly nobody should go without seeing this top-notch example of cinema greatness.

If you're a fan of Old Hollywood at all, then this one enjoys the very special flavor of featuring an unbelievably star-studded cast. Top billing was shared by Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, but the film also featured performances by William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Robert Wagner, Richard Chamberlain, Susan Blakely, Robert Vaugn, and even an older Fred Astaire, a much younger and less murdery O.J. Simpson, and many others, so it's kind of a must-see for that reason as well. Also, it marks the first time that two major Hollywood studios got together and joined forces to put a film together. Aside from all of that, though, it is also a supremely effective Disaster Film which should go a long way toward satisfying the particular sensibilities of those of us in the Prepper / Survivalist subculture.

As the title of the film as well as the art pictured above makes it abundantly obvious, the centerpiece of the film is a raging fire taking place in a high-rise building. The story is actually adapted from elements of two separate novels, one set in New York City and the other in an unnamed city, but the film places events securely in San Francisco, California. The setup that doesn't really spoil anything for you to know ahead of time is that it's an awfully impressive building, the first of its kind and the tallest high-rise in the world. Needless to say, they are holding a highly anticipated Gala event as a grand opening with many VIPs attending, including one of the U.S. Senators from the state of California as well as the Mayor of San Francisco among many others. It is an immense understatement to call it a big deal.

Paul Newman plays the architect who designed this monstrosity and who is finalizing plans to move to somewhere quiet in the country after all of the pomp and circumstance (of which he is a required but reluctant centerpiece) is over. Unfortunately and unbeknownst to him, subcontractors have cut corners in the construction of the building in order to bring the project back within its estimated budget, and those unauthorized changes will soon lead to a night of both tragedy and heroism.

The first few frames of the film will quickly let you know that it is dedicated to all of the firefighters of the world, and it stands as a wonderful testament to the valor displayed by those men and women on a regular basis. Their story is embodied by Steve McQueen, who plays the city Fire Department Battalion Chief tasked with fighting the inferno and saving the lives of those within the building.

Definitely check this one out! I should've watched the years ago, and I am so unbelievably happy to have finally had a chance to screen it now. If you haven't seen it already, you're in the same boat I was and you don't know what you're missing; and, even if you saw it years ago, it is definitely worth owning on Blu-ray. My own personal endorsement couldn't be more adamant.


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15 May, 2015

PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Backpacker's Pantry Chocolate S'mores

This week's long-term food storage review is going to represent a bit of variety from the norm as I take a look at and sample Backpacker's Pantry Chocolate S'mores dessert. As you might recall, I usually concentrate mostly on meals with respect to these reviews, usually either full entrees or breakfast meals as those are obviously the most important when it comes to actually putting away food storage for years of keeping to eat in an emergency. But, while that still remains true and most of my reviews will still center on those types of meals, pretty much every expert agrees that no larder is complete without some of what we call "comfort foods" that exists largely for morale purposes. After all, a steady helping of rice and beans with the occasional freeze-dried entree will help you survive, but it will also get very, *VERY* boring after a while, so it's a good idea to have something like Backpacker's Pantry Chocolate S'mores dessert on hand to mitigate that issue.

Powdered graham crackers added

Once everything was mixed and allowed to set up properly (which took, I think, 13 minutes, if I remember correctly), the final product looked like what you see above. Very much like a big bowl of chocolate pudding with graham cracker crumbs and tiny marshmallows mixed into it. Very good! Honestly, I haven't been eating a lot of sweets lately, and it was so rich it seemed to shock my mouth a bit. This is definitely something I will be purchasing more of for my own long-term food supplies, and as such I'm comfortable recommending it to you guys out there as well.


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13 May, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: "Battle Lines (The Survivalist Book 5)" by Arthur Bradley

Continuing on with recent reviews, today I will be writing about "Battle Lines (The Survivalist Book 5)" by Arthur Bradley (Kindle edition). Obviously from the title, you can see that this is the fifth book in this series that has – over time – evolved into one that I really enjoy reading. You can click on the link above titled Prepper Books (or just click that link I just provided) to look at my reviews of the previous four titles in this series as well as many others. Unfortunately, book #6 in this series (which, I believe, will probably be the final one) won't be out until sometime in June, so I'll be moving on to a few others to review until I can get my hands on it.

As per usual and by way of simply giving you a bit of background, in the event you haven't read this series for any of my previous reviews, the action takes place in the southeastern United States region as well as further up the East Coast in a world where a deadly disease pandemic has killed off astronomical numbers of people, resulting in the expected collapse of society that would no doubt result from such a calamity. Worse still, a certain part of the population who were not immune to the virus actually survived, the disease having mutated them instead of killing them. This adds additional danger to the characters in the story, because not only are they operating in a world where the rule of law and order no longer exists, but they also have to deal with people who have been turned into monsters by the disease.

Enter into that setting a Deputy United States Marshal as our principal protagonist. He is, essentially, a lawman operating in a world without law, and so he is forced to dispense justice often from the barrel of a Colt M4 rifle and/or a Wilson Combat Supergrade 1911 .45 caliber handgun. In addition, however, each novel also follows a secondary plotline, which actually involves the deputy marshal's own father, who began in the first novel as an incarcerated convict being freed by a guard with whom he has struck up a friendship in the wake of society collapsing around them. This individual has a definite moral code by which he lives, and we will later learn is in prison only by virtue of killing two men in a fight who had previously victimized a female friend of his. Needless to say, he's got a temper that has landed him in prison. He ends up becoming an unlikely guardian, mentor, and surrogate father-figure to a young girl lost in the chaos of the world who has her own interesting secret to keep.

This installment follows our Deputy Marshal Mason Raines as he treks into a city devastated by an unlikely and unexpected attack in search of more breadcrumbs to further his quest begun in previous novels, fueled by a sense of vengeance, and likely to serve as the climax of the story in the final Book 6. Meanwhile, his father Tanner Raines and young Samantha find themselves forced out of the hopeful sanctuary they settled into in the final moments of the previous novel and back out onto the dangerous roads of an America collapsed into chaos and violence. Interestingly, their travels will expose them to information with a bearing on both the origin of the disease as well as some hope of a future cure and a small community of survivalists, whose ways of doing things doesn't sit well with a man like Tanner. In addition, my least favorite plotline (yet, I'll admit, one that is necessary) exposes the reader to individuals in the highest echelons of what remains of the United States government seemingly gripped by an insanity that has driven a great many of the tragedies in the series and is pushing each and every character to what will, no doubt, be a stunning climax to the overall story.

One final thing I'll say by way of a slight Spoiler is that Mason and Tanner finally do meet up near the end of this penultimate installment in the series. This is something for which I've been waiting for quite a while as these characters have operated independently yet sufficiently close to be in the same places at different times and have previous word of each other's survival. If you find yourself looking for a new series to read, I would definitely recommend this one. The novels are short and to the point, but that also gives them a certain momentum that makes for exciting reading. There are very few dull moments. Also, now would be an ideal time to catch up to me, since the final volume won't be released for over a month now.


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11 May, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: "Meteor" (1979)

The 1970s produced a series of very enjoyable disaster films, among the best of which was "Meteor" (1979) Blu-ray (DVD version). That has always been my opinion, though I'll admit part of that might simply be the result of the stellar cast, which includes the always wonderful Sean Connery, Karl Malden, Natalie Wood, Martin Landau, Trevor Howard, and even a few scenes of Henry Fonda playing the President of the United States to decent affect. I remember watching this on cable growing up (I was a bit of a toddler during its actual theatrical release back in 1979) and really enjoying it. In addition to the talent of the actors involved, the film has a really exciting plot, and I have to say that it still holds up well even after all these years.

Watching it with today's eyes, the special effects may seem quite a bit outdated. Honestly, as impressive as they are at times when you remember how long ago this was, they truly don't even come anywhere near the polish of the Star Wars films, the first of which actually preceded this film by two years. Unlike Star Wars (which started out largely with a cast of unknown actors that didn't draw a big paycheck until it became a hit), however, I would imagine that a more mainstream Hollywood film like this spent a lot more of its budget on actors salaries and paying writers than it did on the special effects. And there's nothing wrong with that. The special effects are meant to be simply a backdrop to the story, rather than intensely eye-catching, and they serve their purpose well.

What moves you forward and keeps you engaged is the actual plot of the film, which essentially follows a scientist played by Sean Connery attempting to convince Cold War Era-minded military stalwarts (one of which is well played by Martin Landau) to cooperate with Russian authorities in a plan to save Earth from an approaching meteor, knocked out of its regular orbit and into a collision course with the Earth as a result of a comet strike deep within our solar system's asteroid belt. In addition to convincing those who are normally suspicious enemies to divulge guarded secrets and work together against a common threat, all those involved must also execute the plan needed to save us before it's too late.

Watching this film, it will be easy for you to see that it had to have been a huge influence on the makers of both the films "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon" in later years. Both of those later projects borrowed various plot motifs from this one, and it isn't overly difficult to understand why once you have enjoyed the experience. Imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, after all, and the makers of those 1990's era disaster flicks were obviously fans of this one just as I have been for many, many years.


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08 May, 2015

PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Backpacker's Pantry Cajun Style Rice and Chicken

I'm not ashamed to admit that I entered into my review of Backpacker's Pantry Cajun Style Rice and Chicken with a bit of trepidation. My personal tastes run toward in joining food that is somewhat spicy, but I don't really like it at all once it gets past a certain point and gets really hot. As a result, the word "Cajun" being attached to this one worried me a bit, but I'm happy to say that I walked away with all of my taste buds firmly intact after this experience.

Not my favorite, by any stretch of the imagination, but not bad either. A bit spicy without being overwhelmingly hot. Also, as is often true with these freeze-dried pouch meals, it's a bit hit and miss with respect to serving size. What you see in this photo are the contents of the entire pouch. It is listed as being two different servings, and you could certainly stretch it by perhaps adding something like Ramen noodles or additional rice with this dish poured over it, but if it's just this, then you should count on needing the whole pouch for one adult to have a filling meal outside of rationing.


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