Founders: A Novel of the Coming Collapse by James Wesley, Rawles, Atria Books, 2012 ($25.99)
Well, the first thing I did when I got ready to read Founders was look at the back cover at the critics' quotes reviewing the last book in the series, Survivors. I'm reading the quotes and who wrote them... heard of that magazine, know that guy, familiar with that blog, never heard of that one, hmmm, there's another one called If It Hits The Fan... what? Yep, sure enough, a quote from when I reviewed Survivors made it to the cover. I now have "world famous literary critic" to add to my list of cool things I have done.
So anyway, Founders is the third book in the series that James Rawles began with Patriots. Unlike other series, this one is unique in that the three books take place contemporaneously with other parts of the country, back stories and minor characters from the other books.
The third chapter starts off in my home town of Richmond, Virginia. This is always exciting, but makes me a little nitpicky. In a Patricia Cornwell novel (nearly all of which take place in Richmond), the had the character buying a gun at Green Top, a favorite local gun shop. But then she described the interstate junction incorrectly. Clive Cussler had Dirk Pitt and the NUMA gang involved in a classic car race at the state fairgrounds followed by an exciting chase scene down historic Rt. 5 with a police helicopter in hot pursuit. Back then we didn't have any police helicopters around here, just a multi-jurisdiction airplane. More recently, in the novel, Memorial Day, Vince Flynn had the terrorists killing a Hanover deputy at a self-storage place on Rt. 360 that I knew exactly where he was describing. He then had the terrorists come into my county, New Kent, and go to the beautiful riverfront homes at Plum Point to kill a couple and steal their cabin cruiser. At the time I was a volunteer deputy in the county and wasn't familiar with Plum Point, so the next time I worked, I set out to find it and see how close it was to Flynn's description. Let's just say that he used quite a bit of literary license... it's riverfront alright, but not the nice homes with cabin cruisers docked out front, more like 35 year old single wides with a Ford Pinto up on blocks for a dog house and a rusted out jon boat pulled up in the mud. So where does Rawles go wrong with Richmond? He has the character going to my alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University, for law school. VCU has a fine medical college, but no law school. He should have gone cross town to the University of Richmond which has a highly regarded law school - Judge Bork is one of the professors. The character attends a Messianic Jewish temple, Tikvat Israel, on "Grove Street." Tikvat Israel is indeed the local Messianic Jewish temple, but no Richmonder has ever heard of Grove Street... It's Grove Avenue.
That's enough of my personal connections to Founders, what did I think of the book?
I really liked it. It took some minor characters from the first two novels and fleshed out their stories. A large part of the book was about a couple that appeared in both of the other books and had to hike from Chicago to Idaho after the breakdown. We really get a good look at how they spent that two year journey. We also get a much better understanding of how the new government was formed and how the battles went around the country.
Rawles has mastered the art of writing dialog. In Patriots, the dialog tended to be very stilted and artificial. It was better in Survivors, but now the dialog is natural and easy flowing... a pleasure to read. He still manages to teach the reader valuable preparedness information while conveying a great adventure story.
There has been some criticism that Rawles puts too much religion and morality in the book. I think that where he included it, it was a part of character development or to further the story. Readers who know Rawles know of his faith. New fans will have to accept it, or not, it's their choice. But I don't think it is any reason to avoid the book.
Although the three books were written to be contemporaneous and the order read shouldn't matter, I think that Patriots should definitely be read first. Survivors and Founders can be done in either order. I think there is still room in the Patriot universe for additional contemporaneous stories. I'd also like to see one that comes immediately after Patriots and shows how the rebuilding goes.