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A History of the Future: A World Made By Hand Novel
     

A History of the Future: A World Made By Hand Novel

4.0 5
by James Howard Kunstler
 

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A History of the Future is the third thrilling novel in Kunstler’s "World Made By Hand" series, an exploration of family and morality as played out in the small town of Union Grove.

Following the catastrophes of the twenty-first century—the pandemics, the environmental disaster, the end of oil, the ensuing chaos—people are doing whatever

Overview

A History of the Future is the third thrilling novel in Kunstler’s "World Made By Hand" series, an exploration of family and morality as played out in the small town of Union Grove.

Following the catastrophes of the twenty-first century—the pandemics, the environmental disaster, the end of oil, the ensuing chaos—people are doing whatever they can to get by and pursuing a simpler and sometimes happier existence. In little Union Grove in upstate New York, the townspeople are preparing for Christmas. Without the consumerist shopping frenzy that dogged the holidays of the previous age, the season has become a time to focus on family and loved ones. It is a stormy Christmas Eve when Robert Earle’s son Daniel arrives back from his two years of sojourning throughout what is left of the United States. He collapses from exhaustion and illness, but as he recovers tells the story of the break-up of the nation into three uneasy independent regions and his journey into the dark heart of the New Foxfire Republic centered in Tennesee and led by the female evangelical despot, Loving Morrow. In the background, Union Grove has been shocked by the Christmas Eve double murder by a young mother, in the throes of illness, of her husband and infant son. Town magistrate Stephen Bullock is in a hanging mood.

A History of the Future is attention-grabbing and provocative, but also lyrical, tender, and comic—a vision of a future of America that is becoming more and more convincing and perhaps even desirable with each passing day.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Advance Praise for A History of the Future:

Kunstler’s post-economic-collapse and postdigital World Made by Hand series continues with increasing literary finesse in the third installment. . . . Kunstler, who overtly articulates his postoil vision in his nonfiction revels in this back-to-basics way of life. . . . Kunstler skewers everything from kitsch to greed, prejudice, bloodshed, and brainwashing in this wily, funny, rip-roaring, and profoundly provocative pageturner, leaving no doubt that the prescriptive yet devilishly satiric World Made by Hand series will continue."—Booklist (starred review)

“The arrival of this latest addition to James Howard Kunstler’s post-apocalyptic “World Made by Hand” series reminds me that time is running out for me to get started reading these books . . . After all, the world could collapse any minute—as it does in these novels.”—The Quivering Pen

“After reading the novel you will come away with an appreciation for self-sufficiency . . . I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a realistic picture into the not too distant future.”—TheBurningPlatform.com

Praise for the World Made by Hand series:

“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.”—San Francisco Chronicle on World Made by Hand

“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. Two blocks south, the damaged former Deutsche Bank building comes down floor by floor. To the north, the Freedom Tower has just emerged aboveground 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.”—The New York Times Book Review on World Made by Hand

“Chronicles the aftereffects of the collapse of our technological society in the near future . . . 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.” —The Seattle Times on World Made by Hand

“In many ways [The Witch of Hebron] reminded me of Larry McMurty’s Lonesome Dove, set in the dystopian world of The Road. . . . By the middle of the book you are immersed in a richly imagined ‘world made by hand,’ eagerly devouring every page. . . . [Kunstler] has woven his nightmares into a vision or America after a complete economic, political, and cultural collapse.”—New York Journal of Books on The Witch of Hebron

“Kunstler offers a sharply cautionary tale, conjuring up bizarre characters who would be right at home in the scariest haunted houses. . . . Kunstler excels at writing lyric passages about nature . . . His acute pessimism about the future coexists with his faith in the human instinct to survive and adapt . . . [and] he demonstrates that the human penchant for storytelling is unlikely ever to become extinct so long as a single human being has breath enough to speak and strength enough to write.”—America Magazine on The Witch of Hebron

"What's after Armageddon? No government, no laws, no infrastructure, no oil, no industry....and sometimes a sense of relief. In James Howard 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."— O Magazine on World Made by Hand

“One pitfall in painting a convincing picture of the future is forgetting all the small ways in which life would differ if big changes swept in. Kunstler avoids it, and his catalog of such finer points is a subtle, continuing pleasure.”—The Boston Globe on World Made by Hand

Library Journal
03/15/2014
It's not every novelist who regularly speaks at TED conferences, but it's not every novelist who forthrightly addresses environmental crisis and the fate of the earth. In this third in Kunstler's "World Made by Hand" series, we return to the post-oil as energy world of Union Grove, NY, on Christmas eve, as Robert Earle's son Daniel returns home to inform guests around the tree that the nation has split into three tense and uncertain regions.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802192479
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
08/05/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
83,296
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

James Howard Kunstler was born in New York City in 1948. He is the author of twelve novels, including World Made By Hand and The Witch of Hebron, and four nonfiction books, including The Long Emergency. He is a frequent lecturer at colleges and professional organizations across the country. He lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.

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A History of the Future: A World Made By Hand Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
JBronder More than 1 year ago
Since the fall of the country as we know it, people are doing whatever they can to survive without electricity and other advantages of pre-collapse. This story takes a look at the world and how they have survived after the collapse. It is around Christmas time and everyone is getting ready for the holiday when tragedy strikes. A young mother kills bother her husband and her son. Union Grove is going to have to find a place to lock her up. They also need to create some form of justice system to punish her for her deeds. At the same time, Robert’s son Daniel has returned after traveling around the country. He tells about the different people, territories, and events that are happening. I love apocalyptic stories and this is right along my line. I really like how the community has revived after the loss of modern conveniences. Of course with the double murder it brings another problem to light. What are they going to do with her? What kind of legal proceeding will they have? I really liked the descriptions of the rest of the country and what other areas were doing. I have not read the other books in this series but I will be adding them to my purchase list. I think this is a great view of what could happen and what some people would do to survive. This is a great book and I recommend people to check it out. I received A History of the Future for free a long time ago in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As I read this book I wonered if JHK was under a word/page contract for this latest edition. I didn't need to be reminded that Bullock is a near despot on his plantation, Loran is not only the town cop but he is also the preacher, Robert Earle used to be a computer exec but is now a carpenter and that Andy Pendergrast prefers the company of men in his bed to that of women. Other than that the book was enjoyable.
Peaksurfer More than 1 year ago
Pulling a copy of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in The Willows off a bookshelf, Andrew Pendergast, without question James Howard Kunstler’s most autobiographical character in this series so far, sits at the bedside of his friend Jack Harron, who is recuperating from a deadly fight with an assailant bent on murdering them both. “What’s it about?” Jack said when Andrew held up the cover. “A rat and a mole and a badger and a toad who mess around in boats down by a little stream in the English countryside.” “They all get along, all these different animals?” Jack said. “They’re all friends,” Andrew said. “It’s a book about friendship.” A History of The Future is a book about friendship. It describes another hard won Christmas season in the lives of the citizens of Union Grove, a Hudson Valley town that we have come to know and appreciate in previous installments of the World Made By Hand series. Back are many of the earlier characters, including some we have not seen for quite some time, and new and even more interesting refugees enter our circle of friends. The novel is an exploration of the process of rebuilding a broken civilization, even as the old continues to decay and collapse in both expected and unexpected ways. Civil society cannot be rebuilt by solitary individuals, religious charismatics, wealthy aristocrats, or fascist dictators although all those find a place in this future world. It takes the whole lot — the rats, the moles, the badgers and the toads — struggling to cooperate as friends, to find common ground and stand a chance. Kunstler is a moralist. His good guys win. The bad guys get what they deserve, or are just left to inhabit whatever Hell they’ve made for themselves. The tale, though, revolves around what a good guy has to do, just to survive. The Yiddish word beshert refers to that which God has given. And, in Judaism — as in Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and probably every other religion — there has always been a heated debate about how much of fate is determined by higher authority — a monster in the sky, as Paul Erhlich says — and how much is the result of human choices — good and bad. To quote Maimonides, “Every human being can be righteous or wicked, merciful or cruel, avaricious or charitable. There is no compulsion exerted upon one. A person chooses one’s way with one’s own determination.” Maimonides, who lived in Spain at the end of the 12th century, also did not think of progress in terms of technological or cultural advancement, as cumulative. Maimonides said it was cyclical. This is the aboriginal view, and for someone in his time and place, or even now, it’s quite a radical notion. For Kunstler, we can foretell our future by simply surveying the contemporary milieu — global Ponzi economics, gas gauge on ‘E’, weather getting weird — but history is circular. After the cataclysm comes another Christmas. We have often disagreed with Kunstler’s provincial view of the American South as it occasionally pops up in his nonfiction essays and books. Kunstler is such a devout Yankee that he has often portrayed New England wisdom and ingenuity as the sole province of the old Union; that below the Mason-Dixon Line there be nothing but Skol-chewing bubbas, hearing-damaged NASCAR fanatics, racial bigots and fried food junkies imprisoned by air conditioning. The War of Northern Aggression, in our humble opinion, was, like most wars, all about energy. The North was rich in coal and the factories run by that magnificent jewel of fossil sunlight. Then, mid-18th century, Col. Drake discovered bubbling “coal oil” in Pennsylvania, a real game changer. In contrast to these überpowerful energy slaves, the Southern states operated on the old economy, you know, the human and animal-powered one. The one that built the pyramids of Egypt and Mesoamerica, and Machu Picchu and the Great Wall. The Southern plantation economy was based on imports of African slaves. The North had the luxury of enough fossil energy slaves to afford emancipation of its human ones. The moral rectitude to actually do so gradually arrived, in fits and starts. Then they had to lord it over everyone else. Until Texas and Louisiana discovered oil half a century later, the South had no such leeway. In the epic 19th Century contest between machine power and humans, the machine won. A region of the United States that was militarily superior in the acumen of its Generals, the skill of its cavalry and the esprit of brotherly men in arms was occupied and enslaved, then punished for more than a century, reduced to the lowest echelons on every index of human welfare, and finally addicted to talk radio, NASCAR and air conditioning. But don’t count them out. Surprisingly, Kunstler doesn’t. He takes a more generous tack in A History of the Future. The South, while enthralled by Christian bigots, has established itself as a rival government to what is left of the federal sovereignty, rumored to be somewhere up in the Great Lakes. The center of this rival government is at Franklin, Tennessee, a town with which we are personally very familiar — Old Highway 31S is a route we’ve bicycled. Franklin today embodies much of what Kunstler-the-non-fiction-expert-on-urban-design lauds. It revitalized its pedestrian downtown by moving traffic out to encircling corridors; enshrined its landmark buildings; in-filled the broken teeth on Main Street with antebellum vernacular; and revived the local arts, theater and music scene. While it has become for now a tony bedroom community for wealthy Nashville commuters, it is a perfect setting for a national capitol in a more austere and decentralized future. In many ways, Franklin Tennessee is Union Grove, only hotter. The World Made By Hand series gives only short glimpses of the changes in weather that lie in store for any future history. There may be a shortage of wheat or a ruined season for other crops, but Union Grove still gets snow in winter. Sacramento is still above water and apparently no one has died of insect swarms or clathrate flares. Changes in climate, which are almost certain to radically alter our lives in the next 50 years, are not really part of this story. In any science fiction yarn that becomes a series a writer has to be alert to the danger of revealing too much backstory lest new narrative choices are straightjacketed in with the old, or worse, the details he describes are so ludicrous in light of actual events that his work later falls into ridicule. In his first two novels, much of Kunstler’s imagined history remained cloaked in mystery and conjecture. As the dust jacket tells the casual browser, “The electricity has flickered out. The automobile age is over. The computers are all down for good. Two great cities have been destroyed. Epidemics have ravaged the population. The people of a little town named Union Grove, in upstate New York, know little about what is going on outside Washington County.” The third novel gives a much larger sweep of the shocks that presaged the predicament in which the people of Union Grove find themselves. Our “messenger,” Robert Earle’s long lost son Daniel, arrives back on Christmas Eve, near dead from exhaustion and hunger, to tell the story of what he saw “out there.” So gripping is his story that in the print edition, Grove Atlantic has set it apart with a change of font and format. It is a novel within a novel, and we would defy anyone to set it down for longer than it takes to refill a teacup. With Daniel’s story Kunstler has us in his grip, but he teases us with the intermittent resumption of the “real time” plots and subplots, leaving us hanging onto our curiosity as we wade through the needs of Union Groves’ badgers and moles for their part in the tale. Kunstler is teaching us patience, an attribute that our digital world is trying hard to render obsolete. It is an essential skill for the turn that our collective sense of passing time is poised to make. When you walk from home to work, or to shop; when you sit out to watch the sunset instead of the television; when you spend a day teaching yourself bicycle mechanics, watercolor, or cheese making — you are once again present in the world. To the uninitiated, peering in at this scenario for the future, it all seems so very quaint. Hardly. “I got forty-six highly motivated skilled men with good tools,” Brother Jobe tells Magistrate Stephen Bullock. “That’s my insurance. And, by the way, if you thought that was funny, it ain’t.”