From Publishers Weekly
Fed up with "the hyper-consumption of the past thirty years, the pointless acquisitions, the hopeless materialism, and the obsession with celebrity trivia," British journalist and filmmaker Rosen sets out across the U.S. to find the perfect off-the-grid community "beyond the reach of the power cables and water lines that intersect the modern world." His journey brings him into contact with a colorful collection of rebels and outcasts--aging hippies, anarchist kids, a middle-aged couple with an "off-the-grid McMansion" in Colorado--and he sprinkles his tale with the sorts of practical tips likely to appeal to anyone considering a similar adventure: the Clivus Multrum is "the Hummer of composting toilets." What Rosen lacks is a knack for storytelling; he would have done well to step back and let his subjects speak for themselves. Instead, he constantly inserts himself into the frame and insists on passing humorless judgment on nearly everyone he meets (and a fair number of people he doesn™t), and even whole cities are roundly dismissed (Boulder is "the smuggest town in America"). His curmudgeonly asides are off-putting, and it™s disappointing to see the book™s idealism and noble reach devolve into grousing.
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Journalist Rosen walks a fine line between documenting the historic and political history of electrical power in the U.S. (“the grid”) and sharing personal anecdotes and interviews with and about those who embrace life off the grid. In spite of the subtitle—Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government and True Independence—Rosen more often reveals individuals struggling for financial support, embracing faded hippie ideals, or trapped in never-ending neighborhood conflicts that are as much about petty brinkmanship as flipping a switch. All of this is very entertaining, but Rosen’s habit of choosing sides through his negative descriptions of some subjects (repeatedly describing one man’s comb-over and comparing another woman to Mr. Toad in the The Wind in the Willows) while blatantly embracing others brings his journalistic objectivity into question. As a collection of oddballs (from extraordinarily wealthy to poverty stricken) this is a diversionary read, but it does not prove the existence of the cohesive movement it alludes to. --Colleen Mondor