World Made by Hand Paperback – 1 Jan 2009
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"Kunstler's emotional understanding places the book well outside the confines of genre fiction." -- Eve Ottenberg
"Superb ... an extraordinary, suspenseful, deeply affecting yarn that very successfully weaves together elements of science fiction, the Western, and even magical realism.... Read this book." -- Reihan Salam
"Kunstler's storytelling talents are in evidence here.... Kunstler has punctuated the nightmarish scenario of his novel with ... poignant moments where hope and despair vie for dominance of the human spirit." -- Bharti Kirchner
"Within the first few pages of James Howard Kunstler's poignant, provocatively convincing novel set in a future possibly as near as tomorrow, you find yourself musing: could this happen to me? By the end, you're wondering not could, but when?" -- Alan Weisman
"Far from a typical postapocalyptic novel. It caters neither to a pseudo-morbid nor faddishly slick vision of the future. Though grim with portent, it is ultimately, as Camus's novel The Plague, an impassioned and invigorating tale whose ultimate message is one of hope, not despair." -- Michael Leone
"Unlike the bleakness of style and subject in Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Kunstler's World Made by Hand Is an end-of-days novel that is more a pleasure than a burden to read; it frightens without becoming ridiculously nightmarish, it cautions without being too judgmental, and it offers glimmers of hope we don't have to read between the lines to comprehend." -- Zak M. Salih
"What's after armageddon? No government, no laws, no infrastructure, no oil, no industry . . . and sometimes a sense of relief. In Kunstler's richly imagined World Made by Hand, the bone-weary denizens of Union Grove (with its echo of Our Town's Grover's Corners) cope with everything from mercenary thugs to religious extremists, yet manage to plant a few seeds of human decency that bear fruit." -- Cathleen Medwick
"Kunstler segues from his analysis of the possible effects of a decline in oil production on modern Industrial society to a full-blown, and artfully carried out, semidystopic dramatization of what small-town American life might be like in the wake of major terrorist bombings and industrial decline on U.S. soil.... But in the end, the beauty of Kunstler's brilliant cautionary fiction, aside from the charming narrative with its many convincing details of life after apocalypse, is that most readers will admit that Earle's world, the world made by hand ... sounds at least as unpredictably pleasing as our own." -- Alan Cheuse
"The verisimilitude of Kunstler's world leads me to think the future is Union Grove. Thirty years from now, it will be interesting to see if that little town seems excessively sad, richly luxurious, or spot on. But for now, I'm hedging my bets. Where I live, one block east of ground zero, I've started keeping a compost bin and am thinking about adding a micro wind generator. [Nearby] the Freedom Tower has just emerged above ground and may one day be full of Investment bankers. Recently, though, I've started looking at that plot through Kunstler's eyes. It gets good sunlight, and it occurs to me it would make a hell of a bean field." -- Paul Greenberg
Top customer reviews
However, it does tell the story of an America (and only an America, the rest of the world seems to have been unaffected) dragged kicking and screaming into the 19th century by two pretty small nukes and the Mexican flu. Yes, the country has changed irrevocably, and large numbers of people died, but apocalyptic? Not by the actual definition of the word, no.
To me, it presented a fairly feasible possible future when the oil finally runs out, but you need to be clear; this is the story of one very isolated little hamlet of New York state. The community experiences nothing like the violence you could expect from the good old human race when left to their own devices though there are perfectly believable allusions to it in other areas. Corruption is rife, though, and that provides part of the plot. It's basically a story about how one very, very small community deals with various, sometimes dire, situations presented by other, local, very, very small communities. But, I think that's the point; globalisation (along with electricity, tyres, cars, junk food, the TV dinner) is gone. Their world has suddenly shrunk to about 80 miles in any direction. This is the story of that new small world.
It has a bit of an underwhelming ending where a few events were not adequately explained and which leaves a few characters wide open for further development, but that's not a bad thing because I like the characters and the way of life they've created. I'm actually quite keen to read the next one as I'd like to see how they're all getting on.
One thing it has made me want to do is learn a new skill. I work in I.T. which has to be the number one, post-oil superfluous industry (a fact to which the protagonist can painfully attest). Maybe I'll order a book on carpentry when I get the sequel, today.
It is quite interesting to see how a developed country might turn out after some sort of catastrophe that broke down the infrastructure, energy grid, etc. How would modern people react to such a thing? what cultures might develop? I think he brings in some interesting ideas for how different groups of people might band together and the ways they learn to get by, and how those groups interact with each other. There were some realistic things and some that I hadn't thought of that intrigued me. I enjoyed the start of the book.
However I found myself losing interest later on, there is an undercurrent of romanticising "old country ways" that made some things unrealistic to me. According to the timeline, the main character would have grown up in our times, and those tastes and experiences wouldn't evaporate with the loss of complex tech. Suddenly gender relations and taste in music and dance have gone back 100 yrs just because they don't have an electric grid. I don't doubt some old trends might be brought back out of necessity but I sense a bit of the author's fantasies coming through.
It ends with a mystery meant to make you want to get the next book to find out what happens, but I just found it a bit baffling and disjointed from the rest of the book.
I feel like there was so much potential here for a great book that could really bring to life a reasonably plausible scenario and make it interesting without resorting to gimmicks, but feel kinda let down. I will see what people think of the 2nd book and give it a try if I think it could improve on this but otherwise I won't waste my time.
Just as the inhabitants of the town are starting to give up and the facilities are beginning to break down, a religious sect moves into the former high school and forms an uneasy alliance with the existing citizens. The following story is largely about how the two groups get along, and how they fend off various threats including the usual groups of bad guys.
Although I would regard this as a post-apocalyptic story, apart from a few details it could largely be set in the Old West. If you're looking for a 'realistic' depiction of life after the end of 'the world as we know it' then you could do a lot worse than reading this book.
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There's nothing remarkable, new, or worthwhile in this tedious story.Read more