I’m one of those people who are morbidly fascinated with all things disaster. From tsunamis, tornados, and nuclear war, to plagues, earthquakes, and meteor strikes, I devour everything I can about them. When Bunker: Building for the End Times by Bradley Garrett arrived on audiobook from the State Library, I was the first to borrow it.
This intensely researched look into ‘prepper’ communities around the globe takes on an eerie twist when you realise that Garrett began researching over four years ago but was only finishing the book when the COVID pandemic hit. He does delve a little into the pandemic, as it has appeared to have confirmed the fears of many doom merchants, but the majority of the scenarios are theoretical in nature.
He explores the reasons that people prep, whether it be fear of nuclear war, pandemics, social or economic collapse, or widespread natural disasters and the varying degrees that people go to. From the mega-wealthy who drop millions on luxury apartments in old missile silos, to the day to day prepping that most people do subconsciously (having at least 72 hours’ worth of provisions on stock at all times), Garrett digs into the psychology behind preparing for the worst.
We begin our journey at the Burlington Bunker in Corsham, England, a sprawling 35 acre complex built in the 50’s to house government workers in the event of a nuclear strike on London. We then travel with him across the United States from Vivos xPoint in South Dakota (the world’s largest survival bunker complex) to Salt Lake City where members of the Church of the Latter-day Saints are provided with an Emergency Preparedness and Response Guide so they can help out their community during times of crisis. We explore the backyard fireproof bunkers that have become commonplace in bushfire prone areas of Australia, and take a look at a luxury eco-fortress in Thailand. We also marvel at his description of Survival Condo, a 15 storey subterranean apartment complex that boasts a pool, cinema, dog exercise park, and rock climbing wall that has been built within a decommissioned nuclear missile silo in the Mid-West of the USA.
The people Garrett meets along the way range from narcissistic dread merchants to millenarian matriarchs, militant conspiracy theorists to disaster profiteers, and devout community members simply preparing for the worst but living in the present. He doesn’t simply label them ‘fruitcakes’, he actually investigates the core of their beliefs and the reasons behind why they do what they do, and relates it back to religion, cosmology, philosophy, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Read by Adam Sims (who has an expressive, articulate, and easy to listen to voice), the audio is ten and a half hours long, which will absolutely fly by as you get completely absorbed in the narrative. The only downside to the audiobook is that you don’t have access to the numerous photos that Garrett has taken from the various sites. Luckily, the Bindoon Library also has the hardback copy and both are available to borrow.