Set in upstate NY in a not-too-distant future, World focuses mainly on former software exec turned handyman Robert Earle and his small town of Union Grove. Peak Oil is a thing of the past – the world is post-apocalyptic, with large cities either nuked or in the midst of epidemic-fueled civil war, and small towns living in what is essentially olden times.
This is no horror story a la The Road, but a starkly realistic picture of what daily life might actually be like if things keep going how they are. And it’s not all desperation and hardship – the strongest passages in the book describe tasks we take for granted now (cooking for example) in an eye-opening and informative way. I’m not sure how accurate the Kunstler’s solutions are on a mechanical level, but the book at least got me thinking about my own disaster preparedness (which is a big part of Permaculture), and how currently lacking I am in that department!
Major plot twists also happen: A cult-like religious sect moves into town, a local plantation owner’s crew goes missing (a team is dispatched to the Wild West of Albany to go find them) and a local turf war breaks out between the regular folks in town (who have finally started to organize themselves) and the gang of shady characters that run the local dump/salvage yard. There are some weird moments of awe-inspiring hoodoo surrounding the religious group and their leader, giving me a sneaking suspicion that the author personally believes that religion is necessary in times like these (of which I disagree, but that’s neither here nor there).
All in all, World Made by Hand is inspiring, not just in its useful tidbits on how to refrigerate food once the electricity is gone, but in how communities can successfully pick themselves up, as a collective whole, even when all hope seems to be lost.
Book cover from Better World Books