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The Coming Dark Age Hardcover – 1973

3.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Text: English, Italian (translation)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 221 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385063407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385063401
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,236,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Alberto Vargas VINE VOICE on May 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
As the author says, "It is a manifesto, a call, a sermon -- delivering its somber discourse in the manner of Luigi Einaudi, who regarded his last writings as useless even before the public had delivered the same verdict."

Well, let me make that verdict formal: I did not find this book worth reading. The main reason why I read it was that it was quoted in some other post-apocalyptic books, among them Lucifer's Hammer. The enigmatic and authoritative sounding quotes mislead me to think that the overall book would be interesting - not so.

The book is very old and outdated. Many of the opinions and predictions are either quaint or trivial, and others are just silly. The little that makes sense, e.g. modern society is complex and complex systems are prone to large unpredictable failures, is better said by other authors.

Here is representative quote: "In the year 2000 Swedish officials will be governing New York, Moscow, Berlin, and Paris" (p. 174). Yeah, right, that's how it was back in 2000 :)

The first 80% of the book is formally sounding but overly theoretical discussion of various reports by ancient AT&T officials or musings about 1960s power outages and traffic jams. This is the least interesting part. Then there are a couple of short chapters towards the end about how the coming dark age will be very feudal and personal allegiances will be the only form of power. This is the mildly interesting part, but frankly nothing truly thought provoking. The author does not make a logical connection between the fragility of certain complex systems (first 80% of the book) and the structure of the future society (the end of the book) so it feels disjointed. There is nothing actionable or new that could be learned from this book. Something like Kunstler's Long Emergency would be a far better read.

Overall, the book is poorly written and very outdated. Not recommended, unless you are an intellectually masochistic book worm.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is boring, preachy and vastly out-dated. Yet, the core concept -- the fragility of complex systems -- was convincing to me. Written back before the rise of computing, Vacca could've never imagined a world as complex as ours. If he was right, we're in far greater peril now than we were then. Yet, his predictions of systemic failure have not come true. Even so, like the Apple "Newton," I believe that Vacca's theory was early rather than wrong. I think his take on cascading failure of systems may be inevitable -- especially since so much old-timer knowledge (like how to feed oneself) has been lost to the masses. I just wish there was a better way to access Vacca's theory other than reading this book. Cliff Notes anyone?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent book from the early 1970s, named and advertised to appeal to the apocalyptic movement of the time, *The Coming Dark Age* is actually much more than a prediction of doom: it's a call to improve social and economic "managerial systems". Most of the reforms Vacca calls for seemed insurmountable back then, but have been largely accomplished in the past 40 years. Yet we will always face problems and challenges; Vacca's attitude is that we face them head-on instead of waiting for a "knockout". This is advice that is still pertinent, as the most recent challenges involve energy and resource supply, greenhouse gas emissions, and the emergence of the balance of the world population from poverty.

In spite of its age (he predicts that if reforms are not implemented, the dark age will start between 1985 and 1995), it's still a good read for people interested in energy, ecological, urbanism, and similar fields.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading Lucifer's Hammer, the novel, and seeing the many references to Vacca's book, I decided to read it. It's a little dated, of course, but many of the principles still apply. I enjoyed finding the references used in Lucifer's Hammer.
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