There are just too many books about peak oil and other imminent economic, social and ecological crises, which all seem the same. They go over familiar ground and display no new insight or real depth of thought. I'm tired of reading them. Too often the author is a recent convert to these views and lacks the authority or background to contribute anything new, concluding feebly that the reader should learn about gardening and drive a smaller car. Well, duh! as my kids would say.
What a refreshing change to read Orlov's quirky and thought-provoking book which takes the basic premise of looming crisis for granted, and gets straight into delivering his first-hand insight into the collapse of the Soviet economy in a fresh, non-mathematical way (there are no graphs or tables of data) and how most people survived it. Not only that, but all delivered with the wickedly dry wit of a native Russian, living in the USA, who is clearly tired of hearing Americans crowing that they won the Cold War.
To give an example from the introduction, Orlov mentions a survey of Americans which asked, "Will you be able to afford to retire?" (one third said no). Without stopping to go over familiar arguments, Orlov proceeds immediately to strip away the euphemisms and assumptions, and translate the question as "Will you survive when you are too old to work, if not, what are you doing about it?". From his Russian experience, he then adds "Here is a bad solution: get drunk a lot."
Although aimed squarely at an American audience, this book is just as valuable for Europeans, and I recommend it to anyone who realises that our high-consumption, supermarkets-and-jet-planes society cannot last much longer, and is interested in thinking right through what that really means. Orlov treats his readers as intelligent people who will reach their own conclusions, and do not need to be spoon-fed with fatuous recommendations. It's a treat.