Amanda's Reviews > World Made by Hand

World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler
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's review
May 06, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: dystopi-mania, read-in-2011, from-the-library
Read in May, 2011

I'm a big honkin' fan of a good apocalypse, and was intrigued that "World Made By Hand" was based on the author's non-fiction "The Long Emergency."

What frustrates me about a lot of post-apocalyptic novels is that the specifics of the disaster are often left you. In young adult works, the main character is usually a teenager, and has been raised in the "new normal;" the old ways and how the world used to be are often a catalyst to further the plot, and represent a turning point in awareness and coming of age. In adult novels, details are often left vague or only alluded to - most adults can think of plenty of horrible ways that society could go pear-shaped, and it also saves the author a lot of work. Instead of having to draw out "First this, then that because of this" lines of cause and effect, there can be vague allusions to "the time before," and more time can be spent on the plot at hand. Since Kunstler had already done his cause and effect timeline in "The Long Emergency," it provides a solid reference background for how the world boned itself out of the modern era.

That being said, the novel still has to stand on it's own, which is where I found this book rickety. While I was totally on board with the can-do make-do attitude of surviving, bartering, trading, and living in this world, I found the "we're all jus' simple folk being folk" quaintness of life a bit grating. Just because life has reverted to the 1800s doesn't mean that all social progressiveness has as well. It bothered me to see that NO women were in positions of authority, seemingly because they were too busy with the women's work of cooking and canning and washing. Holy crap, ladies, don't let peak oil take away your rights!

The elements of the supernatural at the end were confusingly tacked on and weirdly unresolved. The queen bee hive and the strange prophet-lady eating cake? The main character's evidently hidden last name? Identical wounds on two people killed miles (and hours) apart? All of this happened, was looked at, and then the author promptly said, "I know, wouldn't that be crazy!?" and LEFT it. None of these points were revisited, and they all felt like a waste of time. The characters are in a situation that could very possibly happen, filled with enough environmental and social hazards to easily bring in a raftload of conflict and story. Why tack on this stuff, and then just leave it hanging?

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