Thursday, July 26, 2012

James Howard Kunstler’s follow-up to his 2006 book The Long Emergency is a slight disappointment, and suffers from its author having nothing really new to say. The book can’t be entirely dismissed, however, as it does have its moments of insight and is generally interesting. It’s just that it’s not the consistently bracing read that The Long Emergency was.

Too Much Magic can pretty much be considered the follow-up to Kunstler’s 2006 peak-oil treatise, The Long Emergency. It’s a shame to admit it, but in the six years since he published that compelling book he doesn’t seem to have really found anything new to say. This is always the risk when you obsessively read a writer who specialises in a particular topic. Perhaps someone coming with fresh eyes to the subject of peak oil would find this book interesting and useful, but to me it seemed a bit stale. You would think that the 2006 to 2012 period would be full of new developments to report, but Too Much Magic doesn’t seem rich in new insights.  

The book is divided into nine chapters that cover technology, American history, the environment, finance, alternative energy sources, global warming etc. It’s all fairly interesting, as far as it goes, but doesn’t provide any real ‘wow’ factor. On the more negative side, Kunstler is prone to making plenty of sweeping generalisations and predictions about the future. And as is so often the case with futurists, they are often embarrassingly wrong. 

Despite the above caveats, Kunstler still has many interesting things to say. He has a bracing prose style that is very reader friendly. He’s unique in being primarily a novelist who has crossed over into fossil fuel depletion as a passionate subject. While Too Much Magic has its faults, Kunstler is too smart to ignore.

Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation, by James Howard Kunstler. Published by Atlantic Monthly. ISBN: 978-0-8021-2030-4

No comments:

Post a Comment