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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2014
I like reading books on criticism of industrial society, but this book is amateurish and made me roll my eyes over and over from wrong predictions, lack of evidence, and bizarre recommendations. This book is more sensational than helpful. Orlov gets people to listen by mixing correct assertions about the current decline in our world-system with wild predictions and fear, and a recommendation to do things to help yourself and people in your lifestyle enclave (he leaves no discussion for concepts like amour de soi vs amour-propre in our current society). The biggest correct criticism I hear about Orlov is that he recommends looking out for yourself, with no interest in interdependent community or society as a whole. He recommends meeting your neighbors, but this is no more than a selfish recommendation, which in the end is to just help yourself and the small group of people around you. He has no discussion about the need to create a global interdependent community of not only humans, but life on earth.

If you are well informed about topics like resource depletion, environmental destruction, community vs individualism, and debt, this book isn't very helpful, nor is it an interesting read. Orlov was absolutely sure that collapse from peak oil would occur within one or two years from writing this book. It's now 2014, and the fracking boom he missed has occurred, and collapse has not yet happened. None of the peak oil guys from around 2006 got this right (Kunstler, Orlov, Heinberg, Greer). At least Heinberg and Greer have admitted these mistakes on their blogs, as far as I know, Orlov refuses to do this. Orlov no longer wants to focus on collapse (he's moved away from peak oil, back to programming language software and writing about Putin and Ukraine), but we still get to hear his short snarky and wild predictions on podcasts like C-Realm and Extraenvironmentalist.

If you want to learn about collapse from resource depletion, I think the modeling done by the Club of Rome in "Limits to Growth" and their 30 and 40 year updates are far more interesting. Many science organizations publish data on these issues, and I find that much more useful and informative that amateurish writing from someone who is in IT, not a related field.

I don't understand his focus on oil, we have many other resources that are very important too, like, depletion of water for example. He also talks about how hoarding drugs and scrapping suburbia will be possible jobs in the future. I don't see how you can predict this, or how this is helpful discussion. Yes, scrapping does happen, and it's already going on in places like Dayton, Ohio (he doesn't mention this, see the book "Scrappers: Dayton, Ohio, and America Turn to Scrap"). If you want to see what a post-collapse country might look like, read "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt". Though the number of people involved in scrapping is small, so I don't see why we has a focus on these types of things when discussing large trends, other than for entertainment purposes.

I think there are far better books on all topics he covers, from modern Russian history, to debt (see David Graeber), to resource depletion (Club of Rome), to community (see Robert Bellah), to criticism of industrial society (Lewis Mumford). I would much rather spend time reading Enlightenment and Romantic thinkers (e.g. Gabriel Bonnot de Mably, Claude-Adien Helvetius, Rousseau, Adam Ferguson, Voltaire, Adam Smith, David Hume) than wasting time reading these bizarre books on the impending collapse of society and fictional predictions of post-peak oil life. Like I said earlier, Orlov is popular only by mixing correct assertions about our social and environmental problems with his brand of selfishness and fear. Perhaps environmental degredation will end civilization soon, but maybe not (Bellah thinks our social decline is more important than environmental decline), and I think that's where we need thinkers like Rousseau and Mumford and Bellah to form a better conception of how society should function. Orlov's fear is boring and I'm glad he's slowly disappearing back into the world of programming. I highly doubt we'll see the day when Orlov needs to sail his boat away from Boston as a chaotic collapse grips the city.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The first couple of chapters were alright, then Orlov started waxing poetic, and offering thoughts and 'solutions' that, at best seemed fanciful, and at work just seemed like unhinged rants. Robert Jensen's "We Are All Apocalyptic Now" is a much better, more scholastic book than Orlov's. Though Orlov's experience in post Berlin Wall Russia have some relevance, they get lost in his overbroad generalizations about any possible similarities between the collapsing USSR and the (now) collapsing USA.
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7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I bought this book based on recommendations on "The Oil Drum" web site, which is a web site that discusses the onset and ramifications of Peak Oil. The web site has been over taken more and more by tangental discussions by the global warming, sustainable living, and what I call the 'watermellon' environmentalist' - green on the outside, but red on the inside. I can now see why they recommend this book. I was looking for a good understanding on what happened during the Soviet Collapse and what people did to survive it. If you are careful, you can find it in the book, unfortunately, what was provided could have been written in one chapter. The rest of the book was a prose on how the Soviet system was primed to survive because of it's central planning model and the United States is going to collapse hard because of the stupid, nonsensical way we live. I won't argue he isn't correct that our economic system based on energy and growth isn't going to collapse with the peaking oil production, but not for the reasons he lists. Unfortunately, he has fallen in with the hate liberal hate America and the American dream crowd that exists here.
The first thing I noticed reading the book was the authors delusional notion that there was some sort of economic and technological parity between the United States and Soviet Union. So to base a comparion on this kind of discredits most of his premises from the start. Mr. Orlov seems to embrace and mourn all thing Soviet at the same time hating what it used to be. To me it seems more like he needs to seek psychiatric counceling than to write a book.
Next he tries to establish some sort of social parity at the beginning of the book only to show the extreme differences in the latter half of the book.
The one thing that I give the author credit for is his analysis of the people around him in both societies on the personal level and how they did (or might) react to collapsing economies. I feel that he was very spot on. Americans have a lot farther to fall than your average Soviet citizen did. Unlike the Soviets, there will be no outside world to eventually come save their economy, and he didn't mention with the collapse of oil the Russians have a second collapse to look forward to, even though it will probably be anticlimatic. Overall, I think the book, like half the peak oil books out there was a waste of money.
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7 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2008
I was very disappointed with Orlov's comparison of the crises that the Soviets endured with our forthcoming collapse. I thought the book might offer helpful advice (it could have) for those in the U.S. who have their eyes open to the changes that are happening. Instead Orlov chose to weave an ever so slight at times comparison, between none such phrases and filler statements that anyone could have written. Orlov is a man who could have really been helpful to people wanting to make it through this incoming crises.
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4 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2009
I'll start off by saying that the material is thought provoking and entertaining, although it is more of books of questions than answers.
His theories/predictions are interesting but are not presented with enough depth to be more than cynical observations. This in itself is not bad when you consider almost all if not all of this material can be found online for free. I am halfway through the book and have not seen anything that he hasn't written on his blog or other websites.

I give the content 3 stars, but subtract one over all because if you can get the book from amazon.com, you have internet access, and therefore you can get it online for free.

I would like to read the authors opinions about how well Russians in mono-towns are dealing with and will deal with the current economic crisis. But I will look for it online and not buy any of his books again.
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11 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2009
This book misses the point about the United States. Many times he talks about how the powers that be in the USSR managed to manipulate the Soviet people into accepting certain conditions. Then he talks about how the powers that be do the same in the US but in way that makes the US more vulnerable to an economic catastrophe. In fact, Americas live, work, eat, etc the way we do because of a free market of ideas, products, and services in which suppliers compete to provide consumers exactly what they want. There are no powers that be running the whole thing.

Orlov rightly points out that sometimes Americans demand things that aren't good for us, such as a diet of highly processed food. But he is completely wrong when he implies that the planners conspired to work out how much processed food people would Americans would accept similarly to how he says the Kremlin worked out if they provided people good bread they would accept other bad conditions. He misses the huge difference: the American diet is a result of people's individual choices and suppliers doing the utmost to give them exactly what they demand.

He makes a valid point that Americans sometimes have a worse quality of life because they outsource things such as childcare that in poorer countries ARE done by friends and family. I wholeheartedly agree. He points out how the US economy does not provide a job with a living wage for all citizens. Again, I agree. The problem is Orlov sees this as a failure of the US grand-plan, as it were. There is no grand plan. If you see people in need, you have to get out there and help them. You can't wait for a strong central government to solve all problems. The government should attempt to alleviate poverty and other problems, but if it doesn't completely solve them that's just par for the course as nation-states go.

I give the book two stars for rightly pointing out that the entire economy runs on oil and we don't have a solid plan in place for how it will run once the oil runs out. I also agree that we've planned our cities and society in general in such a way that isolates us from our neighbors and families, which leaves some people without a personal support network. I agree we're sometimes consumerist, viewing the world from a marketing perspective instead of the nuts-and-bolts reality.

Washington didn't create these problems, and Washington won't solve them. Contrary to Orlov's thesis, the US is better equipped to handle a catastrophe precisely because there is no master plan. We're a bunch of people jumping onto the task of solving problems when we see them without waiting for a chain of command. He says we're decadent because we're dependent on a complex supply chain of goods and services to provide for our every need. He misses the point that we created that complex supply chain through hard work, and we'll create it again if necessary. We will not, as Orlov says, devolve into a society of loosely affiliated bands of people subsisting on what they can produce in small groups.
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