Let the record show that I did not consent to be governed
Amazon Review of Dr. Patrick Johnston’s novel The Reliant
by J. Neil Schulman
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
The Reliant by Dr. Patrick Johnston
Publisher: Ambassador International
Publication Date: April 15, 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars, A novel that has some important things in common with my own novel … and some important differences
By J. Neil Schulman on September 22, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Reliant falls into two genres that I like:
1. Post-disaster survival fiction. One of my favorites is Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, about survival after a comet impacts earth—and this book has inspired everything from David Brin’s The Postman to the movies Deep Impact and Armageddon;
2. Christian themed fiction. My absolute favorite writer of Christian apologetics in both fiction and non-fiction is C.S. Lewis, whose Narnia books I fell in love with as a child, growing up as Jewish so I had no idea Christianity had anything to do with the stories. But as an adult I read all of Lewis’s published books and served several terms on the governing council of the Southern California C.S. Lewis Society. And that was when I was an atheist.
I’m also a writer who crosses over between novels, screenwriting, and nonfiction. Look up my Amazon author’ s page for my books. I also have two movies I wrote and directed on Amazon Prime.
My first novel published in 1979, Alongside Night—which I made into a movie released in 2014—has some significant overlaps with The Reliant.
They both take place in a near-future America where the collapse of the dollar due to hyperinflation triggers a political crisis bringing down the federal government. Both novels have as their central viewpoint character a 17-year-old—a boy named Elliot in my novel, a girl named Sophia in Dr. Johnston’s novel.
Both novels are about what you do when the crisis ends the comfortable life of the viewpoint character and your family is in danger.
Both novels portray the practical use of firearms in self-defense and could be considered “pro-Second Amendment ” and “pro-Prepper.”
And both novels when turned into movies star and have as an executive producer Kevin Sorbo. My movie came out in 2014; Dr. Johnston’s is planned for release later this year. Right now only a teaser trailer is available.
The similarities between the two novels end there.
My novel takes place largely in New York City where barter and foreign currencies take the place of the dollar so the economy limps along until a new market system arises.
Lucifer’s Hammer co-author, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, gave me thirty pages of notes which I used to write my eighth and final draft, after which Dr. Pournelle endorsed my first novel, writing, “Anyone interested in freedom will find this more than readable.”
The Reliant is set in rural Ohio—most of the novel taking place at a survival encampment in the woods—because with the collapse of the dollar all U.S. civilization has instantly collapsed into total anomie.
My novel is based on projecting what might happen in the United States based on the theories of economists like Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard; historical currency collapses such as France in the 1790’s, Weimar Germany in the 1920’s, and even the inflation of the Continental issued during the American Revolution; and what then was the brand-new Agorist theory of revolution as defined by my “mentor, co-conspirator, and friend, ” Samuel Edward Konkin III.
Dr. Johnston begins his novel very well with compelling action. He is a polished fiction writer in his first chapters. Then, the novel gets literally lost in the woods as the family is cut off from all communication with the outside world. Their encampment becomes dire and claustrophobic.
There is one false-to-fact plot device that enables the isolation of the family in the woods. There is not a single Ham radio in their bug-out bags. No real prepper—certainly not one trained by a father who’s as high-tech as an ER Physician—would not be an experienced Ham and train his family how to use solar-rechargable radios to network with other benevolent preppers to form larger survival teams.
The story, for each of the stranded family members, revolves entirely about how they view their situation based on biblical scripture. Much of the dialogue—all of the first-person narrative as told by Sophia—is entirely dogmatic arguments on what they should and shouldn’t do based on what I ’d shorthand describe as Christian fundamentalist Sunday School lessons.
Dr. Johnston uses the collapse of the dollar to give us a post-apocalyptic mixture of John Milius’s movie Red Dawn about a Soviet/Nicaraguan invasion of the United States, Mad Max, The Road, and the Left Behind books and movies.
I spent time with Red Dawn writer/director John Milius. I gave him an autographed first edition of Alongside Night. John and I went to a firing range together where he let me shoot his own .44 Magnum, the one he gave the character of Dirty Harry. I also got to shoot John’s 1911 .45 Government Model made in 1912.
John Milius and I once walked together around one of the last Great Western Gun Shows, where John told me how if he knew how inadequate Soviet military equipment was when he wrote his Red Dawn script—he didn’t learn until surplus Soviet equipment was purchased as props for his movie—he never would have taken the possibility of a Soviet invasion of America seriously. John and I also chatted with Randy Weaver whose wife Vicki and 14-year-old son Samuel had been gunned down at Ruby Ridge in cold blood by the FBI—a precursor to the FBI’s attack on the Branch Davidian house in Waco. (Along with Mike McNulty and Randy Herrst I was one of the first three original researchers of the Oscar-nominated/Emmy-winning documentary Waco: The Rules of Engagement and you’ll find me in the “Special Thanks ” of one of the editions.)
And John Milius told me a story later retold by Charlton Heston (who endorsed my 1994 book, Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns) about how Steven Spielberg owned a private arsenal of guns on lists to be banned by organizations Spielberg sent money to, and when Milius asked Spielberg about it the Schindler’s List director told the Red Dawn director, “John, gun control is strictly for them.”
***BEGIN SPOILER ALERT***
The Reliant has a happy ending. Not the restoration of traditional America based on the Declaration of Independence and attempts to limit government through separation of powers and the Bill of Rights. No, it’s the institution of new government based on Biblical law.
Sophia tells us: “These men are two appointed deputies in an autonomous, self-sufficient Christian community that has been formed in Warsaw, thirty miles north. Their mission is not only to protect the innocent from roving bands of lawless thugs, but also to expand their community of peace and justice into surrounding areas of unrest, and to prepare everyone to resist the government’s predictable tyrannical remedy for the prevalent anarchy. There’s no more separation of God and government, they assure us. Not in Warsaw.”
That last statement—“no more separation of God and government”—is a rejection of the very roots of what has made America exceptional, a wall maintained between religion and government advocated by Roger Williams and handed down to the Founding fathers who enshrined it in the First Amendment.
Dr. Johnston’s ideal America doesn’t want a return of the ideals of the Founding Fathers signing the Declaration of Independence’s statement “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Dr. Johnston instead wants an America run according to Biblical law—and how is that different than Muslims who want things run according to Sharia law?
This return to theocracy—rule by religious dogma—is what Dr. Johnston’s characters call “freedom.”
In an odd sense The Reliant is a prequel to Robert A. Heinlein’s first published novel, If This Goes On, about a second American Revolution against a Christian theocracy that’s taken over America after another Great Depression. An economic collapse leading to a return of theocracy is as much of a reason to overthrow a government as King George the Third ’s tyranny.
Alongside Night is a libertarian novel.
The Reliant is not.
There are ways that The Reliant is intended as a more commercial novel than my own Alongside Night . Dr. Johnston knows who his readership is and what they want reified in their reading. They’re ultra-Christian and they want stories that reflect their ultra-Christian dogma. None of the heretical C.S. Lewis’s other worlds with talking animals and witches for these earthbound readers!
Robert A. Heinlein wrote a late-in-life novel titled Job: A Comedy of Justice with a viewpoint character who ’s a fundamentalist Christian minister thrown into end-time chaos. Heinlein wrote as a libertarian.
My third novel, Escape from Heaven, plunges a radio talk show host into the events surrounding the Second Coming of Christ. I wrote it as a libertarian.
I’m pretty sure that Dr. Johnston is familiar with novels and movies like these. He’s too good a writer not to.
But, man oh man, I wish the good doctor could realize that the Word of God inspired far more “scripture”—a word that literally means “writing”—to be read in more than one “bible”—a word that literally means “book.”
I’ve written extensively about my own direct revelations from God, Dr. Johnston. I’ve written about it both in autobiographical nonfiction and in fiction. You’ll find them right here on Amazon with titles like Atheist to Believer and The Heartmost Desire.
My revelation was that God is a libertarian. I think you might agree with that if you considered it. Your characters do believe in the God-given free-will choice between doing good and doing evil.
Meanwhile, Godspeed on your movie adaptation of The Reliant. Isn’t working with a talent like Kevin Sorbo just the best?
J. Neil Schulman is a novelist, screenwriter, journalist, radio
personality, filmmaker, composer, and actor. His dozen books include
the novels Alongside Night and The Rainbow Cadenza,
both of which won the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Prometheus
Award for best libertarian novel, and the anthology Nasty, Brutish,
And Short Stories.
Read more about him.
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