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World Made By Hand
James Howard Kunstler
Narrated by Jim Meskimen, unabridged
Blackstone Audio, 9.3 hours

World Made By Hand
James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of eight novels. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and an editor for Rolling Stone, and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Sunday Magazine. He lives in upstate New York.

James Howard Kunstler Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven Brandt

It was scary how fast it happened. Terrorists detonated a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles, leveling the city. The nation's water ports clamped down, inspecting every piece of incoming cargo. Ships sat for days, or even weeks at a time, waiting to be inspected, until finally some of them began to turn away, their cargoes undelivered. America's economy was crippled, and the chances of recovery were slim. When the second bomb went off in Washington DC, even that slim chance was gone.

Leaderless and demoralized, the country collapsed in on itself. When a new strain of influenza swept the nation, there was simply not enough infrastructure left to cope with it, and millions died. There were rumours that a new government had emerged in Philadelphia, then Chicago, then Minneapolis, but no one knew for sure. With no electricity, and only horses for transportation, towns and cities across the country were left to fend for themselves. Food had to be grown locally, and people had to barter for the things they needed, trading goods for goods, or for services if someone was lucky enough to know a trade that was still useful.

In the small town of Union Grove, New York, Robert Earl, who gets by on his carpentry skills, finds that his friends and neighbors have become largely apathetic. They merely go through the motions of life with no real ambition to improve their situation. However, that all begins to change when a group of religious zealots comes to town. The people of Union Grove are wary at first, afraid that the group might try to take over and force everyone to join their cult, but their fears prove to be groundless.

The group, seventy-three members strong, moves into the old school building, fixing it up and even building on to it. On top of that, they volunteer to help the town fix up its failing water system. Soon, the industriousness of the group catches on, and people begin to realize that no one is going to come along and make everything right again, they will have to do it themselves. There are others, however, that like the lawlessness of these times, and have profited greatly from it. Change will not come easily in a world that must now be made by hand.

It's scary to think that it might be that easy to collapse an entire nation, but James Howard Kunstler's scenario, as described in this audiobook, sounds completely plausible. After all, look what two little airplanes did back in 2001. The only thing Kunstler neglected to address in World Made by Hand is what was going on in the rest of the world. Since it was only the United States that was attacked, it seems likely that other nations might come around and start claiming portions of the territory for themselves. I'm just over-analyzing, though, that would have taken the story in a much different direction.

James Howard Kunstler has long been an advocate for the dangers of relying on non-renewable energy sources, and many other downsides of modern civilization. During the last decade, he has predicted the downfall of our society several times, and his views are particularly evident in his written works. The fact that Kunstler is something of a heretic doesn't make his novels any less interesting, however. His views make for some great fiction.

Jim Meskimen did a fair job in his narration of this title. His reading did not feel as natural as many narrators I've heard; sometimes it seems like he places the emphasis at odd places in a sentence, especially when reading dialogue. Still, I don't have any major complaints about the job he did. He didn't bore me like some narrators do.

Meskimen has a long list of film and television credits, mostly in very minor roles. Among his most notable appearances were the UK episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyway, from 1991-1992, and the role of Officer Who-lihan in the Ron Howard film, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

There's nothing particularly earth-shattering about World Made By Hand, but it was an enjoyable read. Post-apocalypse scenarios have become pretty common in modern fiction, even in young adult and juvenile fiction, and I found this audiobook to be a worthwhile addition to the genre.

Copyright © 2011 Steven Brandt

Steven Brandt spends most of his waking hours listening to audiobooks and reviewing them for his blog, Audiobook Heaven. When not reading or reviewing, Steven is usually playing the saxophone for the entertainment and amusement of his family.

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