Book Jacket Review: The End of Oil, by Paul Roberts

    In this series, we judge a book by its cover. Only by its cover.

    The end of oil is quite a statement. Typed in strange, stenciled font, it is plastered on signs that formerly held gas prices. But even when oil ends, we still have to include all taxes. The end of oil apparently comes after being on “the edge of a perilous new world.” This sounds terrifying. No wonder people fear giving up their oil addictions.

    Since Earth Day is this week, the environment is on the minds of the masses, I’m sure. So the most important thing I find myself wondering is, what happens when oil ends? When does it end? Do we use it up, or do we just decide to stop using it, cold turkey? What is this process? Is oil over everywhere, or is this just the end of oil at gas pump number four? The three nozzles are just waiting at attention for the armies of people who use them each day.

    With a dangerous shade of red, stamped words declare the end; the text is akin to images of warning signs. Maybe the end of oil will come suddenly, as an apocalypse, the text proclaims fearfully, as if plastered over barrels of hazmat. The end of an era is hazardous; No one will be prepared with energy-efficient, hemp-fueled mopeds. The masses of drivers, stopping to fill up on their way to work, will halt in their giant, Hummer tire tracks. They will explicitly follow the pictorial explanations, so kindly displayed on the pump. But no drop of rancid shimmery liquid, which we’ve grown to depend upon, will stream from the nozzles hanging tirelessly on the front cover’s image of stoic resentfulness.

    The gas pump fades away to a pasty white abyss, suggesting a heaven for gas stations. Where will these poor skeletons of oil dependence end up when they are no longer useful? Hopefully, for the pumps’ sakes of course, it isn’t as lonely and cold of a place as it appears.

    Turning the book over to view what ominous tales of the future are told on the other side of the spine, I just find that the back cover is actually really threatening. It practically yells, with blood red font, at the casual passerby, just picking up the book to peruse, thinking that it might be an insightful and fun sci-fi book about the state of the world in the future. Boy were they wrong; this book is trying to force the reader to read, to play out this little story.

    An important thing to remember, when writing a futuristic tale of the end of an era, is the afterword. Since the future is already in the text, the post-future must be giving a lot of thought. Unfortunately, it appears in this instance that a lot of thought was not enough. There is now a new afterword for the changing future’s future environment.

    Now I’m just confused. Should I be happy about the end of oil? Should I fear it? Maybe the answer is both. The cover both intrigues and terrifies, promising a story of the future, a story about what is to come for this world obsessed with fossil fuels.


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