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A social critics post-apocalyptic vision

Joel StoningtonAspen Times Weekly
Title: World Made By HandAuthor: James Howard KunstlerPublisher: Atlantic Monthly PressPrice: $24
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James Howard Kunstler may be most well-known for his book The Geography of Nowhere, a book that details and critiques suburban and urban real estate development in the United States. His most recent work of nonfiction, The Long Emergency, argued that industrialized society will soon come to an end as oil production decreases. The end result, Kunstler wrote, will be Americans living in small, agrarian communities.In his new novel, World Made By Hand, Kunstler, who will appear March 26 in Carbondale, tries to make this supposed future into a believable reality. The writing is a cross between Ken Folletts adventure stories, Adbusters melodrama and science-fiction-oriented religiosity. Set in Union Grove, near Albany, N.Y., Kunstlers story of a postmodern world takes shape in a fracas of local warlords, thieves, serfs and small-time producers trying to make a life in a collapsed society without computers, televisions or cars. Bombs have obliterated major American cities in a jihad, and the U.S. government, though still in existence, does not seem to have any control. Though a few public servants remain, power is now wielded by those with the will to be powerful. Though murder and theft are rampant, a strong sense of community emerges in smaller towns during the ongoing chaos. The story takes place in one of those small communities, and while Kunstler is known for his dark view of the future, he manages to inject hope into a book that is part adventure and part allegory. It seems, however, that Kunstler had a hard time working the two sides of the story together. The book starts off slowly, and the story doesnt really get going until 50 pages into it. The beginning is mostly description, as Kunstler constructs his vision of the future. In this novel, Kunstler struggles to mix the adventure story with his personal vision of the future. Its almost as if there are two stories one nonfiction and one fiction but the two fail to intermingle comfortably. Still, the adventurous, storytelling side of things is entertaining and rolls with just enough speed to keep a reader interested until the end. jstonington@aspentimes.comJames Howard Kunstler appears as part of Tomorrows Voices Environmental Ethics Series on Wednesday, March 26 at 7 p.m. at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School Barn in Carbondale. His talk is free.