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World Made by Hand (World Made by Hand #1)

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  3,903 ratings  ·  739 reviews
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 catas ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 6th 2009 by Grove Press (first published December 31st 2007)
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Sam Wescott Well, the main character thinks that Brother Jobe did it, because he was the only other person in the jail. He also suspects a supernatural element,…moreWell, the main character thinks that Brother Jobe did it, because he was the only other person in the jail. He also suspects a supernatural element, because Wayne's wounds matched Brother Minor's exactly, indicating some sort of karmic retribution. But, since he knows how crazy that sounds, he tells everyone that he killed Wayne to prevent his escape. The reader never finds out for sure. (less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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karen
this book is the grandma moses of all 4 star reviews; it came to its fourth star very late into its existence. it is like my slow-simmer appreciation of winesburg, ohio, but this one took much longer than two stories, this one took 3/4 of the book to win me and (this part pending) keep me.

and yet i still don't have a handle on the tone of this book. most of the postapocalyptic stuff i have read all takes place immediately after the event - like - "oh, shit, now what??" this book is the "now what
...more
Jill
I read Kunstler's The Long Emergency and was affected for months, but after reading World Made by Hand, I realize that Kunstler suffers from a profound lack of imagination for that which isn't immediately in his intellectual/emotional/philosophical grasp. I could hang with the premise of a small community in the very near future trying to remake themselves after converging apocalypses have nearly wiped their population out and cut them off from other towns, but there is no way I buy that the peo ...more
Greg
The details are different, but the general feeling and my reaction are the same as for when I read Natural Acts: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

I fucking get it, you don't like the way the world is. I should have started counting how many times he mentions decaying strip malls and useless stores. I'm not sure if I could count that high though.

There are many post-apocalyptic novels out there. This is another one. For the record, this is another book, one of many that the author has writ
...more
Jordan
this book kind of sucked.

the story may reference peak oil issues but it doesn't particularly demonstrate how a declining oil supply effects a culture.

the really bad part is the main character who is sad and everyone in the town is sad and then wakes up, goes on an adventure, kills a guy, sleeps with or is kissed by every married or widowed girl in town, enlivens a whole town, and makes friends with a strange insect-like cult (with no explanation as to why they house a giant queen-bee-like southe
...more
Lisa
Yet another book where I was lured in by a good review/blurb, this one from NPR. Yet another disappointment.

The premise is very interesting. Set in a small town in upstate New York after apocalyptic events that have essentially disbanded the government and deprived everyone of oil and electricity, the lives of the townsfolk are disrupted one summer by a series of events.

The plot was interesting enough - right up until the end, where it got weird and then abruptly ended, as if the author got di
...more
Sarah
Start at four stars for an engaging, can't-put-it-down it-could-sorta-happen read.

Subtract one for Kunstler's one-dimensional female characters, and his conviction that we will all retreat to archaic gender roles. No feminists, no homosexuality. Lots of beards.

Subtract another star for some absolutely ridiculous copy editing. There are at least a dozen times when characters ask questions, but there is no question mark at the end.
"What if they don't."
I would think he was trying some Cormac McC
...more
Robert B
Of the three post-Apocalyptic tales I've read - The Stand, The Road and this one - this is my favorite, and not just because it's set in a region near where I happen to live (Upstate NY). It's not as dire as the other two (not necessarily a good thing) but I found it more thought-provoking. What if we had no more oil, LA and DC were nuked, and subsequent plagues knocked out a significant portion of the population? The short answer is no one knows. The pessimist says "We're all five meals away fr ...more
Cow
Meh.

I don't think this book even knows what it wanted to be. For the most part, it feels like a satire of post-apocalyptic fiction--flu meets nuclear bomb meets ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, or something--and suddenly upstate New York reverts to the 19th century. (More so than it already has.) None of the timelines add up to anything possible, but you quickly get to ignore that.

Except in between being satirical, it gets bizarrely dark and gruesome a couple of times, and also twists in some kind of strange
...more
Therese
Reminded me of good old-fashioned post-collapse SF from the '50s and '60s. Sadly, the book is marred by Kunstler's weird conceit that once all the oil is gone, everyone will revert to sexism, start dressing in old-timey clothes, and talk like extras from a bad Tom Sawyer movie. If the book had a thicker layer of the fantastic, he might have pulled this off. But as it is, the 19th-century trappings just pull the reader out of the narrative again and again. Plenty of reviewers have commented on Ku ...more
Meg
As I read the first few pages of this quasi-post-apocalyptic novel set in upstate NY, I said to myself, "Self, this is going to be a Book About Men." And I was completely right. (Apparently if technology disappears, women will become mindless drones who live to serve men food. I thought the author was just oblivious, but it turns out he actually thinks this is a meaningful point of view - see commentary here as he explains why his silly female readers are wrong to complain about gender roles in ...more
Richard Stuart
It aint (sic) fine literature, its a page-turner. Small chapters and an easy story make this book fly by. What makes it interesting to read, however, is the idea of having to start all over again... but this time with the comparison of what things used to be like. Everything is a bit anachronistic, post-pre-modern I guess you could call it. You can see the roots of our modern conveniences, how the layers built up over years, improvements taking us one step further away from the basic knowledge o ...more
David
Jun 26, 2013 David rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: preppers, post-apocalyptic fiddlers
Among the many subgenres I have a weakness for, one of my favorites is the post-apocalyptic thriller. World Made By Hand is not a thriller, though there is some action and violence. It occupies some strange middle ground between The Stand and Earth Abides. James Howard Kunstler is more interested in telling a story about what people do when the lights go out and how they go back to churning their own butter and making their own candles than a broader story about the collapse of civilization. In ...more
Jim
I have an ARC copy but I'm assuming it is fairly close to the published version. It was a pretty good book. Interesting. I didn't think much of some of his premises for the end of our civilization, but it worked well enough for the situation he painted. The situation was very plausible & scary. The veneer of civilization is quite thin & delicate. He certainly made that point well.

There is quite a bit of description about how fast & far we fell. I found most of it very realistic from
...more
Dawn
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah
May 09, 2010 Sarah rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of post-apocalyptic fiction
Shelves: 2010
What is it about the end of the world as we know it that reverts women back into homemakers, capable of little more than washing, cooking, handicrafts and child-rearing - and in need of a big, strong man to protect them? Is it because a return to a more primitive form of society brings with it a return to more primitive gender roles? Or is it because most post-apocalyptic stories are written by men?

As the narrator of James Howard Kunstler's "A World Made By Hand" says, "as the world changed, we
...more
Jess
It's not very often that a book grabs me on page one and won't let me put it down until I've devoured the whole thing. This one did that. This world is incredibly vivid and all-too-possible these days, and the smallest details (like the guy who has an almanac and will come around and set your mechanical clock for you, or the electricity coming on just long enough to provide a burst of radio preaching from who knows where) are often the most arresting. The narrator is a complex character whose vo ...more
Moxie
This book barely got that second star up there.

I found this story sincerely disappointing because it was a concept that I was interested in (the whole what happens when modern life as we know it comes to an end) and it was done badly.

I found most, if not all, of the characters two-dimensional and often felt like the author was pushing me to care about them and what was happening to them without giving me any real reason to do so. It also felt to me that the plot meandered as though the author g
...more
Grace
I live in upstate New York. I'm not very familiar with Washington County, the primary setting of this book, but I am familiar with downtown Albany and the surrounding suburbs. I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy in his geography of the area and references to state government until he spelled Duanesburg wrong (he spelled it Duanesberg), which really upset me because that's my hometown. I know that this may sound trivial, but if a local author is going to use his home region as the setting ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

I've been toying around recently with the idea of releasing a new book of essays called The CCLaP Guide to Bushist Literature, taking a look back at all the post-9/11 novels I've now read that blame a conservative administration for bringing about a speculative neo-fascist America or even post-apocalyptic
...more
Anne
This book surprised me. At first, I was pleasantly surprised by the pastoral setting in this post-peak oil world. It's a unique treatment of the dystopian concept that was pretty engaging for the first half of the book--and fully believable. It's not difficult to imagine that in a world where central government, transportation & the energy industry has collapsed, we'd have no choice but to go back to the land. That they seem to have reverted back to the language patterns of the frontier time ...more
Jeb
A post-apocalypse story that's not too heavy on the gloom.

The government has disintegrated and the lights have flickered out. Kunstler only alludes to the cause, which seems to be an amalgam of climate change and global battles over resources (mainly oil).

Parts of the country are as lawless and grim as Cormac McCarthy described in The Road, but other areas, like Union Grove, NY, are rustic and communal. World Made by Hand explores the tension between these two elements.

The plot moves quickly
...more
Erica
If you're reading these reviews you've heard all about the setting of this book so I won't repeat it but I will say that it really is the setting that makes this book. The author's vision of the future is interesting, thought provoking and unfortunately easy to imagine. I do wish he had gone further into telling us more about the lives of the survivors and the way they've come to live as it is very interesting. The downside of this book is in the story. The plot is somewhat flimsy and trite- enj ...more
Cameron
One of the best post-apocalypse stories I've read, and it doesn't even have plague zombies or giant radioactive roaches. It does have a remarkably detailed and frighteningly plausible setting coupled with well-rounded, believable characters and a plot engine that is one of my favorites in PAW novels - the effort of people to create law and sanctions in a lawless world.

Of course, there are about a dozen other plot lines going on in this story - the loss of electricity and realization that it will
...more
Mary
I gave this book five stars not because it was well written- it wasn't - nor because the story was cohesive - it wasn't - but because the amount of thinking and discussion it generated was astonishing.

It takes place in the near future, after enough awful events in the world have resulted in the collapse of government, community infrastructure, and widespread communication. There's only intermittent electricity, no cars (because no gas, and no manufacturing of any kind), no wheat due to a fungus,
...more
Will
Wow, there are certainly some odd reviews of this book. I, on the other hand, loved this book:

In short, it's the story of a man dealing with the natural change within a post-apocalyptic community once the worst of it ends and some semblance of society tries to get going again. It's richly and realistically set, and addresses the real challenges and probable situations these people would find themselves in, and finds realistic solutions.

It's perhaps the most 'optimistic' view of dystopia you'll
...more
Kati
This book is awesome.
Set in up-state New York and the near future, after terrorist attacks have destroyed Washington D.C. and the government and infrastructure of the United States has collapsed, this book is a humane and surprisingly hopeful look at what life might be like in a post-apocalyptic setting. Rule of law has all but collapsed. People are having to grow all their own food. Paper money is practically worthless. Electricity is sporadic at best and there is no news of the "outside world.
...more
Christina Ughrin
I borrowed _World Made by Hand_ from the library yesterday and just finished it. I couldn't put it down. This a a very engaging look at life during/after the Long Emergency. Kunstler's own biases and assumptions are clear (including his disdain for suburbia). However,unlike others writing post-apocalyptic novels with a clear political agenda, _World Made by Hand_ stands alone as a poignant and engaging novel.
Jane
This is another book about a possible future for our world. People are reverting to a time without cars, electricity, etc. They are learning to survive again by growing their own food and living without all the modern conveniences we have. Although there are problems with gang-type violence in some areas, most people just want to live in peace and are adapting to "living by hand" once again. It is not a world without Hope, or individuality, like some of the dystopian books that are out now, but ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Mar 19, 2011 Mary Ronan Drew rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary Ronan by: Ann Stetson, I think
Shelves: library-book
Strange book, this. It’s written by James Howard Kunstler, the author of the brilliant 1994 book, The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape. World Made by Hand is fiction, however, and it portrays a world that has disintegrated because of terrorist bombings, the loss of oil imports, and the breakdown in American society. No more cars, no more electricity, and no more of the myriad things we have come to accept almost without thought: antibiotics, grocery stor ...more
Grace
I wish I could give this book a better rating, but I just can't make sense of a lot of the stuff that happens at the end. Boo.

The entire book takes place in a single county in upstate New York, so we don't actually get anything but rumor regarding the end of the United States. Bombs dropped on major cities, the entire government's gone, contemporary skill sets prove relatively useless in the new era of no gas, no electricity, no government. North America's been bombed back into the colonial era
...more
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James Howard Kunstler (born 1948) is an American author, social critic, and blogger who is perhaps best known for his book The Geography of Nowhere, a history of suburbia and urban development in the United States. He is prominently featured in the peak oil documentary, The End of Suburbia, widely circulated on the internet. In his most recent non-fiction book, The Long Emergency (2005), he argues ...more
More about James Howard Kunstler...
The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century The Witch of Hebron (World Made by Hand, #2) Home from Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World For the 21st Century The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition

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