“Bunker: Building for the End Times” by Bradley Garrett

“Bunker: Building for the End Times” by Bradley Garrett

c.2020, Simon and Schuster $28.00 / $37.00 Canada 316 pages

Like a good Boy Scout, you’re prepared.

No matter what today’s world throws at you, you’re ready. You’ve laid in a mountain of toilet paper, you’ve got hand-sanitizer, plenty of pasta, bottled water, and you’re good to go for at least two weeks. So now it’s time to read “Bunker” by Bradley Garrett. Is there something you might be missing?

Growing up in the southwest part of the country, Bradley Garrett was always aware of and fascinated by underground shelters. He recalls, as a teen, exploring “a thousand-year-old kiva” and, later, making his knowledge of subterranean spaces into a career.

Most people think of World War II when they hear the word “bunker,” but Garrett says that underground shelters have been in use throughout history. Germany, of course, employed bunkers, as has the U.S.: during the Cold War, Americans were encouraged to build bunkers as personal safeguards; our government was doing exactly that for “the elites” then, and it still maintains several state-of-the-art bunkers, in case there’s a national crisis.

While it’s likely that those old 1960s back-yard bomb-shelters are junk today, it’s estimated that there are nearly 4 million otherwise active preppers here, and many more abroad. Some hope to survive catastrophe by literally going underground to “ride out” the worst for days, or months if their bodies can handle the lack of daylight. Others want to ensure perpetuation of our species, after the rest of us are wiped out in a cataclysmic event. Still others, those who Garrett calls “Dread Merchants,” want to make money.

As he suggests, their thought-processing does make sense.

We’re in the middle of a pandemic, something that gets mentioned several times as reason to shelter. If things get really bad, there may be horrific panic and violence, or radiation, or war. Sheltering can mean self-preservation, or it can mean selfless sharing. 

The bottom line, though, is always this: you can prepare all you want, but “‘you can’t prepare for everything.'”

Admit it: this year, escape sounds awfully appealing on many levels. They say you can run, but you can’t hide, although “Bunker” proves that you can attempt both.

But would you? Author Bradley Garrett met folks who practice different kinds of prepping, from the near-mandatory in Australia, to the $1 million-plus-luxurious here in the U.S., thus satisfying his own curiosity as well as that of his readers. Much of that satisfaction comes from a skeptical POV, but there’s room left for argument: Garrett isn’t anti-prepping at all; in fact, he helps readers to be charmed by a trio of self-sufficient Appalachians. 

Is bunkering the answer, then? As Garrett shows, throughout history, we’ve been convinced that it was and he allows debate for it again – although readers shouldn’t be surprised at what happens here as they get to this books’ final pages. 

This isn’t a tome filled with advice; if nothing, it’ll make you question both eagerness and reticence to go underground or bug out. Either way, if you want an interesting, open-eyed read, grab “Bunker” and be prepared.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin and reviews books for the Keizertimes and other publications.