Book Review: World Made by Hand by Jim Kunstler

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First time I ever saw a trailer for a book.

James Howard Kunstler is a controversial character and a bit of a crank, but his writings on Suburbia and then his book on life after oil, the Long Emergency, have all impressed me. As have his views of the future of cities. I had not read any of his fiction and approached World Made by Hand with some trepidation; one does not expect to have a good time in his vision of the future. I need not have worried.

In Kunstler's world after the Long Emergency, life has retracted back to the small town; he places the story in upstate New York in the town of Union Grove, upstream from Albany. The water is clean, the fish are huge, and they all farm. A gang of former motorheads mines the town dump and strips abandoned buildings for their aluminum window frames. The population is much smaller after a few well-placed bombs and a pandemic flu, and government has ceased to exist. There is little medicine, but the town still has a doctor and a dentist. It appears that if you have lived this long and manage to settle in such a bucolic site, then you can have a comfortable and busy life, with music, a social life and lots of fine weed.

The story revolves around the interactions of the various groups; the gang of motorheads, the arrival of a religious group fleeing Pennyslvania, and the townspeople.

Kunstler is a good writer; I only choked on one sentence:

"The long day's heat persisted well into the night and the little sleep I found was febrile with inchoate dreaming."

The story is plausible; our world runs on oil and when it is gone our world will change. People don't believe it, don't believe TreeHugger, don't believe they should even change a damn light bulb, but change is coming and it would not surprise me at all if it looked a lot like this. I preferred the future with flying cars, moonbases and tiny fast computers, but suspect that it is more likely that my grandchildren will be living in a World Made by Hand.

See also a long review and synopsis at ::Energy Bulletin