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 the book Still, I considered giving this book 4 stars at several points, as I was interested in Kunstler s descriptions of the ways people coped with the change I enjoyed the level of detail of how people s everyday tasks were different Mostly I found the book to be fairly unimaginative in terms of social organization basically, society has returned to the 19th century, and is falling into corruption and exploitation without government to keep people in line I d prefer to see a book where people actually develop some new approaches to problems And then, the ending happened Um WTF Did this just turn into some completely different kind of book I have no idea what that was, or how it relates to the author s point which, considering his other works, is presumably that we should move away from our dependence on oil.
The details are different, but the general feeling and my reaction are the same as for when I read Natural Acts 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 written, that rely on the fruits of the world that he hates to produce and distribute, and probably also to write Is this unfair to point out Is it weird that I think of the author and the points he never seems to let up or tire at making being similar to those of a teenager saying fuck you mom and dad while spending his time playing video games on the giant tv that those same parents bought for him Author, social critic and blogger are, um, not exactly professions that are, um, you know, um contributing something to the world that you are supposedly preaching for I know, I know, you have some great insight that needs to be shared, and you are opening peoples minds, serving as a self appointed vanguard or something or other Do aging baby boomers dream neo Leninist dreams This book is a squishy liberal fantasy of what happens after society collapses The book takes place in the fictional town of Union Grove, NY Union Grove I m pretty positive is actually Greenwich, NY a town a bit west of Schuylerville, NY and probably about a twenty or thirty minute drive from Saratoga Springs I was hoping when I started to read the book that it actually took place in Saratoga being that it was the author s home for at least a while , but no luck there It s still the fall of civilization taking place in my neck of the woods It s a fairly peaceful fall The population has been than decimated And now some good folks live in this little town and they all engage in some labor that seems to be like hobbies than activities for survival There are some undesirables, like the rednecks who have taken over the former landfill and sell scrap to the good citizens of Farmer Market ville The rednecks also enjoy Guns n Roses, Metallica, Nirvana and using Larry the Cable Guy catch phrases There is also a model of sustainable living who owns a vast estate that actually produce things and don t seem to exist by magic yes this is a not so veiled reference to the author s newest book The weird thing to me is that this estate and the rednecks make sense, they are flourishing because of hardwork and ingenuity, and this shows in the book, even though the people who I m guessing we are supposed to be rooting for are sort of a ineffectual middle aged people whose survival baffles me The book isn t bad But it s not really good either Even if I leave aside all the disgust some of his rants fill me with and his seemingly hypocritical anti science ramblings I still can t get too excited about this book It s sort of one dimensional, the characters are all fairly flat, the story is fairly predictable and the writing when it isn t being overly ranty and pedantic isn t that much better than your standard airplane sort of read That said, the book does throw a bit of a curve ball about three quarters of the way through, and it actually takes on a kind of interesting edge It s like the author decided that maybe I need to have some actual story here and not just a bunch of middle aged people eat food and play folk music Then it actually starts to read like an actual post society collapsing sort of novel, like the realities of what would probably happen finally forced themselves to into the pages of the book, although to be fair as in to not give too much praise they are done with a sort of liberal oh the horror feeling that is in line with a book about the collapse of society where when the main character first comes into contact with a firearm he recoils in the horror that he would be the sort of person who would ever handle a gun Yeah, it s a gun, you live in a dangerous world maybe having some form of protection would be a good thing.
As you can tell I didn t really like this book all that much If it hadn t been set in the area I m from I probably would have lost all interest in it before the book started to get sort of good, but because of the good stuff at the butt end of the book, I m kind of curious to see where he goes with the story in the sequel I ll probably be sorry that I read it though.
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 southern women who smells like honey and eats massive amounts of cornbread it s self congradulatory.
The book even spends a little bit of time explaining why feminism will go away in a declining oil situation and how the women will stay home and clean while the men go out and make decisions.
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 McCarthy punctuation killing, but it s sporadic sometimes twice on a page, but sporadic, and irritating Add two for providing me with a much palatable version of the post apocalypse than the one from The Road, which has been haunting me since I read it I would make rather imagine a world in which only the human population has really been affected by our stupidity Kunstler depicts upstate New York post bomb, post flu, as a place where people have returned to subsistence living and farming A good horse is useful There is still beauty and love in the world I can live with that.
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 Kunstler s assertion that women will end up as chattel in this bleak future for me, this was the predictable fantasy of a privileged author Still, the book was fun and elegantly written, and I enjoyed the super weird elements thrown in at the end.
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 Struggle With The New Way Of Life In A World Of Abandoned Highways And Empty Houses, Horses Working The Fields And Rivers Replenished With Fish A Captivating, Utterly Realistic Novel, World Made by Hand Takes Speculative Fiction Beyond The Apocalypse And Shows What Happens When Life Gets Extremely Local 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 thought provoking What if we had no 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 from murder bring on the cannibals in The Road while the optimist sees us reverting to farming, fishing, carpentry, masonry and serfdom Those who don t go insane carry on in various ways The industrious survive sometimes thrive through community, agriculture, acoustic music, a little corn liquor and half hearted religion Some thrive through despotism, but luckily they live down the road apiece and they scavenge and sell useful junk.
What would you do Who would you be How would you get by Would memories of the Old Times torture you or fade mercifully Who would rise to leadership, and how What would you EAT What would you smell like These are worthwhile questions sharply articulated by this book A lot of attention is paid to how food is produced and prepared I frequently got hungry while reading.
Also the climate has gotten wackier, with blistering heat and unpredictable storms But that is actually the least of everyone s worries.
Although Kuntsler doesn t give actual dates for anything annoying the book takes place about ten or so years after the nukes The US economy has imploded, ports are shut down, and flu and encephalitis have ravaged the land Electricity is gone, government buildings are shuttered and all modern conveniences cars, phones, computers, malls, eventually radio are extinct The residents of Union Grove are scraping by, growing pot and poppies for relief both medicinal and recreational when a strange sect called the New Faith Church shows up in Amish type wagons at the same time a crazed redneck shoots and kills a kid and a barge bound for an Albany trading post goes missing These events spur the action in the tale, sending Robert the protagonist, a widower whose teen son has vanished on a fascinating trip with the ass kicking, Jesus loving sex positive New Faithers There are quite a few unexpected bends in the road.
That road, and the narrative in general, is described in detail both harrowing and gorgeous Rutted, impassible pavement, tumbled bridges, candlelit nights, Dutch ovens, summer kitchens on the back porch, corn bread, desperate lovemaking There are a few characters in the book who prefer the new life Nature is rebounding in a lot of ways, both to the good and bad The good was enough to give me pause The criticisms about the return to a pre Women s Liberation way of life are sound I know quite a few women who would do great in the fields and on the rooftops and quite a few guys who could do the basket weaving and child rearing Just sayin And Robert passes over his 40 something lover Jane Ann for a nubile youngster who is lovingly described and we hear nothing about this from spurned Jane Ann In a book that is all about consequences, this is glaring.
While Kuntsler has a lot of compelling ideas about what Mother Nature will do when the grid goes down, his grasp of actual womenfolk is lacking Also, everyone is white WTF It s clear that Kuntsler doesn t care for rock and roll The Union Grove folks play hymns and bluegrass, which is great, but when some rednecks attempt a Metallica song, it s described in withering detail At first I thought the Union Grove people were just too sanguine about their lot in life but then I recalled folks I know who ve been through real tragedy, just unspeakable stuff To a person, they found reserves of strength to move on None of them lost their minds, at least not permanently I do believe most of us possess that deep reservoir of strength, we simply don t want to look at it Until we have no choice.
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 fantasy element ofmagic supernaturalism the wrath of God personified I have no idea.
The best way I can think to read this is as a series of vignettes 65 chapters in 317 pages of a confused, old man, nostalgic for a lost world, and increasingly drunk and high as the stories progress read that way, it was almost enjoyable, with, well, the exceptions noted above.