Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Book: The Disaster Diaries, by Sam Sheridan (2013)

Sam Sheridan is an MMA veteran as well as a former EMT and wilderness firefighter – and he feels unprepared for catastrophe. If he’s not ready for The End of the World as We Know It (or TEOTWAWKI, as he helpfully abbreviates it), then yours truly is even worse off. No cocktail ice or Major League Baseball? I might as well lie down and wait for the rampaging hordes to come to me.

In his book subtitled How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse, Sheridan asks what you can actually do to prime yourself for The End. He visits with experts and undergoes training on a host of skills that will come in handy in the wake of society’s downfall. Battlefield medicine, hunting, rudimentary auto theft, knife fighting 101 – everything you’ve seen in the movies. His focus always returns to what individuals can do to brace themselves physically and especially psychologically for high-pressure situations. The best material surveys the existing science, much of it conducted by the U.S. military, on how the brain responds to stress.

In addition to the scrupulous research and a surprisingly clear-eyed and optimistic closing chapter, Sheridan frames all of this information in terms of an epic and ongoing calamity. It starts with The Big One striking the West Coast, followed by a mysterious viral outbreak, zombies, an alien invasion, bad weather and cannibalism. Any two of these things in combination would break lesser men yet Sheridan is resolute, curing his own clothes and wood-smoking gunshot wounds. Seriously, I will be of no use to you when shit goes bughouse.

Actually, scratch that. There is one thing I can do. I can lead a ragtag band of survivors to the ruins of a library and point them toward this entertaining, useful book. With any luck, they’ll eat me last.