THE KNOWLEDGE by Lewis Dartnell


How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch
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A survival manual for the zombie apocalypse, the plague or whatever else will bring us down and require a reboot of civilization.

First worlders take that civilization and its comforts for granted. But imagine what would happen if, say, an asteroid hit the Earth or someone unwisely set off a nuclear bomb that triggered others around the world. Who would make the glass? Who would film the real-world episodes of Survivor? Enter young British scientist Dartnell, a U.K. Space Agency research fellow. Positing a near-future world that’s as bleak as any Alan Weisman or Elizabeth Kolbert has imagined, Dartnell figures that we—or, at any rate, the much-diminished population of survivors—won’t have much time to get our acts together. The food in the supermarket is going to last for only so long before spoilage and marauding rats have their ways with it, fresh water will not be widely available, and as for electricity, well, there won’t be any. Reckoning that a tabula rasa might not be such a bad idea in some ways, Dartnell offers field notes, sometimes cursory but all pointing the way to further research, to help contend with the world to come. His goal is “for the post-apocalyptic survivors to learn how to create things for themselves, rather than scavenging from the carcass of our dead society.” That’s easier said than done, of course, as the author allows while surveying the industrial-scientific base that has made such things as nitrogen fixing and Twinkies possible, to say nothing of surgery. Considering the scenarios here, you might not want to be a survivor. However, Dartnell does a good job of appreciating, while there’s still time, the world of “bountiful and varied food, spectacularly effective medicines, effortless and comfortable travel, and abundant energy.”

Read up, then—and keep the shotgun primed and the mason jars clean.

Pub Date: April 21st, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-59420-523-1
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Penguin Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2014


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