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The Witch of Hebron
The Witch of Hebron by James Howard Kunstler

by James Howard Kunstler

After a hard day of brigandage, a man needs to eat!

"Put them onions there into the mush and mix them in good," Bill Bones told his protégé, Jasper Copeland, as they prepared their feast in the abandoned house on Goose Island Road. Billy had his goat-meat skewers jacked up on a couple of concrete blocks over the fire, and the meat juices dripped aromatically into the coals.

"Okay," he said, "now take them cheese crumbles and stir them in."

"Now taker her off the heat and just keep stirring until the cheese gets melty."

A good meal can take your mind off the fact that the world as you knew has ended. This book is full of good meals and food references.

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The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler
The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler

by James Howard Kunstler

This book is a rant written by a very angry man in a world that had yet to experience TEotWaWKI. His rage seems to get in the way of his arguments. (Good thing he didn't know what was coming, how we handled zombies would have caused him a stroke.) Thing is, he makes some very good points, but they're buried in his rambling prose. I much preferred his World Made by Hand — a book I strongly recommend.

I previous reviewed A Canticle for Leibowitz in which the end of the world is instant and massively violent. If you survived the nuclear war, it was obvious there was no going back. Mr. Kunstler, though, posits a world where the end is gradual and not at all obvious. Remember the beginnings of the zombie outbreak? Denial was strong through the first week or so. It took actual assault by the undead for people to wake up to the new reality and, yet, even that didn't work for some. But the removal of the underpinnings of the pre-SHTF world — cheap petroleum — would have taken years if not decades to complete. The process described in The Unthinkable clearly apply here:

  1. Denial: People didn't want to believe that oil was going away. Oh, sure, it will happen eventually, but by then the free market will produce something to replace it such as hydrogen or solar power.
  2. Deliberation: Once it was accepted that the days of cheap oil were behind us, the thinking went haywire. There were wars to secure supplies, attempts to invent something in a hurry (only to realize that it, too, would need vast inputs of petroleum), and don't forget the blame. The finger was pointed at everything from ungodly behavior to communist subversion.
  3. The Decisive Moment: Well, we never got to that point. The zombies rendered it moot. As the Chinese say: It's a truly ill wind that blows everyone evil. Reducing the human population by 90% did have some benefits.

I can't exactly recommend The Long Emergency. If you have the patience, the nuggets you glean are worthwhile, but you're better off reading World Made by Hand.

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World Made by Hand
World Made by Hand

by James Howard Kunstler
My neighbor Jim tipped me off to this book, but only half recommended it. It's a work of fiction written pre-SHTF by an author who wrote several speculative non-fiction works about how the world would probably end. Interestingly enough, the guy never mentioned zombies. It's what you don't expect that always gets you!

The novel takes place in the world Kunstler describes in his book, The Long Emergency. It covers one summer in a small, upstate New York town about a decade after TEotWaWKI.

Jim wasn't big on the book's main character (Robert Earle), believing that a man who -- in my friend's words -- lacked balls would not have lasted long. While my neighbor is correct that how Robert Earle reacted to various events would not have boded well for him in our reality, the world Kunstler describes is quite different. And I'm not talking just about the lack of undead.

First of all, the end came gradually. Over the course of years, through a terrorist nuke here and a decline in trade there, the world just fizzled out (I guess that tells you how bad the Zombie War was if a nuke or two is not that big of a deal). In fact, as Kunstler writes, some even believe that society could return to the old days, if they could just catch a break or two. This contrasts sharply with our reality. It became clear rather quickly -- over the course of just a few days, in fact -- that the old world was dead. Once you've lost such hope, violence becomes easier. If people, even the bad guys, believe that there could be a return, one is more willing to act with restraint.

Another critical difference is that we still retain much of the infrastructure from the old world. Other than that first, hungry winter, food is not an issue. We have a fully functioning electrical grid and an even better medical establishment. In the World Made by Hand, you had to grow your own food, live by the rising and setting of the sun and were probably dead if you encountered a serious medical issue. You could not effectively be a bad guy in that world, at least not extremely evil. You couldn't afford to get hurt in an encounter. Also, it was much more efficient to trade for food or grow it yourself than it is to steal it, at least in the long run.

I did thoroughly enjoy this book and appreciate the lessons I took from it:

  1. You should live on fecund land: something with good soil, easy access to water and hunting/fishing grounds.
  2. You should have practical skills: anything that allows you to build/maintain stuff or something in the healing arts.
  3. You need a functioning society, adherence to the rule of law.

This book has lessons worth learning.

An interesting coincidence: The author makes reference to a deadly flu pandemic originating in Mexico, years before this event actually happened.

I go in to great detail after the jump, including a description of what I would do differently, but beware, there are SPOILERS:
...continue reading "TEotWaWKI Book Review: World Made by Hand"