Saturday, July 5, 2008

World Made by Hand

World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler was originally published in 2008. My hardcover copy is 317 pages. This novel is an end-of-civilization-light novel, that somehow makes the collapse of civilization look almost appealing. If McCarthy's The Road sounds too dark and foreboding for you, then try World Made by Hand. It's an easy to read novel. There are many flaws in it, including a lack of character development beyond the main character, Robert Earle, and in places, after starting out reasonably strong, the plot meanders into pointless information. Also it's hard to know what Kunstler wanted to convey to the reader with the religious sect moving in and settling down. Kunstler needed to either expand the story and tie up the loose ends or edit them out. A case could be made for misogyny too, since all the women characters are one dimensional and, well, sad. There were also parts of the details of living that surprised me. I think that many of the people I know would be getting along much better than Kunstler's Union Grove, NY because they have a wealth of skills and knowledge that these people are somehow lacking. World Made by Hand is not worth any 5 star review or rave, just based on the writing alone, but it is an easy summer read that will not tax your brain. It really does read like a made for TV movie. Rating: 3.5

With World Made By Hand Kunstler makes an imaginative leap into the future, a few decades hence, and shows us what life may be like after these coming catastrophes—the end of oil, climate change, global pandemics, and resource wars—converge. For the townspeople of Union Grove, New York, the future is not what they thought it would be. Transportation is slow and dangerous, so food is grown locally at great expense of time and energy. And the outside world is largely unknown. There may be a president and he may be in Minneapolis now, but people aren’t sure. As the heat of summer intensifies, the residents struggle with the new way of life in a world of abandoned highways and empty houses, horses working the fields and rivers replenished with fish. A captivating, utterly realistic novel, World Made by Hand takes speculative fiction beyond the apocalypse and shows what happens when life gets extremely local.

"The titles open....meaning that the owners were known to be dead with no heirs and assigns, a common condition in these times." pg. 2

"It was chilling to reflect on how well the world used to work and how much we'd lost." pg. 4

"Now, in the new times, there were far fewer people, and many of the houses outside town were being taken down for their materials." pg. 5

"I tried to avoid nostalgia because it could destroy you." pg. 14

"...after the bomb went off in Los Angeles. That act of jihad was extraordinarily successful. It tanked the whole U.S. economy." pg. 23

"No one years ago would have anticipated how much production moved back into the home when the machine age ended." pg. 57

"A man who don't have religion, won't serve his community when called. What kind of fellow is that?" pg. 61

"We began to encounter more people now, inhabiting the ruined suburbs, the lawns replaced by potato patches, the slit-levels and raised ranches turned into hovels now that the electric amenities and the plumbing were out of order..." pg. 137

"It's a world made by hand, now, one stone at a time, one board at a time, one hope at a time, one soul at a time." pg. 142

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