With the same sharp eye, quick with, and narrative drive that marked his bestsellers The Game, The Dirt, and How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, Neil Strauss takes us on a white-knuckled journey through America’s heart of darkness as he scrambles to escape the system. It’s one man’s story of a dangerous world—and how to stay alive in it.
Terrorist attacks. Natural disasters. Domestic crackdowns. Economic collapse. Riots. Wars. Disease. Starvation.
What can you do when it all hits the fan?
You can learn to be self-sufficient and survive without the system.
**I’ve started to look at the world through apocalypse eyes.** So begins Neil Strauss’s harrowing new book: his first full-length worksince the international bestseller The Game, and one of the most original-and provocative-narratives of the year.
After the last few years of violence and terror, of ethnic and religious hatred, of tsunamis and hurricanes–and now of world financial meltdown–Strauss, like most of his generation, came to the sobering realization that, even in America, anything can happen. But rather than watch helplessly, he decided to do something about it. And so he spent three years traveling through a country that’s lost its sense of safety, equipping himself with the tools necessary to save himself and his loved ones from an uncertain future.
With the same quick wit and eye for cultural trends that marked The Game, The Dirt, and How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, Emergency traces Neil’s white-knuckled journey through today’s heart of darkness, as he sets out to move his life offshore, test his skills in the wild, and remake himself as a gun-toting, plane-flying, government-defying survivor. It’s a tale of paranoid fantasies and crippling doubts, of shady lawyers and dangerous cult leaders, of billionaire gun nuts and survivalist superheroes, of weirdos, heroes, and ordinary citizens going off the grid.
It’s one man’s story of a dangerous world–and how to stay alive in it.
Before the next disaster strikes, you’re going to want to read this book. And you’ll want to do everything it suggests. Because tomorrow doesn’t come with a guarantee…
Questions for Neil Strauss
Amazon.com: What initially inspired you to write Emergency?
Strauss: It happened over the last eight years, watching as everything that we thought could never happen in America suddenly started happening. So I decided to take control over my own life, rather than being dependent on an increasingly undependable system, and worked toward becoming as self-sufficient, independent, skilled, and experienced as I could. That journey continues today.
Amazon.com: You use the term “Fliesian” in the book (as in Lord of the Flies). What is a Fliesian?
Strauss: Someone who believes that people, if put in a world where there are no consequences to their actions, will do horrible things.
Amazon.com: So how can we hold on to our kindness and humaneness in a crisis?
Strauss: Fortunately, in my experience, it is precisely these situations when you see the best in people come out. The worst in some tends to arise only when the resources one needs to survive are scarce and there is competition for them.
Amazon.com: Do you think that this book is catering to a fear-based culture?
Strauss: Actually, the book is less about spreading fears than getting over them. What most of us fear is the unknown, and we fret about what’s going to happen in an uncertain future when we consider the calamities of the past. I decided to no longer react to the things I read in newspapers, but instead to understand them. So I took each worst-case scenario to the extreme, and experienced many of the things that used to make me anxious. I guess, in that way, it was like a more interesting, adventurous Prozac.
Amazon.com: A lot of writers these days are basing books on various year-long stunts: read the encyclopedia for a year, always say “yes” for a year, have sex with your wife every day for a year. But your brand of immersion journalism, in Emergency and in The Game, is more open-ended–and more personal–than that. Do you draw any sort of line between the books and your life?
Strauss: My books never begin as books. They usually begin as some sort of lack I recognize in my life and try to fix with the help of the most qualified experts I can find. Often, these people are not in the public eye, but hidden in a splinter subculture. And while I’m trying to get taken under their wing, I realize at some point I’m spending so much time trying to learn and improve that I might as well have something to show for it, so I write a book.
Amazon.com: One of the first subcultures you embedded yourself in was a cabal of billionaires. Are wealthy people safer than the rest of us?
Strauss: No, they’re more scared than the rest of us. That’s why they’re taking so many precautionary measures. They are defined by their money, and now that identity is crumbling around them. You can’t buy safety. Those who are the most safe are the ones with knowledge, skills, and experience.
Amazon.com: You describe the philosophy of the sphincter in Emergency. What is that?
Strauss: I learned that from one of my defense instructors. The basic idea is that, in a high-pressure situation, the first thing that happens is people get nervous and uptight. And as soon as your sphincter tightens, as the metaphor goes, it cuts off circulation to your brain. So one of the best survival skills you can have is the ability to quickly and coolly assess a situation rather than panicking and doing something stupid.
Amazon.com: From your wilderness survival training, it sounds like you’re in pretty good shape if things ever hit the fan. But what if you live in the city?
Strauss: That’s a good point. A lot of the wilderness survival skills I learned don’t take into account that, in America today, there’s little actual wilderness left. So I took a class called Urban Escape and Evasion. As the teacher put it, “Once you learn lockpicking, the world is your oyster.” He also taught car hot-wiring, evading pursuit vehicles, and, as an exam, handcuffed me, put me in a trunk, and told me I had to escape. It was one of the most interesting classes I’d taken in my life. If I’d known these skills in high school, I definitely would have been expelled.
Amazon.com: The book has a surprising trajectory–surprising to the reader and I think to you as well. You start out looking for a way to get out of Dodge if one of many possible disasters strikes, but as you develop your survival skills, instead of becoming a lone wolf in the woods, you start becoming tied to your community, as an EMT and a trained crisis management worker (not to mention a goat midwife). It’s actually pretty heartwarming. Did you see any of that coming?
Strauss: Definitely not. I had no idea that when disasters happen now, instead of running away from them, I’d be running toward them and trying to be of some use to the community. I think that, if there’s a silver lining in the dark cloud that is the economy right now, it’s that hard times bring people closer together. Now is the time to get to know your neighbors. You never know when you may need them.
Amazon.com: Has your experience writing Emergency affected you differently from your experience writing The Game?
Strauss: Yes, because now, at 3 a.m. on a Saturday night, my search-and-rescue pager will go off and I’ll have to stop doing what I learned in The Game and start doing what I learned in Emergency.