Speculative "post-earth-changing-event" fiction set in a time slightly in our future, about 20 years after the United States economy collapsed due to the lack of availability of oil, there were several nuclear bombs dropped on major cities, and this was followed with a couple of serious flu epidemics which depopulated the country to about a quarter of its former self.
The folks of Union Grove, a smallish town in upstate New York, like everyone else in the country, live in a whole new world. A world without cars, electricity, and supermarkets. A world without mass-produced goods, medicines, and a world where former bank presidents and real estate agents work in the fields like peasants in days of yore. The middle-aged ones still clearly remember the days of cell phones, computer and commuter trains. The younger ones--and there aren't that many, since exposure to the flu viruses seem to have sterilized most people--gape in awe as their elders try to explain what a car is and how it used magic fluid to 'drive.' It wasn't necessarily the smartest folks who survived--it was those who were adaptable to change, who were willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
This is the story of a month or so in the life of Union Grove, primarily of Robert Earle, a forty-seven-year-old former software executive who is now a carpenter, earning his keep (most business is conducted by barter) by repairing and revamping things around town. Several different factions exist in the area, including a big farm cooperative, a gang of hoodlums who run the 'general store' which sells salvaged goods, and a rather freaky religious cult. What this story tells us is that regardless of how much things have changed, some things remain constant: the capacity for human beings to do evil, and the capacity for human beings to do good, and that the capacity for both resides within each of us.
This was a good story, an interesting story with a few well-fleshed and real characters that you came to care about (although a lot of the secondary ones seemed to be almost caricatures in a way) and it was a well-written story, but it wasn't a truly unique concept and the book seemed to run out of steam at the end. I'm reminded of Pat Frank's 1959 classic Alas, Babylon, among others. Definitely worth a read though if you enjoy this sort of book.
I thought this book was a bit slow to start but after the basic storyline was set, the characters, the town, the plots and subplots were introduced and the story picked up and became a book I couldn't put down. The author realistically illustrated the truth about what could happen in this scenario from the creepy, the immoral, the violent and the closest ideal in that situation. I was glad to see that the author didn't run from religion as a reality, especially in the lives of those facing the tragedy and change this book presents. If you like post-apocalyptic sci-fi with shreds of truth and reality, you'll really love this book.
This book is about the story of a declining society, a peaceful post-industrial society living off the remnants of modern technology and the fertility of the lush Hudson Valley. This is very much a transition phase, with a younger generation growing up that was born after the fall, and new people moving in to town that will destabilize the power structure.
I'm quite torn about this book.
On the one hand, there are some real problems with world-building, including a totally unrealistic assessment of how much actual WORK it takes to run a pre-industrial society. There are some odd plot twists that I didn't understand the point of. Additionally, the author is apparently incapable of writing a convincing female character.
On the other hand, there is some seriously fantastic writing going on here. The complexity of feeling and motivation is extraordinary. The inner life of the central character is fascinating, and both his strength and his deep denial are delicately handled. The pacing is seductive, with both the book and the plot moving at no faster than a horse's trot.
In many ways, the book is about dealing with grief, and about deciding whether to surrender gracefully to overwhelming disaster, or to pick yourself up and fight even when it's unclear whether you're on the side of the angels. One of the book's charms is that it presents both youthful vigor and graceful decline as valid options, and lets the reader decide.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It is somewhat different from the usual apocalypic TEOTWAWKI fare. Kunstler is a good writer, (and a goode lecturer - you should check out his podcast on iTunes), and the book was an interesting speculation on what life might look like in the U.S. some 20 years or so after the collapse of the oil economy combined with a few well targeted nuclear terrorist attacks against the governmental infrastructure. I can buy the "peak oil" scenario, but the terrorist nuke attacks are a bit far-fetched and were not terribly believable as the author didn't really spend any effort explaining how that was pulled off. Still, I liked the characters and I think Kunstler did a good job of showing how quickly our politically correct society would revert back to more traditional roles - i.e. a male dominated society and the return of tribalism. Worth your time to read.