World Made by Hand

( 61 )

Overview


In The Long Emergency celebrated social commentator James Howard Kunstler explored how the terminal decline of oil production, combined with climate change, had the potential to put industrial civilization out of business. In World Made by Hand, an astonishing work of speculative fiction, Kunstler brings to life what America might be, a few decades hence, after these catastrophes converge. For the townspeople of Union Grove, New York, the future is nothing like they thought it would be. Transportation is slow ...
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World Made by Hand: A Novel

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Overview


In The Long Emergency celebrated social commentator James Howard Kunstler explored how the terminal decline of oil production, combined with climate change, had the potential to put industrial civilization out of business. In World Made by Hand, an astonishing work of speculative fiction, Kunstler brings to life what America might be, a few decades hence, after these catastrophes converge. For the townspeople of Union Grove, New York, the future is nothing like 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. Their challenges play out in a dazzling, fully realized world of abandoned highways and empty houses, horses working the fields and rivers, no longer polluted, and replenished with fish. With the cost of oil skyrocketing—and with it the price of food—Kunstler’s extraordinary book, full of love and loss, violence and power, sex and drugs, depression and desperation, but also plenty of hope, is more relevant than ever.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Kunstler's name is mostly associated with nonfiction works like The Long Emergency, a bleak prediction of what will happen when oil production no longer meets demand, and the antisuburbia polemic The Geography of Nowhere. In this novel, his 10th, he visits a future posited on his signature idea: when the oil wells start to run dry, the world economy will collapse and society as we know it will cease. Robert Earle has lost his job (he was a software executive) and family in the chaos following the breakdown. Elected mayor of Union Grove, N.Y., in the wake of a town crisis, Earle must rebuild civil society out of squabbling factions, including a cultish community of newcomers, an established group of Congregationalists and a plantation kept by the wealthy Stephen Bullock. Re-establishing basic infrastructure is a big enough challenge, but major tension comes from a crew of neighboring rednecks led by warlord Wayne Karp. Kunstler is most engaged when discussing the fate of the status quo and in divulging the particulars of daily life. Kunstler's world is convincing if didactic: Union Grove exists solely to illustrate Kunstler's doomsday vision. Readers willing to go for the ride will see a frightening and bleak future. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

This vision of life in upstate New York after the fall of civilization is poignant and personal compared with the main themes in other recent postapocalyptic novels-e.g., bare-knuckles survival in Cormac McCarthy's The Road, charismatic leadership in David Lozell Martin's Our American King, desperate migration in Jim Crace's The Pesthouse. Kunstler instead presents a detailed, granular perspective on the consequences that the breakdown of the government and the economy would have on everyday domestic living. He offers a real look at how people and communities would actually survive without the modern economic infrastructure upon which we rely. This novel does illustrate the violence of a lawless future, but it does so in a way that seems plausible, while maintaining some sense of hope. There is also a little mystery thrown in to sweeten the pot. This future is not completely dire, but it's grim enough to make us seriously consider how we would get by in a world made by hand. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/15/07.]
—Henry Bankhead

Kirkus Reviews
Kunstler's latest novel fictionalizes some of the material covered in his nonfiction work The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century (2005), which examined how a decline in oil production could have cataclysmic repercussions on modern industrial culture. After a bomb exploded in Los Angeles (attributed to an "act of Jihad"), narrator Robert Earle and his family moved to Union Grove, N.Y., but the economy has since collapsed and the citizens have found themselves atavistically involved in long-lost pursuits such as subsistence farming. The devastation has brought with it other effects, most notably the Mexican flu. Premature death, in fact, has claimed a substantial part of the populace, including Robert's daughter and his wife, who fell victim to an outbreak of encephalitis. So few single men now exist that women (even Jane Ann, wife of the Congregational minister) are shared between friends. In addition, civil authority has largely broken down (no one even knows whether Washington, D.C., still exists). Consequently, the locals are called upon to govern themselves. Into this anarchic breach step Brother Jobe and the members of the New Faith Church, a quasi-Amish band determined to reassert the rule of law. Pockets of lawlessness are rife, both in the personal corruption of local officials and in the sadistic, unholy gang of Wayne Karp, a character who leaves one begging for civilization. After a dull adventure to free a boat crew being held hostage by a local warlord on the Hudson, Robert and company return to Union City to clean up the mess. It's hard to imagine that a post-apocalyptic world could be this tedious. Agent: Adam Chromy/Artists &Artisans, Inc.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871139788
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/28/2008
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 707,894
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

James Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of eight novels. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and an editor for Rolling Stone, and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Sunday Magazine. He lives in upstate New York.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 61 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(23)

4 Star

(22)

3 Star

(12)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 62 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2009

    Well Thought

    Halfway through reading this, I found out that Kunstler's previous works consisted mostly of historical works. This came to no surprise to me, as he seems to have a strong grasp on the human experience through important parts of history. Though Kunstler had many opportunities throughout the novel to preach about what current parts of the modern lifestyle lead to the end of the information age, he instead restrains himself and creates a seemingly unbiased account of people living and adjusting to the new world they find themselves in.

    His outlook is almost uplifting as the human spirit remains positive throughout the novel, and our narrator is typically optimistic in his reactions to whatever may come.

    I found this to be an absorbing read with characters I could easily relate to and care about. I suggest this highly to just about anyone.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    Good book!!!

    This book was a delight. They say it's a more emotional, less dreary 'The Road.' Which is true. This book makes you appreciate what we have, but more importantly, it makes you appreciate those in your life and the fragility of life.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2011

    Interesting premise, but story disappoints

    I read this novel being new to post-apocalyptic fiction, and I found it somewhat tedious to read. It had bad grammar, very flat character development, vapid dialogue and certain sections in the book stretched credibility. Its detour into the supernatural near the end was annoying and unnecessary. I found very little connection and had difficulty understanding the motivations of the characters in the novel, since they were so thinly drawn. For me this book raised interesting questions and gives a pretty good picture of what a world after oil would look like. But that is about the best it offered. I have no plans to read the sequel.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Felt very real to me

    Living on the gulf coast here in Florida, we have had our fair share of disasters namely hurricanes. While reading this book, I could not help but think back to when our city was hit by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and the way life was for many of us in the month after. Kunstler paints a vivid picture of what may lay ahead for us in this country in the possibly not-to-distant future. The visual is clear and all too vivid. But I could not help getting that strange feeling of what life would be like alot less complicated by our over technical and saturated world. Without the benefit of television and electricity, families spent more time together, working together, and playing together. I am not saying that the world portrayed by Kunstler is better,indeed there are many elements that are much worse in his world, I am saying that it was much more simpler and it felt like a return to a century past when neighbors knew each others names, got together for activities, and family was basically everything to us. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was transported.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 22, 2011

    Simply Amazing

    I have read many post disaster / alternative history novels and stories over the years and this is by far one of the best that I have ever read. As with most stories of this genre there is doom and gloom, but the author has a way a still providing a sense of humanity despite all that has transpired. From the first page the dialogue draws you in and you do not want to put the book down. If the author can maintain the same quality of writing, I would read 20+ novels in this series. I want to know more about these people and despite the slight oddity of Brother Jobe and his crew for the moment they work well with the story line.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 24, 2014

    ¿A World Made By Hand¿ paints a vivid picture of what life could

    “A World Made By Hand” paints a vivid picture of what life could be like when all of the modern world’s conveniences are gone through lack of oil. If you’re looking for an action packed post apocalypse thriller this probably isn’t for you, but what it lacks in action it more than makes up for in storytelling. Everything from what has happened to make the world this way to the everyday actions of the characters are painted so vividly that you could practically be there. The characters are liable well thought out and the story is so interesting compared to other post-apocalyptic novels. While other novels are almost exclusively small groups or individuals trying to stay alive this book focuses on a whole community. I can’t wait to get into the other books in the series.

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  • Posted March 25, 2013

    I thought it was half done. It had a very inconclusive ending, l

    I thought it was half done. It had a very inconclusive ending, like part of the book went missing. The story hinted at all sorts of developments but then dropped them all. There are some things that I didn't agree with at all. First, women just let men take over, although it seems that most survivors were past child bearing years. It seems that this book just added fuel to the fire that older women are undesirable and men are always seeking out mates the age of their daughters. Also, coyotes don't mate with wolves, coyotes don't run in packs. Wolves kill coyotes.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2012

    Very Good

    Well written insightful,also read The Witch of Hebron.Polish up your magick people,know your herbs,hope he writes a third!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 22, 2012

    Well written page turner.

    Well written page turner.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2012

    De4We8

    James, hope you 're writing Book 3! Have read both twice.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2012

    Easy read

    Well written. I got really into the book and had a difficult time putting it down. My only complaint is that the end is a little out there.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2011

    Entertaining storyline that makes you think

    This book follows people and groups in a small town in upstate New York after a future scenario surrounding the disintegration of government and most of commerce. The story is often suspenseful and hopeful, but occasionally depressing because of the setting. It was very interesting to think about how people would get by in this type of situation. Kunstler's descriptions and dialog are really excellent.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 27, 2011

    good book

    excellant look at how life maybe come simpler and hand made in the future.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Makes you think

    We take so much for granted - indoor heating, electricity, plumbing, automation, assembly lines.....most of us today could not cope in a world that our ancestors lived in just 200 years ago.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A kinder, gentler post-apocalyptic novel

    Not your run-of-the-mill post-apocalyptic gloom and doom novel, this approach is subtler and therefore it stands out among the genre. It's not high on drama, but it is thought-provoking. What IF we were cut off and had to live in smaller self-sustaining communities...? How would normal people react? Would there be calm after the chaos?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2010

    I loved this book!

    Unlike most books set in post-apocalyptic times, this world is not a gray, hopeless, lifeless wasteland (as in The Road). Mr. Kunstler's book is easy to read, the characters are well-drawn, and though the world they inhabit is greatly changed from our world today, Union Grove is an appealing glimpse of what life might be like again someday.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    What a great read!

    Excellent book, one of the best I've ever read. Finished it in 2 days, something I haven't done in quite some time. I highly recommend this book and can't wait to read the next one in what I hope becomes a LONG series. Nice job Mr. Kunstler!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2010

    Apocalyptic fiction from the perspective of an ordinary man.

    What will our lives be like in the future? This question gets a very human, very personal exploration in "World Made by Hand", a welcome example of end-of-the-world literature that deals less with the mechanism of the decline of civilization than with the resultant impacts on ordinary lives. This novel, set in a not-too-distant future, explores one possible outcome of events that are occuring today which we are all, to some extent, are willfully ingnoring. Since the scope of this story is limited to a small community of people who have outlasted the changed global condition which has affected the whole population, it is much more intimate and much more real than many other examples of this kind of book (asteroids, meteors, viruses, vampires, and the like). Unlike Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", this story gives a feeling of hope, even in the face of drastic changes to mankind's way of life. These characters are the survivors that we all HOPE we are.

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  • Posted December 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A different Future

    This book presents a unique view of how the future could be, should the government collapse and plague strike. It is pleasant to escape into a world were people are living by what they can do, and not how much money they make. It seems grim to think of losing our modern day creature comforts, but in this story, characters are doing it and surviving. Their lives, although much more labor intensive, seem richer in meaning. There is quite a bit of religious references, and one wonders if the author had any hidden agendas, or was just showing how some people turn ardently to religion in challenging circumstances. There are also lots of descriptions of food, eggs, butter, cornbread, etc. which made this reader hungry! Also gets one thinking about sustainable living issues. Overall, and interesting read and great for bus rides, rainy days, beaches, and bedtime reads.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Pretty good read

    I liked it. It was slow in some parts, but real interesting. I hope to God that it never gets that bad in my lifetime, because I fear there will be alot of people (specifically the Electronic Gneration)that will take there own lives out of desperation and boredom. I cannot imagine the US Postal Service not being in existance or any kind of mail carrier. They at least had some sort of message system in the Middle Ages. To be without any kind of news for weeks or months at a time would mind blowing to me. So would not having electricity! To have all your appliances and electronics present, but unusable would be frustrating. Like I said I pray to God that it never comes to that and this book is nothing but an interesting "what if?".

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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