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World Made by Hand

(World Made by Hand #1)

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  6,458 ratings  ·  987 reviews
For the townspeople of Union Grove, New York, the future is not what 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. As the heat of summer intensifies, the residents strug ...more
Hardcover, 317 pages
Published February 1st 2008 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published December 31st 2007)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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Jun 07, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-end
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
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, x518x
The details are different, but the general feeling and my reaction are the same as for when I read Natural Acts:

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
Aug 11, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Apr 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Heidi The Reader
Aug 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, dystopian
"It was chilling to reflect on how well the world used to work and how much we'd lost." pg 12, ebook.

In World Made by Hand, civilization has fallen to pieces. There is no consistent electricity. The town of Union Grove has running water, but only because of a water system that relied more on elevation than anything else.

Worse, the justice system has fallen apart. There is little to no medical care facilities or supplies available. Television stations have ceased to broadcast. The radio sometimes
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: utopia-dystopia
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
Dec 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011-books
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
Robert Warren
Mar 16, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jan 09, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gzo-book-club

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
Jun 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  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
Jason Pettus
Oct 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. 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
Mar 12, 2009 rated it liked it
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 the people t
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
Kelly Kinkade
Aug 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody
This book was presented as a "what happens when the oil runs out" spec fic. What it turned out to be was a luddite, misogynist rant against modern culture. The dystopic future didn't develop in any sensible way, and the author clearly believes that a reversion to a patriarchial society would naturally result if we just took away all the "unnatural" features of our current economy.

Thoroughly unpleasant read. Only real value is to use as an example of worn out tropes in fiction.
mp3 Rosado

After the war in the Middle East, US Mainland is bombed...

#82 TBR Busting 2013

High 3* Great fun for walking and listening - the miles melted away. Gritty storyline and some pukable action, however it was engrossing.
May 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
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
Jun 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: post-apocalypse
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
Jul 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Holly Dunn
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
DNF. A sexist piece of post apocalyptic wish fulfilment.
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
Will Mego
Dec 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 10, 2009 rated it liked it
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 times an ...more
Apr 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 24, 2008 rated it liked it
I like the idea of this book maybe a bit more than the book itself. I feel as if the author could have thought much more deeply on the implications of a fuel-free economy in terms of every day life. I also disagree that the outcome would be as gloom and doom as this book. I was a bit frustrated 85% of the way through the book, feeling like I was following a bunch of cowboys around the wild west, but the end of the book got my heart racing and followed a good climax. Overall, pretty average writi ...more
Lee Kinkade
Aug 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
White conservative male fantasy in which the US falls apart after a couple of bombs and race wars ensue and women shut up and rely on their men.
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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

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World Made by Hand (4 books)
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“New York City is finished," he said. "They can't keep order there, and you can't have business without order. It'll take a hundred years to sort things out and get it all going again."
"What do you hear of the U.S. government? I said. "We don't have electricity an hour a month anymore and there's nothing on the air but the preachers anyway."
"Well, I hear that this Harvey Albright pretends to be running things out of Minneapolis now. It was Chicago, but that may have gone by the boards. Congress hasn't met since twelve twenty-one." Ricketts said, using a common shorthand for the destruction of Washington a few days before Christmas some years back. "We're still fighting skirmishes with Mexico. The Everglades are drowning. Trade is becoming next to impossible, from everything I can tell, and business here is drying up. It all seems like a bad dream. The future sure isn't what it used to be, is it?"
"We believe in the future, sir. Only it's not like the world we've left behind," Joseph said.
"How's that?"
"We're building our own New Jerusalem up the river. it's a world made by hand, now, one stone at a time, one board at a time, one hope at a time, one soul at a time. . .”
“Their crowing and the vapors of the hot sauce helped clear enough room in my head to think about out what I had to do. Planning my day was a way of not giving into despair. It really is not possible to pay attention fully to two things at once. For instance: carpentry and suicide.” 0 likes
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