Fortunately, Garrett is a bright and buoyant guide and Bunker rattles briskly along. And he’s scrupulously fair to his subjects, mostly letting them speak for themselves. Indeed, a weakness of the book is that it is too fair to them. Fundamentally, prepping is a bleak and unpleasant philosophy. It might seem like a form of responsible cautiousness, but really it’s a bet against the rest of us; preppers don’t just want to come out the other side, they want to come out ahead. Time and again the conversation veers into conspiracies and dark mutterings with racist overtones. Garrett says that preppers often seem credulous, believing in Mayan prophecies and secret tenth planets and the like, but really they just come across as cynical. Some of them appear to be egging the apocalypse on, eager for their underground investments to pay off. Given that, it’s deeply troubling to learn that many of the world’s richest people have a sideline in prepping, getting their off-grid doomsteads in New Zealand ready. But that’s what makes Bunker a necessary read – we should be keeping tabs on what they’re up to.
Though his winning gregariousness propels him once again in Bunker, there is a significant tonal shift. Where there was a controlled fearlessness that pervaded his “edgework” escapades in Explore Everything, there is disquiet here, and it’s obvious why... There’s a thrilling, chilling coda to Bunker when the author goes on an illegal four-day walk into the ultimate apocalyptic heart of darkness at the Chernobyl exclusion zone, with the Geiger counter clicking up and up … the “logical terminus” of his trip. The self-destruction of our species haunts this book: we realise that all along Garrett has been more interested in exploring human limits than human spaces.