We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
Call anytime(888) 283-5051
 >   > 
World Made by Hand: The World Made by Hand Novels, Book 1 | [James Howard Kunstler]

World Made by Hand: The World Made by Hand Novels, Book 1

The electricity has flickered out. The automobile age is over. In Union Grove, a little town in upstate New York, the future is nothing like people thought it would be. Life is hard and close to the bone. Transportation is slow and dangerous, so food is grown locally at great expense of time and energy, and the outside world is largely unknown. There may be a president, and he may be in Minneapolis now, but people aren’t sure.
Regular Price:$23.07
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Your Likes make Audible better!

'Likes' are shared on Facebook and Audible.com. We use your 'likes' to improve Audible.com for all our listeners.

You can turn off Audible.com sharing from your Account Details page.

OK

Publisher's Summary

In The Long Emergency, celebrated social commentator James Howard Kunstler explored how the terminal decline of oil production combined with climate change had the potential to put industrial civilization out of business. In World Made by Hand, an astonishing work of speculative fiction, Kunstler brings to life what America might be, a few decades hence, after these catastrophes converge.

The electricity has flickered out. The automobile age is over. In Union Grove, a little town in upstate New York, the future is nothing like people thought it would be. Life is hard and close to the bone. Transportation is slow and dangerous, so food is grown locally at great expense of time and energy, and the outside world is largely unknown. There may be a president, and he may be in Minneapolis now, but people aren’t sure. The townspeople’s challenges play out in a dazzling, fully realized world of abandoned highways and empty houses, horses working the fields and rivers, no longer polluted, and replenished with fish.

This is the story of Robert Earle and his fellow townspeople and what happens to them one summer in a country that has changed profoundly. A powerful tale of love, loss, violence, and desperation, World Made by Hand is also lyrical and tender, a surprising story of a new America struggling to be born - a story more relevant now than ever.

©2008 James Howard Kunstler (P)2010 Blackstone Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

“Richly imagined.” (O, The Oprah Magazine)

“Far from a typical postapocalyptic novel…An impassioned and invigorating tale whose ultimate message is one of hope, not despair.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Brilliant.” (Chicago Tribune)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (214 )
5 star
 (73)
4 star
 (77)
3 star
 (45)
2 star
 (14)
1 star
 (5)
Overall
3.9 (144 )
5 star
 (51)
4 star
 (48)
3 star
 (32)
2 star
 (10)
1 star
 (3)
Story
4.1 (143 )
5 star
 (60)
4 star
 (51)
3 star
 (23)
2 star
 (6)
1 star
 (3)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    David Halethorpe, MD, United States 06-27-13
    David Halethorpe, MD, United States 06-27-13 Member Since 2010

    Indiscriminate Reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1098
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    229
    225
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    254
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A kind of Amish post-apocalypse"

    Among the many subgenres I have a weakness for, one of my favorites is the post-apocalyptic thriller. World Made By Hand is not a thriller, though there is some action and violence. It occupies some strange middle ground between The Stand and Earth Abides. James Howard Kunstler is more interested in telling a story about what people do when the lights go out and how they go back to churning their own butter and making their own candles than a broader story about the collapse of civilization. In fact, that theme (as indicated by the title of the novel) seems to be the reason why the author wrote this book. While the residents of Union Grove, New York now live hard, sometimes precarious lives, and Kunstler does not neglect to show people suffering trauma and not coping very well with the death of the world they knew, the subtext throughout the book seems to be "Maybe it's better this way." The narrator, who by virtue of being the only responsible adult who was too much of a sucker not to say 'No' is now the mayor of Union Grove, frequently ruminates on how much better and sturdier things are now when you have to make them to last, just like in the old days, and seems to regard his old modern consumer life with a mixture of yearning and ironic disdain.

    So there is quite a bit of talk about how people have gone back to a primarily agrarian existence, without oil or electricity, and how they struggle to survive when most folks don't have the skills needed for a post-industrial society. It's one of those books that makes you think about what you would do: if all of a sudden we got knocked back to the 19th century by some sort of apocalypse, do you have any survival skills? Any useful skills that would make you valuable to a community. Well, I'm no prepper and I'm afraid my own skill set would probably prove a bit meager.

    We aren't given many details about what happened in this world made by hand. There is talk of recent wars in the Middle East, and bombs took out Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles and other cities (though apparently not New York City), and the U.S. government, and global civilization, seems to have essentially collapsed. The folks in Union Grove get little news from up the Hudson and even less from anywhere outside New York.

    That said, they have been, as Brother Job of the New Faith Church points out, awfully lucky so far. They've managed to keep their town running with no major disasters, and their region has not yet reached the stage of feuding warlords and roving bandit gangs. However, lawlessness is certainly taking over the countryside, which causes most of the problems in the book as they have to deal first with a trade ship that was sent down the Hudson to New York City and never returned, and then with a local troublemaker who has set himself up as a feudal lord on the edge of town with a bunch of bikers, vagrants, and other ne'er do wells.

    The New Faith Church, a bunch of healthy young evangelicals, show up in Union Grove and want to settle there, which proves to be a mixed blessing. They are (it seems) basically clean, decent, hard-working folks, and they bring fresh blood and, incidentally, a lot of combat vets. However, they definitely have proselytizing on the agenda, and being an instant power in the community, there are bound to be tensions.

    It's a well-constructed story and the world, while light on details, makes sense. No major suspensions of disbelief, until the end, where Kunstler seems to be hinting at the encroaching of supernatural elements. As Brother Job says, "Science don't rule the roost no more." It's both odd given the straightforward, realistic style of the rest of the novel, and also seems to be in keeping with the idea of a "world made by hand" being somehow deeper and more spiritual.

    Well, it wasn't bad, but it wasn't terribly exciting, and I'm not inclined to sign up for the rest of the series to learn just how religious the author decides to get. Yes, our modern consumer lifestyle probably is unsustainable and many things are lost when everything is commercial and transient. On the other hand, as the events in World Made By Hand show, it's not a great improvement to let the world be run by whoever has the most charisma and guns, and I have no faith in the nice folks of the New Faith Church not turning into witch-burning science-hating zealots given a generation or so to cement their power. So, while I feel a certain sympathy for the idea that the world would actually be a better place without Walmarts and reality TV, I'm not willing to throw out electricity, antibiotics, and indoor plumbing to get it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Clara Roseburg, Or, United States 05-22-13
    Clara Roseburg, Or, United States 05-22-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    24
    12
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Male fantasy makes for a poor/unrealistic story"

    As some reviewers have pointed out, this book is not particularly well written, but as a story, not great literature, it would be passable. However, you will have to pretend that it was written in the 50’s like Alas Babylon, for it to be an okay listen and even then it sounds like a pathetic kind of male wishful thinking.

    Women are not going to “drop” feminism and revert to being stereotypically deferential and secondary to men because we lose technology. Every major player in this book is male and that effectively eroded any plausibility of this story for me. Two minor characters are female. One is manipulative and emotionally unstable, the other (young and attractive) picks a man older than her father for shelter and wants to sleep with him in exchange for protection although being the protagonist, he doesn't pressure her. Oh, and there is also a mysteriously powerful woman at the heart of the religious cult who is described as obese, nauseating and completely disgusting.

    Even in times past, in a small town, women would be extremely important to the fabric of the community, not just shadows. Sorry Mr. Kunstler. For better or worse, women today are even the largest new market for guns. While you obviously long for more “simple” times, there are just too many female doctors, dentists, mayors, police chiefs, land holders, CEOs and even ministers for the future to play out this way. That reality completely blows your story -- and exposes your misogyny.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Wood Zen Mystic Studio 08-02-11
    J. Wood Zen Mystic Studio 08-02-11 Member Since 2006

    Live and die with no regrets

    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    22
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "The Long Emergency is much better."

    I love Kunstlers other book "The Long Emergency", his blog and interviews but was a bit disappointed by this novel. The story is a bit flat and predictable. The descriptions of the post collapse society was interesting, but left me wanting more detail on the characters. A very one dimensional story.

    It's an OK listen one time through, but doubt I'll listen to it again.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hugh Leysin, Switzerland 12-13-10
    Hugh Leysin, Switzerland 12-13-10 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Pick a world made by a hand other than Kuntzler's!"

    Interesting concept, poor writing, lots of pompous pontification

    I am open to the concept of a collapsing society, and while I am not convinced that this will happen in the next few decades, it is certainly a possibility. I enjoy this genre of fiction, and I have a great deal of respect for McCarthy's The Road for its masterful, poetic writing and profound themes, for Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl for its handling of a multitude of modern dangers and compelling plot, and for Atwood's Oryx and Crake for its bold premise of humanity re-engineered and also for its fluid writing.

    Kuntsler's World Made by Hand, on the other hand, also contains interesting and important ideas, but these are masked by poor, overly explicit presentation of Kuntzler's world view, and by poor writing, wrought with cliches.

    Example one: "with his bare hands" This is how the book's villain is tagged by Kuntzler. The villain is suspected of strangling his first wife "with his bare hands," and that trite phrase is repeated a few times.

    Example two: This same villain was a motorhead before the collapse, someone who loved snowmobiles, four wheelers, and NASCAR, and who didn't seem at peace without the whir of an engine next to him. OK, I'm a backcountry skiier and whitewater kayaker and I have no great love for snowmobiles or jet skis, but I don't look down on people who do like these things. No, I don't want a snowmobiler polluting the atmosphere of a national park with the roar and exhaust of the engine, but I am prepared to compromise with snowmobilers who also pay taxes and thus support national parks. This villain is two dimensional, a bit like the bad guys cruising around on the oil tanker in Waterworld, and all of us, hillbilly, yuppie, hippie, and entrepreneur are party to the imposition of possibly great social and environmental costs to future generations due to our consumption.

    I respect Kuntzler's efforts, but this is an awkward hybrid between an essay and a novel.

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve SUNRISE, FL, United States 07-21-13
    Steve SUNRISE, FL, United States 07-21-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    75
    66
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Need to learn a useful skill before the world ends"
    What made the experience of listening to World Made by Hand the most enjoyable?

    The narrator was so involved in the story. He offered a lot of detail about the times and the people in the town. The narrator sounded a lot like William H. Macy, which is not a bad thing. Also, it was nice to read a end-of-world story without zombies for a change.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The description of daily life and making do after the end finally gets here.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Not sure.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No extreme reaction. I enjoyed listening to it.


    Any additional comments?

    It is not a stand-out book, but it was enjoyable to listen to.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pennalie Texaco Flats 06-12-13
    Pennalie Texaco Flats 06-12-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    51
    10
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Andy Griffith at the end of the world"

    Be prepared for a leisurely pace. The first 1/2 of the story is more of a sketch of a post-electronic world than an actual story. Built to be idealistic more than realistic, this dystopian world clearly depicts the author's preference for a world with less technology. He succeeded in making me imagine the beauty that could await us if we found ourselves back in synch with nature's rhythms, but the entire story softens the blows--until the strange and abruptly violent ending. The plot takes its time developing, then takes an ugly turn in a way that seemed incongruous with the Andy Griffith beginning.

    An additional note of complaint is the author's treatment of women. Not only are they all emotionally weak, needy, manipulative or disturbed, they rely exclusively on men for their care and feeding. Kunstler's main source of differentiating between them is by remarking on their various breast sizes, which only exaggerates this misogynist worldview.

    Before adding this book to my summer reading (& listening) list, I had just finished Alas Babylon (1959, Pat Frank). The similarities are abundant. The biggest difference is in the story telling. Babylon builds suspense while offering plenty of commentary, thus never feeling dull and weary. The narrator for Alas Babylon also kept the pace and intensity in a way that Jim Meskimen never mastered. I was also able to forgive Pat Frank for his 1950's treatment of women (pre-women's liberation). On the other hand, I could not get past Kunstler's apparent chauvinism .......and racism. Really? Are no minorities in all of upstate New York? In Kunstler's future they are entirely relegated to race wars in urban centers far, far away.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Meghan Seattle, WA, United States 05-18-13
    Meghan Seattle, WA, United States 05-18-13 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Blah"

    Just not well executed. Bashes you over the head with "how things used to be" and lots of niggling little issues. For example, how come every professional in this book is assisted by " his wife"? Are there no more female dentists in the future? Not worth the energy to ignore the plot holes.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brett United States 11-18-12
    Brett United States 11-18-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    79
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I actually enjoyed it."
    If you could sum up World Made by Hand in three words, what would they be?

    This is similar to the rest of a growing genre of post apocalyptic and slow apocalyptic fiction. This is my favorite from what I've heard thus far. I listened to this about a year or so ago, and am looking for more in the genre. I found myself saying, "are there any more of those World Made by Hand stories. I liked them."


    What other book might you compare World Made by Hand to and why?

    Patriots - James Wesley Rawles
    American Apocalypse - Nova


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    not really.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    steve pasadena, TX, United States 07-21-12
    steve pasadena, TX, United States 07-21-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good story but its difficult to discern characters"
    What made the experience of listening to World Made by Hand the most enjoyable?

    The plot was good and the story believable. It seemed short though and left a lot unexplained.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Jim Meskimen’s performances?

    Jim needs to add inflection to make it easier to discern characters. I found myself lost at times wondering which character was speaking or even that another character was involved in the conversation. A great example of a narrator who does this well is Will Patton in Alas, Babylon.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    rebecca hayden, AL, United States 03-24-14
    rebecca hayden, AL, United States 03-24-14 Member Since 2013

    I live in the deep woods of Alabama-an aspiring writer/illustrator. I spend my time consumin' literature and poopin' out Doodles. :)

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    17
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Must Listen!"
    Where does World Made by Hand rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Top 10 favorite books. Beautifully written.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It's not just another dystopian future story with zombies and evil governments (don't get me wrong I like those, too). I love the book's small, simple world and how it is constructed.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. I wanted it to last longer so one sitting wouldn't work for me.


    Any additional comments?

    I've listened to this book several times now and it doesn't lose it's charm. It has a super-natural element that blends seamlessly with Kuntsler's hyper-realistic writing style. Some reviewers were distracted by the "old-timey" slang but I thought it furthered the books character and dimension.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 19 results PREVIOUS12NEXT

    There are no listener reviews for this title yet.

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank You

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.