Rugosa by Creek Stewart
Book Review by Jeff “Venture” Fournier
Note: the reviewer was given an advanced copy to review which will be given away in a future contest.
Many a survival manual is dry and boring. Sure, the information is good and the text clear about the techniques, but if it doesn’t engage you, it won’t be read. Some people are a little tone deaf to survival skills as well and don’t see how they could be practical. On the other end, Survival Fiction is a growing genre with many flashy and improbable characters who only loosely practice survival skills the author might have gleaned from reading a few manuals or watching a YouTube video or three. Creek Stewart’s new survival fiction book Rugosa answers that conundrum in an interesting way.
For those who want to know, the author Creek Stewart is a survival teacher and woodsman operating out of Indiana. He has his own survival school Willow Haven Outdoors (http://willowhavenoutdoor.com), several nonfiction books on preparedness, and even had an instructional survival T.V. show on the Weather Channel. He has extensive background in scouting as well as time in the woods doing what he teaches. Experience is his teacher with his thousands of hours learning in the woods as a student himself. Recently he has released his own line of knives and wilderness cutting tools, Whiskey Knives, available on his website. None of these seem trivial or untested and the quality of an American made blade shines through just looking at them.
With all the knowledge of survival and off grid living in tough times it seems to be an easy leap to writing about them, and Creek’s six previous manuals cover everything from bugout bags to vehicles. Why not do a survival themed story showing off the techniques in use?
Because it’s hard to pull off correctly!
That is the best part of Rugosa in my opinion. It nails that sweet spot like splitting a log with an ax in one blow. Creek Stewart could have easily swung the book to one extreme of the spectrum or the other. A dry story with lifeless characters and predictable outcomes might show survival skills flawlessly executed and instructed but not be very interesting. On the other extreme a character and melodrama heavy piece glosses over the nuts and bolts you need to get right to make the suspension of disbelief happen in a story. Rugosa splits that line and takes you in for a great ride. The story gives you some practical examples of survival strategies while interweaving them in a fast moving story to keep you engaged. You will never eat a jar of homemade Grape Jelly lightly again!
At its heart it’s a love story, but not a sappy romance. The main character Omaha is a seventeen year old living in a declining and all but conquered near future America with his mother and sister. He is in love with a girl named London. When she moves away to live in Philadelphia for a time he realizes his feelings for her and longs for her to return. Shortly after coming to this realization he receives word that the city is about to be cut off and destroyed. Armed only with his survival skills and a few basic items he sets off to travel the 400 miles to get her out past the blockade and back to his family’s survival retreat.
Omaha was raised as a Boy Scout by his family and trained in survival by his father and grandfather. There are many scenes in the book where he uses his skills and woods knowledge to track, hunt, forage and travel his way through all the hazards of his dangerous world. Along with a few basic primers in what to carry, what to avoid doing, the novel also gives you a great deal of hints on tying all of your skills together. Omaha’s greatest asset is his ability to stop and think when it is needed. Many times he is guided by lessons he remembers from his Special Forces trained father and his Native American grandfather. Coupled with his skills and ability to improvise as the situation calls for it, he has quite a ride. If you like outdoor classics like Hatchet you will see a nice parallel.
As good fiction, the book would give you a great weekend’s reading. Not too big to take to camp and it would be well received by readers of many backgrounds. Boy Scouts will enjoy the fact that the protagonist is one of their own, using Scout skills and values to practical effect. Even the average woodsman or hunter will enjoy the hunting and survival scenes that move the story along. Soldiers and the like will appreciate the harrowing combat and the fact that the story has a strong view of Veterans and their story of service and honor as a running theme.
I believe the story is aimed at general audiences but would be great for teens that would enjoy The Hunger Games or other dystopian future type stories. There is a bit of violence and killing as Omaha has to come to terms with the evil of the regime he is struggling against to rescue London and get back home. It’s a grim lesson but one that is also hard to get across to people who have never encountered it before. Creek Stewart does it well and keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Check it out, you will not be disappointed.
Rugosa by Creek Stewart can be found on Amazon.
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