Book Reviews

By Matthew Stein, P.E., Author of When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance and Planetary Survival, ISBN #1933392835, published by Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT (800) 639-4099  http://www.chelseagreen.com 

reviews and cover comments

You will be completely blown away by this book! Trust me. Well, I can't be 100 percent sure that absolutely everyone will be as enthusiastic about it as I am, but here's my reasoning. I've reviewed hundreds of books. I do it this way: I read the book, trying not to stick too many post-it notes on the edges of the pages. The notes indicate things I really ought to mention in a review. Then I go back scanning through the book, stopping only where memory prompts me, to add more notes. First time through, I put 17 margin markers in this book. That may be a record. Going back through, I more than doubled the number.

A review cannot cover 34 points. That would be a book in itself.

Instead of attempting to mention nearly three-dozen “most important” points, let me tell you what the book is. Then, remembering that I considered it very special, you decide.

If you remember Stuart Brand's famous Whole Earth Catalogs, you have an idea of the format and style of the book. It is a kind of encyclopedic reference book that just happens to be an exciting read as well. It's subject-like the catalogs from decades ago-is survival. The tone is purely practical, and the language is always either totally understandable or fully explained.

Read this book! Sooner or later, one way or another, you'll be glad you did.

--Joseph Bean - Maui Weekly

(For Joseph Beans complete review, scroll to the end of this section)

Matthew Stein has written a clear, concise book on the subject of survival that, while educating, also does what few others have managed to do - entertain and engage the reader.

Throughout the book you'll find personal stories accompanying the text to further illustrate or drive home a point. The use of these asides brings you into Matthew Stein's life, as he recounts personal stories of survival and tells the stories of others who have managed to overcome the odds to survive.

Not just a survival book, Matthew also covers topics like alternative therapies; how to create a survival mindset; survival strategies; renewable energy; companion gardening; prophecies etc. as well as all the regular topics found in such books - edible plants; first aid; making a survival kit; growing, hunting and foraging; making tools; creating shelters; spinning/weaving/tanning etc.

The book has some great illustrations that make plant identification and first aid that much easier to understand and each chapter finishes with a reference section listing books (along with a short review) and resources (with web addresses where available).

This author has been active in the areas of alternative medicine, water treatment and renewable energy for 15-20 years - and the time and effort taken to research his topic really shows. When Technology Fails belongs in your survival library - as the publisher says, "it's a user-friendly manual for the 21st Century".

--John Egan - survivalistbooks.com

Like most of my readers, I spent the entirety of my "pre-Peak Oil" life as a fossil-fueled zombie, slavishly servicing the petro-techno, hyper-energetic collective narcosis commonly referred to as "the US economy."

 

Then I found out about Peak Oil and realized, "Holy Mother of God . . . if this sh--t's true, I'm like totally screwed. . . and worse yet, I don't even know the first thing to do to begin getting unscrewed."

 

Then I found Matthew Stein's book, When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance and Planetary Survival. This book which covers pretty much everything you need to know to begin preparing for "life after the oil crash."  It has so much valuable information, I am even considering stocking up copies for "investment" or future barter purposes as a book with this much valuable and life-saving information will certainly be more valuable than the US dollar post-peak.

--Review From Matt Savinar, author and proprietor of the website

"Life After the Oil Crash:"

(To read Matt Savinar's complete review, scroll to the end of this section)

Great book! I was drawn in and couldn't stop reading… The depth of this book, covering everything from building materials to spiritual healing, is astounding. It is a one-stop source for the broad range of information and resources we need to create a self-sufficient, earth-friendly lifestyle. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in preserving the health of themselves and the planet-and moving toward a sustainable, sane way of living.

-- Robyn Griggs Lawrence, Editor-in-Chief, Natural Home magazine

When Technology Fails is a massive project done well. First the book gives a superb presentation of WHY one should be more aware and prepared - and then HOW one should go about this. The scope of this book, from “complete self sufficiency”--as in all primitive--to the more realistic scenario of self-sufficiency using modern techniques and materials, is thorough. Not only is the information presented well, but a solid bibliography can carry the student as far as he desires in any particular area of interest.

--John McPherson, author of Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills

"A marvelous guidebook for helping us through the worst of times, and even improving on the best of times..."

-- Thom Hartmann, author, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight

I liked this book.  It's carefully researched, comprehensive, well illustrated, and readable.  It presents much needed alternate information for, in my opinion, technology has already "failed."… So replacement of polluting "high" technologies with non-polluting "low" ones is urgent and Matthew Stein's handbook systematically and accurately surveys a wide array of possible low-tech options.  Much hard work, time, and talent went into the building of this basic reference survey of low-tech options.  The topics range from first aid and emergency water purification to "green" home construction, textiles from scratch, and the necessary info to create a private power system.  You'll spend enjoyable, useful hours leafing through this encyclopedia of possible alternate lifestyles.

--Carla Emery, author, The Encyclopedia of Country Living: An Old-Fashioned Recipe Book

Whether you are seeking self-reliance and a simpler life or fear the collapse of social services, this compendium of practical information for sustainable living belongs on your bookshelf . . . and its pages will soon be well-worn. Practical and sophisticated, yet within the grasp of all readers.

-- Fred C. Walters, editor, Acres U.S.A. (the nations leading magazine on sustainable agriculture)

Whether your survival depends on living closer to the intersection of nature's abundance and your own skills--or you see a need to cut the bonds of an over-dependent lifestyle--Stein's excellent guide to simplifying your life, reducing your environmental impact, and pulling yourself out of a jam is sure to gather no dust on your bookshelf… This book is a personal and planetary empowerment tool.

--Richard Heede, Ph. D., author of Homemade Money: How to Save Energy and Dollars in Your Home. (Richard is a Research Scholar for the Rocky Mountain Institute)

FULL REVIEWS:

Review From Matt Savinar, proprietor of the website

"Life After the Oil Crash:" 

Like most of my readers, I spent the entirety of my "pre-Peak Oil" life as a fossil-fueled zombie, slavishly servicing the petro-techno, hyper-energetic collective narcosis commonly referred to as "the US economy."

 

Then I found out about Peak Oil and realized, "Holy Mother of God . . . if this shit's true, I'm like totally screwed. . . and worse yet, I don't even know the first thing to do to begin getting unscrewed."

 

Then I found Matthew Stein's book, When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance and Planetary Survival. This book which covers pretty much everything you need to know to begin preparing for "life after the oil crash."  It has so much valuable information, I am even considering stocking up copies for "investment" or future barter purposes as a book with this much valuable and life-saving information will certainly be more valuable than the US dollar post-peak.

 

Stein has organized the book into byte-size and manageable skills for you to master and things to acquire. The book is particularly useful to people, who like myself, have spent their entire life in what James Kunstler calls the "hallucinatory economy." We need very simple, clear directions as we begin down the road to reality and self-sufficiency.

 

For example, right now I'm on Stein's chapter on what you need to include in your "grab and go bag" aka "shit's hit the fan, time to run to the hills bag" aka "grab this bag and haul ass to somewhere remote if Bush lobs a nuke at Iran . . . "

 

Being a city-slicker by birth and an attorney by trade, I don't know the first thing about what you need to include in your survival pack. If left to my own instincts, I would probably include a three-piece suit, rolodex and some retainer and fee agreements.

 

Obviously, I wouldn't survive long.

 

Luckily I have Stein's book (actually four copies - one in my book box, one in my grab-and-go bag, and an extra two just in case something happens to the first two.)  So I open to his chapter on survival packs and am able to include the appropriate things. (While I've left out the three-piece suit, briefcase, and rolodex, I just can't give up the retainer and fee agreements. Hey, old habits die hard).

 

Stein's book has much more than just information to help you survive short-term emergencies. For instance, he has a chapter on building yourself an small "ecoshelter." When I get to that chapter, I will read through it, do some Google searches, purchase or acquire the necessary materials and do my best to construct one myself. Even though I won't be moving out of my apartment and into the shelter anytime soon, having the skill to build one will prove valuable, and possibly profitable, in a post-peak world.

 

Stein has a section on Peak Oil and is clearly quite well versed in the issues relating to it.  There's even a graph from Dr. Campbell in the book!

 

To the men reading this: to be perfectly blunt, Stein's book may even help you get laid post-peak. Before you bust up laughing, hear me out. I recently finished reading Jared Diamond's book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.  He cites an example of one collapsing society (don't remember which one as the book is as big as a freaking encyclopedia) where he suspects the final demise of the society occurred when the women in the society realized the men didn't have the skills necessary to survive the new circumstances that had befallen the society.

 

What did the ladies do to ensure the continued existence of their genes? Simple, they abandoned the men and hooked up with the men in a neighboring society who had the necessary skills. Kind of harsh, but hey that's natural selection at work. Deal with her or she'll deal with the guy down the road.

 

Now who do you think will be best suited to ensuring the continued existence of their genes post-peak when the market has crashed, gas is $10/gallon, and electricity is extremely expensive at best and woefully intermittent or nonexistent at worse:

A) Alan, a Wall Street stock broker;

B) Bob, a fat-cat corporate attorney,

C) Carl, a Madison Avenue advertising executive;

D) Dave, a rap/hip-hop star;

E) Earl, a tanning-hut manager;

F) Fred, an SUV salesman;

G) Gary, a guy who can build a shelter out of scrap, hook it up to small homemade solar-pv system, do a little energy-acupressure healing, preserve meat and fish, and extract water from air via a solar still?

You don't need to be cultural anthropologist to figure out which of these guys will be deemed the most "inclusively-fit" by the female population. If you want to be like Gary, you had better start learning now. Stein's book is as good a place to start as you're going to find.

A Book Review for When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance & Planetary Survival by Matthew Stein

Review Written by Joseph W. Bean, Maui Weekly, October 21, 2004

You will be completely blown away by this book! Trust me. Well, I can't be 100 percent sure that absolutely everyone will be as enthusiastic about it as I am, but here's my reasoning. I've reviewed hundreds of books. I do it this way: I read the book, trying not to stick too many post-it notes on the edges of the pages. The notes indicate things I really ought to mention in a review. Then I go back scanning through the book, stopping only where memory prompts me, to add more notes. First time through, I put 17 margin markers in this book. That may be a record. Going back through, I more than doubled the number.

A review cannot cover 34 points. That would be a book in itself.

Instead of attempting to mention nearly three-dozen “most important” points, let me tell you what the book is. Then, remembering that I considered it very special, you decide.

If you remember Stuart Brand's famous Whole Earth Catalogs, you have an idea of the format and style of the book. It is a kind of encyclopedic reference book that just happens to be an exciting read as well. It's subject-like the catalogs from decades ago-is survival. The tone is purely practical, and the language is always either totally understandable or fully explained.

A cover note calls the book “the first to offer, under one cover, basic instructions and recommended resources for the wide range of skills and technologies necessary for self-reliant living and achieving mastery of all kinds of emergency conditions.” Those of us who live on islands where a strike can stop the power, the food supply, the transportation and everything else-before we even consider the possibility of either terrorism or basic tech failure-should be reading carefully.

Not only does Stein offer the hard-core how-to information, he also explains very patiently and effectively why we should care. He explores possible futures, basing his assumptions on present trends. Then he launches into the necessary low-tech preparations and skills: survival, water, food, shelter, medicine, clothing, energy, metalworking, storage, utensils, chemistry, and do-it-yourself versions of chemistry, engineering and machinery.

As Stein so clearly understands, the more of us who learn these skills and use them, even now when modern technology is taking care of everything for us, the better. If we can produce our own food, a tug boat strike is no problem. If we can produce our own power, a power failure or a terrorist attack on a power station is not a problem. Use the skills or don't, but no one could read this book without thinking, “I could at least do this and I could probably do that.”

In the end, When Technology Fails is as much a challenge as an instruction book. It asks the unanswerable question: Have you done everything you possibly can to ensure your own survival and comfort no matter what comes? Better stated: Have you done everything you possibly can to ensure the safety and comfort-not to mention survival-of those you love in case of unforeseeable emergencies?

Read this book. Sooner or later, one way or another, you'll be glad you did.

When Technology Fails by Matthew Stein, Clear Light Publishers, Santa Fe, NM, 2000. $19.95, paperback, 405 pages including index, ISBN 1-57416-047-8.

Rating: 5  stars (out of 5)