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Literature / The Shelter

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A seven book series by Ira Tabankin.

Jay Tolson and his wife Lacy were a fairly average working class couple, until he won $27 million in the lottery. Jay having always spent his extra money on prepping, he buys up a thousand acres of farmland outside Nashville Tennessee so they can be self-sufficient should the worst happen, moves in his extended family, fortifies the farmhouse into a small castle with a moat, and builds a bunker beneath his house capable of housing 40 people for a year, his entire family and farming tenants. He also befriends Tony, a local mob boss who helps him get materials and supplies for the shelter, in exchange for a ticket in if the worst should come to pass.


Meanwhile, Greece elects a socialist Prime Minister who renounces austerity and defaults on all debts, leading to the breakdown of the EU and Eurozone. Europe further suffers from waves of Islamic immigration, and Russian expansionism. In other news, China threatens to call in all US debt unless America cedes Hawaii. The US calls their bluff and the Chinese government dumps all their debt and currency for pennies on the dollar, crashing the worth of American money and tanking the global economy. Hawaii actually votes to leave the country and join China, but the Us Navy assembles the largest armada in human history and faces off against the Chinese navy in epic battle. As the US sinks deeper and deeper into a depression, starvation is rampant, social order breaks down and hungry eyes turn to Tolson's farm.


As the first book closes, a horde of starving people, led by a biker gang overrun the farm despite a fierce battle, and Jay is forced to order everyone into the shelter.

The initial stay in the shelter lasts a few weeks. One of Jay's son-in-laws, Ricky, finds himself rather out of place in the shelter, being a liberal. He decides that Jay's refusal to give food to their needy neighbors makes him unfit to lead, and poisons Jay.

As the US is weak and distracted, it is invaded by forces of ISIS, and also Mexican drug cartels hoping to enslave US farmers to grow their product. Each independently learns of the shelter and, presuming it to be a vault of hidden treasure, each lays siege to it in a massive three-way battle. The Tolsons are saved by the US army, in the form of a Captain Black, who was working his way south from Chicago helping whoever needed it. Black befriends the Tolsons who agree to let him and his men operate out of the farm in exchange for repairing their aboveground buildings. Captain Black is sadly ordered away to Memphis, inviting another battle of ISIS and drug cartels which also catches the forces Captain Black sends back. Fortunately everyone is saved again by the Tennessee Militia.


A doctor treats Jay, and realizes he was poisoned. Testing everyone for potassium residue exposes Ricky, who Tony puts on trial before the entire community of the shelter. Ricky confesses to the attempted murder, and is banished from the shelter and farm. He is almost immediately captured by ISIS, who torture him despite his being all too willing to tell them everything there is to know about the shelter. They livestream this over the internet, leading Sammi, Ricky's wife and Jay's daughter, to insist on launching a rescue mission.

The rescue succeeds, and Ricky is instead confined to a camper at the very edge of the Tolson farm, with a tracking bomb anklet.

The existence of the shelter is revealed to the Governor of Tennessee by a General Arthur, Captain Black's CO. The Governor shows up to try and evict Jay and his community, taking the shelter as a new secure capitol, as he and a dozen other southern Governors have decided in the face of financial meltdown and federal weakness to secede and form a New Confederacy. Jay is torn between his belief in state's rights, personal freedom and fiscal responsibility, and his certainty that fighting the US armed services is a terrible idea. Most of the shelter's residents are wildly in favor of the Confederacy and pressure Jay to pick a side. Ricky is naturally in favor of the federal government.

In any case, before a decision needs to be made, the Governor leaves, naming Jay Lt. Governor in a last effort to sway him. The rebel Governors have all decided on a face-to-face meeting with the President, to discuss the idea of peaceful, uncontested secession. They are all arrested. As the Lt. Governors meet to discuss this, the President decides to end things with a decapitation strike. Jay Tolson is the sole survivor and thus de facto unelected first President of the New Confederate States.

Jay decides that it is a major problem that the location of the shelter is so well-known, and orders the secret construction of a second shelter beneath Ricky's camper. The federal response is to kidnap Sammi, Ricky and their daughter Linda as hostages against Jay. Fortunately, Jay's Vice President, Tony the mob boss, knows several experts in these matters who are able to find and rescue the girls, leaving Ricky behind.

The secondary shelter suffers a cave-in, trapping several people inside, and as the shelter community swarms to help, they are struck by a federal drone strike, killing many apparently including Jay's wife Lacy (she gets better). Furious, Jay orders his military staff to use the Bible "a book they've never read" as their guide for attacking the Union. Following Jay's biblical guidelines, Confederate military science discovers a chemical weapon that turns water red, killing fish and attracting vast swarms of insects. Widespread use of this taints drinking water for many cities and lays millions low with disease. They also develop a sonic weapon that implodes buildings by shattering their foundations. Just seven passes with a Jericho plane are able to destroy all Washington DC, though not before a federal truck bomb assassinates Jay, leaving mob boss Tony to prosecute the war against new President Nancy Pelosi and build the Confederacy into a true state, a conservative utopia and global superpower.

The Shelter contains examples of:

  • The Ace: Captain Black is an intelligent, competent and compassionate military officer.
  • The Ark: The shelter exists to preserve Jay Tolson's family and friends through the meltdown of society.
  • Armies Are Evil: Strongly averted. Every named military character is heroic, even the feds are doing their duty or angry about the destruction of Washington.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: The cartels and ISIS armies are this.
  • Asshole Victim: Ricky is captured, twice, by hostile forces hoping to use him against his family. On the other hand, he's a loathsome personality whom only his wife and child can stand to be around, a whiny layabout, an attempted murderer and a traitor. The second time, nobody bothers to rescue him.
  • Author Appeal: Tabankin is a survivalist/prepper, in this book, a similar prepper is entirely and wholly justified as his family is kept safe behind his lovingly described protections, and it is strongly implied that the shelter, the people within it and the experiences they shared are key to the survival of the Confederacy.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Jay spends the first week in the shelter pacing around almost shell-shocked. He built the shelter as a precaution, and never dreamed he'd really need it.
  • Civil War: In the last three books, we're introduced to the idea of a New Confederacy. Despite all the initial arrangments being made in secret, once the President has all the Governors arrested, and their lieutenants killed, the populace gets firmly behind the idea of fighting Washington.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The entire concept of the shelter. Jay purchased a farm so his family could be self-sufficient, built a castle to hold off low-tech mobs, filled it with cameras and high-tech booby-traps and still felt the need for an underground bunker with a year's provisions.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Jay, which is primarily why his family survives.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Jay, about the need for the castle and the shelter.
  • The Don: Tony, and it makes him remarkably useful in all circumstances.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted in the case of the shelter itself, Jay needed help from the mob to complete and stock the shelter and they were still critically low on spare parts. Played straight in that the Confederate military was able to develop and deploy radical new weapons within days with no guideline except "read the Bible."
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Jay's wife Lacy sure can, and Tony's wife Nancy, and Ricky's wife Sammi...
  • Fictional Currency: Before seceding, Tennessee starts issuing it's own scrip to get around the collapse of the dollar. Jay's decision to accept the new money in exchange for his food and medical supplies transforms the til-then frosty relations between the shelter and the surrounding community.
  • For Your Own Good: Jay's reasoning behind building the shelter, it's to everyone's benefit to have a safe place to go to. Failing that, he's the family patriarch, and he knows what;s best!
  • Fox News Liberal: Ricky, who believes in welfare and wealth redistribution so much, he's willing to murder Jay and then throw open the doors of the shelter and invite in people who have made it clear they're here to kill his family and take all their things.
  • Friend in the Black Market: This is how Jay meets Tony, he needs supplies without the red tape. They become something more over time though.
  • History Repeats: The new Civil War seems a lot like the old one, just with new technology.
  • The Mafia: Tony and his associates. Even following the near total collapse of society, in the middle of a civil war, Tony can call upon the expertise of every criminal to ever pass through Tennessee.
  • Misery Builds Character: More like misery builds community. The families in the shelter have to deal with drudge labor, cramped quarters and the constant threat of death. All malingering is dealt with by cutting down the rations of those not working. It seems to work out though, and by the time of Ricky's trial, everyone is shocked and appalled at the idea they could be betrayed by one of their own.
  • Obviously Evil: Ricky is a self-righteous slacker from the very beginning. It's hard to imagine why anyone ever listens to him after he tried to kill Jay.
  • Outside-the-Box Tactic: Jay's Confederate staff heard the words "consult the Bible" and from it got "develop hithero unknown superweapons based on biblical stories." They pull it off, too.
  • Proper Lady: Lacy, especially after Jay dies and she becomes the new face of the Confederacy.
  • Properly Paranoid: It's hard to call Jay crazy for all of his preparations when they wind up needing each and every one.
  • The Quisling: Ricky, who manages to never do a single thing that isn't to the detriment of his family and community.
  • Reluctant Ruler: Jay was pretty skeptical about the New Confederacy when he became their head of state. He changed his tune quickly though, after cradling his wife's body.
  • Straw Character: Ricky, who is a loathsome character constantly spouting liberal platitudes whether or not they make sense.
  • Straw Liberal: Ricky again.
  • Suicide Attack: The truck bomb at the Von Braun center.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: While dates are never dropped, the US debt to China hasn't changed a great deal, up or down, and Nancy Pelosi is still the Speaker and, until the end off book 6, Obama is still the President.