Tuesday, August 19, 2008

World Made by Hand

by James Howard Kunstler

Kunstler here presents a different sort of apocalyptic novel. It's not the Russkies or the Infidels who destroy American society but rather American society itself, which proves itself unsustainable once the oil dries up. This novel takes place perhaps 10 years after the new world begins in an upstate New York town first decimated by the downfall of modernity and then by influenzas and other diseases. Areas of the country that haven't been destroyed outright by hurricanes (Manhattan) or nuclear arms (Washington, D.C.), have moved back 200 years in time as the energy required to run the technology and the machines no longer exists. Governments are no more, and each community is a jurisdiction unto itself. The protagonist is a former exec who now works as a carpenter. Because paper money is worthless, his work earns materials and services through an informal barter system. His wife and daughter have died; his son has left to see what's left of the country. But the life he has built, and the lives of all those in Union Grove, will shift again through a variety of events: a murder by a member of a scavenger gang, the purchase of the former high school building by a religious sect escaping racial troubles in the South, and the disappearance of a boat crew and the goods they were carrying downriver to Albany. Kunstler provides a fascinating and frightening look at an all-too-imaginable future. -Inanna

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