Summer is here, and everyone is looking for an enticing novel to read while on vacation. Most of us want a page-turner--something vacuous but exciting, a book we can read on the beach while sipping a tropical cocktail.
The summer of 2022 is different from the summers of the recent past. Inflation is rising, and most of us feel that we are only beginning to see substantial price increases in food and staples. Gas prices are at historic highs. It seems like everyone is unhappy, anxious, and fretful. What lies ahead?
So--why not read some apocalyptic literature to help us focus on what may well be America's future? Here are my suggestions:
First, I urge everyone to read James Howard Kunstler's World Made By Hand novels. Kunstler's books are set in upstate New York during the post-petroleum age. He describes a nation that has dropped back into the nineteenth century with people riding horses instead of driving cars and lighting their homes with candles rather than lightbulbs.
Before diving into Kunstler's novels, I suggest you read The Long Emergency, his best-known nonfiction work. In this book, Kunstler argues that the petroleum-based economy is ending and that so-called renewable energy (wind turbines, solar panels, and such) will not allow us to maintain our lavishly materialistic lifestyle.
The Long Emergency is very persuasive. Kunstler convinced me that our gasoline-driven world is not sustainable. I fear our future will be bleaker than progressive voices predict. We are more likely to be raising chickens than driving electric cars.
I also recommend reading some of John Wesley Rawls' apocalyptic novels. Rawls' books imagine life in a world after the global economy collapses. Violence breaks out all across the United States, and an international, fascist military force stamps out democracy and individual freedoms.
What I like best about Rawls' books are the technical details. For example, he provides a recipe for making napalm out of styrofoam and describes how to harden a suburban home against a terrorist attack. His books even have glossaries.
Rawls is a prolific writer, and I recommend you begin by reading these four novels: Patriots, Survivors, Expatriots, and Liberators. If you read all four of these books, I predict you will buy 2,000 rounds of .22 ammunition and a 10/22 Ruger rifle with a camouflage finish.
William Forstchen is another master of the apocalyptic genre. One Second After describes life in Black Mountain, North Carolina, after one of America's enemies set off nuclear bombs in the earth's upper atmosphere. These explosions trigger an electromagnetic pulse that shuts down all electronic devices--including vehicles and electrically powered machinery.
As food runs short, Forstchen's town officials begin rationing, and looters and arsonists are summarily shot. Large terroristic gangs sustain themselves by cannibalism, and the town organizes a militia made up primarily of college students that fights the terrorists in a bitter battle to the death.
Finally, I recommend people to read Cormac McCarthy's dark and harrowing book, The Road. McCarthy's apocalyptic environment is not drawn as sharply as those sketched out by Kunstler, Rawls, and Forstchen. Still, he describes a grey, ashen world in which the sun no longer shines and crops cannot grow--a perpetual nuclear winter. It is a harrowing book that ends with a bare flicker of hope.
Americans should read all four of these authors because they sketch out for us--to one degree or another--America's future. We should pay heed and prepare for it.
I, for one, went to the grocery store and bought four cans of Spam.