Thursday, February 7, 2013

“World Made by Hand”

            I am always on the lookout for a good survival fiction novel. I read a lot and even listen to books in the car during my commute. In the last year, I have read more books than I can even name. Many are not that good plot-wise. Sure, I can glean some good Prepper info usually, but the stories are not always engaging.
            I downloaded “World Made by Hand” by JH Kunstler as well as its sequel “The Witch of Hebron” to listen to in the car on my commute. I forget who recommended them, but after reading about them a bit I took the plunge. It is set in world after the oil supplies have dwindled and been cut off. There has been a major war in the Middle East as well as some flu epidemics and society has slowed down and returned to a simpler pace. The setting is a small town in Upstate New York. Crime is low and food is available, though not bountiful. People have returned to doing almost everything by hand (or on foot). 

            I don’t want to give the plot away too much, but the jist of it is that all is not serene. There are problems due to a lack of law enforcement and just a general “keep to yourself” attitude. When something major happens, it sort of upends everyone’s life style and they are forced to deal with the world again. Making things even more interesting is the arrival of a group of religious travelers from Virginia who want to set up a new base in town’s high school.

            When I am looking for a good survival fiction book, I am most interested in what skills the book can teach me and how they are applied in the story. The plot should be believable to some extent (zombies, right?) and have a natural flow. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending, but not outright horrible either. 

            The World Made by Hand series is hard to pin down. The plot was hard to follow in places as it jumps around a lot (especially in the second book) but I was drawn into the story quite a bit. While there is some survival strategy involved in their lives, it seems that the people of the small town are beaten down by their circumstances and happy to subsist. They have food because there are farms and fish. People are also growing their own small gardens. They make their own candles. They make their own soap. They make their own alcohol. They make their own anesthetics. Unfortunately, they never say how they make anything, just that somebody made it.

            I have a feeling that the author wasn’t trying to make a typical “survival-manual disguised-as-a-novel” so I can forgive these oversights. However, that doesn’t mean there is nothing for the Prepper to learn. What I got from the book is that cooperation is necessary for there to be society. There needs to be order and there needs to be people to ensure it. You don’t have to know every survival skill imaginable when you are part of a community made up of good people that know them.

            I recommended the World Made by Hand series for the serious readers out there. I can’t say I liked every bit of it, including the many instances of sex described therein, but I liked the series overall and would pick up the next volume when it drops.