World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I really like these books. The paranormal subplots kind of threw me, though. I guess having only read his non-fiction work and his blog, I wasn't expecting a fantasy book.
The first time I read this book I was a little disappointed, I had just watched "Collapse" directed by Chris Smith. I wanted JHK to give me a blow by blow account of events we can expect and how to survive them. Instead, World Made By Hand shoves you a decade or so after all the "Long Emergncy"/teotwawki stuff has happened, and straight into the "new normal".
The second time I read it, I was able to just read the story, and I found I liked it, even the paranormal freaky bits. Although I found it hard to suspend my judgement on the anti-religion viewpoint. JHK has these characters he calls Christian, but their version of christianity and the Bible is so twisted and freaky, that it made me feel ill. I wish JHK had named the "New Faith" deity something other than Jesus.
A lot of people have problems with the role of women in this book. I would like to point out the book is in first person, narrated by a male character, who lives alone, in a society where the female population is limited. Of course the only women he interacts with sleep with him or mother him, (or both). This is just an extrapolated version of the way the sexes interact in reality. Even though we apparently have equality, women tend to do the larger portion of domestic duties, even if they have a job outside the home. It stands to reason,that if you take away the desk job, electricity, the suv, hot running water, the washer/dryer, fast food and law and order, women will be spending more time at home, and less time in the public sphere. I'm fairly certain women are not "forbidden" to be in on council meetings as some people have written. The women are just so busy they couldn't be bothered to go.
Another point brought up is the unresolved ending. Kunstler mentioned in a podcast interview, kunstlercast.com, that his idea was to write 4 books, one for each season. So there are 2 more to come.
Overall, this was a nice story. Robert Earle is an apocalyptic version of Pa Ingalls. Much, much easier to read than McCarthy's "The Road". The premise of a post carbon society, while not an earth shattering concept to Transitioners, serves as a good vehicle for peak oil discussion out in the wider McWorld, always a good thing. Mostly though, I get the feeling that JHK just had fun writing this. A world where all his economic/environmental/political predictions have occured, but "stuff" still happens.
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