Kunstler’s latest novel fictionalizes some of the material covered in his nonfiction work The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century (2005), which examined how a decline in oil production could have cataclysmic repercussions on modern industrial culture.
After a bomb exploded in Los Angeles (attributed to an “act of Jihad”), narrator Robert Earle and his family moved to Union Grove, N.Y., but the economy has since collapsed and the citizens have found themselves atavistically involved in long-lost pursuits such as subsistence farming. The devastation has brought with it other effects, most notably the Mexican flu. Premature death, in fact, has claimed a substantial part of the populace, including Robert’s daughter and his wife, who fell victim to an outbreak of encephalitis. So few single men now exist that women (even Jane Ann, wife of the Congregational minister) are shared between friends. In addition, civil authority has largely broken down (no one even knows whether Washington, D.C., still exists). Consequently, the locals are called upon to govern themselves. Into this anarchic breach step Brother Jobe and the members of the New Faith Church, a quasi-Amish band determined to reassert the rule of law. Pockets of lawlessness are rife, both in the personal corruption of local officials and in the sadistic, unholy gang of Wayne Karp, a character who leaves one begging for civilization. After a dull adventure to free a boat crew being held hostage by a local warlord on the Hudson, Robert and company return to Union City to clean up the mess.
It’s hard to imagine that a post-apocalyptic world could be this tedious.