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Apocalypse Now

June 10, 2011

I should confess that I have a love of dystopian future, post-apocalyptic stories, especially if they focus more on the “how we keep going” than the depressing, but I’ll pretty much read any of them. I just read all three of the Hunger Games books in three days. I wanted to write up a short review of World Made by Hand by James Kunstler. I had never heard of Kunstler before I read this book, but he is best known as a non-fiction writer whose focus is peak oil and the aftermath.

World Made by Hand is basically an extension of Knustler’s non-fiction: what will society look like once oil has disappeared? Apparently, society will collapse and we’ll all be living in a version of the 19th century (except with pot. Wait, did people smoke pot in the 19th century?). The novel focuses on the small, upstate New York town of Union Grove and the resident’s attempt to hold it all together. There are the crazy rednecks who live in their own lawless commune, refugees, the large towns, and rich land holders. Women have apparently returned to the status of property/reproduction-machines and all wear dresses. Maybe this isn’t the most realistic (to me) description of the future (no pants??), but I was still hooked by this book and recommend it to a lot of people. What I really love about this story is the focus to detail. How do you keep food cold without power? What grains can you successfully grow in New York? The world is literally made by hand, and Knustler spends a lot of ink describing how people get anything done without internet, power, cell phones, medicine, or any outside input. One of the reasons I really love a good post-apocalypse story is that they spend time thinking about how you would survive, how to do things. The books I’ve read that fit this description are the ones that really stick in my head. While the genera as a whole is interesting, I prefer this type to the technological dystopia versions. I can grow food, but I can’t fight the machine.

I recently found out the Knustler has written a second book (The Witch of Hebron) and plans to write other “World Made by Hand” novels. I’m excited to see what Knustler does now that his world is set up and ready to be populated. Hopefully, the ladies will get to wear some pants.

World Made by Hand website (don’t be put off by the weird website)


Another book to check out:

Into the Forest by Jean Hegland




2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 10, 2011 8:59 am

    as i was reading your post i thought I’ve got to tell her about “into the forest.” loved that book and there you are recommending it. another is one called “life as we knew it” by pfeffer. it’s in the genre of young adult, but i really liked it anyway. keep those posts coming and don’t worry about the water.

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