I picked up Earth Abides because it was one of the inspirations for Stephen King s The Stand and because I ve been in a post apocalyptic mood lately Earth Abides didn t disappoint.
It grabs you from the start Isherwood Williams Ish , gets bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake just after discovering an old hammer in the desert After days of suffering from the rattler s bite, Ish wakes up and no one else is around The beginning reminded me a little of Day of the Triffids but since this one was written first I couldn t complain.
At least a third of the world s population was wiped out by a plague Ish theorizes that the venom in his veins protected him but we never find out why he survived The rest of the book consists of Ish travelling across the country and eventually founding a tribe and leading them in the struggle for survival, all the while wondering if his tribe will repeat the mistakes of the past.
To sum up, Earth Abides is a welcome addition to any post apoc fan s bookshelf If it s good enough for Stephen King, it s good enough for you.
Take er easy Earth Yeah, well, the Earth Abides THE definitive post apocalyptic novel.
First published in 1949, this has some dating but has stood the test of time remarkably well Modern readers may notice some post ap clich s and oft used techniques, but the same reader must consider that Stewart s remarkable work may have been the origin of many of this sub grenre s elements.
This is an archetypal work that should be on a MUST read list for any true fan of speculative fiction While reading, I thought of many other works, most notably Stephen King s The Stand King said of Stewart s novel, published some thirty years earlier than his epic, that Earth Abides was a great influence on him.
Whereas King added theological and mystical elements, Stewart s survivors are taking care of business in a minimalist reset of society.
Isherwood Williams is the Last American as a second and third generation after the catastrophe is explored and Ish witnesses first hand the beginning of a new legend as his own generation evolves into myth The final scenes of Ish at the library is one of the great moments in speculative fiction.
For fifteen years I taught a university course in Western Civilization It began in the spring The textbook I assigned my students began with the sentence, Civilization was not inevitable it was an act of human creativity After reading about our primitive ancestors advance from hunting and gathering to the agricultural settlements of the Neolithic Revolution, we studied the great ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia By April, Rome had fallen and we were in the Dark Ages Western Civilization had reached its lowest ebb Hundreds of years of barbarism followed But civilization did not completely die It held on, in Kenneth Clark s words, by The Skin of Our Teeth In a little corner of the world, against all odds, some Irish monks were copying Bibles This made possible a brief return to literacy during the Age of Charlemagne and this Carolingian Renaissance likewise made possible the rebirth of civilization just in time for summer vacation The course resumed in the fall with the rise of modern Europe, the scientific revolution, a couple of World Wars, and then ended the semester in the present We had arrived George R Stewart s Earth Abides begins where my survey of Western Civilization ends with what might happen next Yet what I love most about this book is that it raises several philosophical questions about civilization in general and Western civilization in particular.
Civilizations die There s no doubt about that And new civilizations emerge among the ruins of the old Civilization may not be inevitable, but then again, as an act of human creativity, perhaps it is inevitable Perhaps human creativity, sooner or later, will always lead to the rise of civilization At any rate, it happens often enough to seem nearly inevitable But whether civilization is inevitable or not, a second question arises Is it desirable The book is divided into three parts The first part is the story of the individual Ish must adapt to a world suddenly bereft of civilization Two themes appear in this part of the book 1 Earth Without Man As a shy intellectual geography student, Ish naturally assumes the role of observer As such, he pays attention to the changes in the natural world following the demise of most of the human race This part of the book is a fascinating account of a world reverting to nature the overgrowth of vegetation, the crumbling infrastructure, the encroaching rust, wildfires, feral dogs, and rapid increases in the populations of ants and rats followed by equally rapid die offs Interestingly, the disaster that decimated the human race was equally catastrophic to human parasites like lice and various diseases Without human hosts, they faced extinction too.
2 The Balance Between the Individual and the World Ish ponders the relationship between himself and everything that is not himself As the world changes, he is changed and as he changes, so the world is changed It is an equation in which the two sides always strive for balance p 97 This theme becomes even important in the second part of the book where the question is not about the individual but about society Stewart s story telling is realistic, so realistic that I found myself wondering what I would do if the Great Disaster were to happen Being a bit of a hypochondriac, I would probably gather up every type of antibiotic the pharmacies had I would also have to be much careful with my reading glasses, lest I end up like Burgess Meredith in Time Enough at Last And for safety and companionship, I would surely find myself some dogs before they all went feral.
There are so many ways a person could respond to such a crisis and Stewart provides a small but representative sampling of a few survivors a The Drunk Unable to cope with the situation, Mr Barlow simply drinks himself to death.
b The Dangerous Couple A hostile man with a gun and his tawdry female companion have a predatory vibe and Ish retreats from them quickly.
c The Frightened Teenager The teenage girl runs away at the sight of Ish He speculates about the perils of being a young woman alone in a lawless world.
d The Hoarder An old man collects everything he can get his hands on whether useful or useless Ish sees the hoarder as essentially dead p 34 The same might be said of the other survivors These are the people who are so damaged by the shock that they have lost their humanity They are the living dead a phrase I can t help but use here Having seen my fair share of zombie apocalypse movies, I find the metaphor apt These are the real living dead, the real zombies, the people who become withdrawn and psychologically dead Later he meets people who are faring better than these walking corpses He decides to search for other survivors by driving cross country from Berkeley to New York What could be a quintessentially American thing to do than to go on a road trip e The Poor Farmers In Arkansas, he comes upon a little group of Black farmers a man, a pregnant woman, and a boy, all unrelated of course, who have a garden, small patches of corn and cotton, and some chickens and pigs Having been poor before the Great Disaster, their lifestyle is not much altered They are surviving and are not as likely to succumb to what Ish calls the Secondary Kill the deaths caused, not by the pandemic itself, but by the lack of civilization s conveniences f The New Yorkers In New York City, Ish meets apartment dwellers Milt and Ann They eat canned food, drink warm martinis, and listen to records on a wind up phonograph They re nice people but they probably won t survive the winter Having little experience of the world outside of New York City, I took to heart Stewart s assessment of Milt and Ann and their prospects for long term survival Even with my stash of antibiotics, books, and dogs, I would probably end up no better than Milt and Ann Like them, I m a city dweller, dependent on the city for my survival Like them, I do not drive But unlike Milt and Ann, I like to walk So I might just kiss my books goodbye and start walking south But at least Milt and Ann have their wind up phonograph Earth Abides was published in 1949 Here I am in 2015 having upgraded from records to eight tracks to audio cassettes to CDs to MP3s all for this A wind up phonograph would be looking pretty good to me now Instead I might have to dust off my guitar and toss it in the cart In fact, I can see myself now, walking down the I 95, pushing a supermarket shopping cart full of antibiotics, canned food, bottled water, and doggie treats Going down the road feeling bad But this is Ish s chronicle, not mine.
Ish reflects that Milt and Ann s way of life is the opposite of the poor farmers way of life Milt and Ann are too specialized to adapt Yet Ish says of them It was a kind of make believe You pretended there was a world outside the windows you were playing cards by candlelight because that was a pleasant thing to do you did not trade reminiscences or talk of what you might think anyone would talk about under such circumstances And Ish realized that this was proper and right Normal people, and Milt and Ann seemed to be certainly normal, did not concern themselves much with either the distant past or the distant future Fortunately, they lived in the present p 73.
Although Milt and Ann lived in the present in the sense that they neither talk about the past nor plan for the future, they are actually living in the past They re living in a world of martinis and card games and phonograph records a world that has died Their way is proper and right not because it is a way to live but because it is a way to die Milt and Ann have outlived their city Nevertheless they maintain themselves and their world the best that they can and they do so with dignity All of the people Ish encounters in these first days and weeks underscore a theme that becomes prominent in the second part of the book 3 The Difference Between Scavenging and Living Creatively Unlike Milt and Ann, the Arkansas farmers are likely to survive However, their regressive way of life is not ideal Though they re growing rather than scavenging, they re not progressing They re at a stand still They too are living in the past This is symbolized by the cotton patch They no longer need cotton, but they continue growing it because it is what they have always done.
Just as the first part of the book is the story of the individual, the second part is the story of the tribe Towards the end of part one there s a powerful scene in which Ish watches the lights fade and eventually go out for good The Dark Ages were closing in p 94 The line is wonderfully melodramatic, but it also provides a historical framework to the book Traditionally the Middle Ages are called the Dark Ages because they are perceived as a period of stagnation But the Middle Ages were not merely a thousand years of benighted barbarism separating the light of antique civilization from that of modern civilization Much happened in those years to permit that light to be rekindled And much will happen in the lives of Ish and his tiny tribe as they face the challenges of living in a post apocalyptic world As Ish chronicles his life with the Tribe, he poses questions related to the main theme of the book 4 The Problem of Civilization People create civilization to better their lives, yet despite all the benefits of civilization, it also introduces new troubles Man s progress from the state of nature to civilization is a double edged sword Jean Jacques Rousseau is one of the philosophers who have confronted the problem of civilization In Discourse on the Arts and Sciences and Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau outlines a philosophy of history that may be relevant to Ish s world.
a The Noble Savage This is the individual in the state of nature solitary, happy, healthy, and good b Nascent Society This is the first form of society and, according to Rousseau, the best It is a gentler life than that lived in the state of nature This is the life of settled homes and the nuclear family It is midway between the state of nature and civilization c Pre Political Society This is where society starts to go wrong The introduction of a social contract, division of labor, and private property lead to inequality, egotism, and greed.
d Civilization This is the artistically, culturally, and scientifically sophisticated society that inevitably becomes corrupt Rousseau argued that the primitive innocence of the noble savage was morally superior to the great civilizations because great civilizations always decay due to cultural progress.
At the beginning of part one Ish is on his own His life resembles that of Rousseau s noble savage Then he meets Em They have a baby and the family is born After all, he thought, the family was the toughest of all human institutions It had preceded civilization, so it naturally survived afterward p 170.
The Tribe in part two is a nascent society This little group, seven adults and an ever growing number of children, are happy They scavenge from the remnants of civilization and they hunt the wildlife that have returned since the death of civilization There s only one thing wrong with all of this, and it s not really an issue for anyone except Ish and me There s a big beautiful university library full of the knowledge the art and culture and science of our great civilization and he can t get the children interested in learning to read Every time I heard myself thinking, Ish, you ve got to try harder You ve got to make them want to learn, I soon realized that I probably could not have done any than he did The children weren t interested and the other adults could not see how important it was for the children to be able to read I kept thinking, they need to read books so they can become physicians and engineers, plumbers, electricians, and mechanics They need to get our technology functioning again Yet in my imagination I saw myself standing before the children discussing history and philosophy, art and literature I began to wonder, What is it that I want so passionately to restore I mean, of course I want hot showers and modern dentistry and a way to listen to my MP3s, but underneath these practical concerns is something much abstract It s not just the comforts and conveniences of civilization that I want back It s our history, our cultural achievements, our art that must not be allowed to pass from the earth Thus Ish s own reading list made perfect sense to me Although he often thought that he should use his reading to make himself skillful in such fields as medicine and agriculture and mechanics, he found that what he actually wanted to read was the story of mankind He plunged through innumerable volumes of anthropology and history, and went on into philosophy, particularly the philosophy of history He read novels and poems and plays, which also were the story of mankind p 132.
The younger generations, the children born after the Great Disaster, feel no connection to the human civilization that lived and died before they were born But it s not just intellectual knowledge that is being lost Before the Great Disaster, George was a carpenter When something needs to be repaired, it s George who fixes it He has practical knowledge than anyone Yet no one tries to learn carpentry from him When he brings up the subject of rigging up a gas powered refrigerator they likewise show no interest Perhaps this is human nature Ish observes The boys, who had never known what it was to have ice, had no urge to make them go to the work of obtaining it p 154.
I should do well to remember that these are all ordinary people They re not explorers or pioneers or inventors They re just regular folks who are getting along as best as they can and not doing too badly at it Instead of acting, they react Instead of doing, they make do When the toilets stop working, they dig latrines Perhaps this is just human nature And I don t think the problem of civilization can be properly understood without some understanding of human nature Another example of human nature in action concerns religion Ish s hammer becomes a ritual object and Ish himself a god like figure despite the Tribe being nonreligious or perhaps because of it Early on, the three adults who were religious two Catholics and one Methodist wanted church services, especially for the children, but the Tribe s attempt at Church fell as flat as the attempt at school Although Ish worried that superstitions might arise in a religious vacuum p 223 , as a skeptic, he felt uncomfortable leading church services Perhaps a need for supernatural beliefs is a part of human nature But inevitable or not, superstitions did develop and ironically Ish himself was the focus of them.
This brings back that question of the relationship between the individual and the world Again he wondered, as so often before, what really were springs of action Did it come from the man inside Or from the world, the outside p 266 If civilization is not inevitable, then the Tribe might continue indefinitely at the stage of nascent society Yet if pressure from the outside world is the catalyst for change, this hardly seems likely Needs will arise which will have to be met The Tribe has already had occasion to respond to a crisis by organizing as a body, as a state Given enough time, they may build a new civilization But would this be desirable Just as the death of most of the human race led to the end of many diseases, so the death of civilization led to the end of the problem of civilization What a strange thing then is this great civilization, that no sooner have men attained it than they seek to flee from itp 293 In the short third part of the book, Ish accepts the passing away of civilization Nevertheless, given enough time the Tribe may build a new civilization which in turn will go the way of every civilization before it, repeating a historical cycle of rising and falling, rising and falling civilizations.
This cyclical view of history is reinforced by the Biblical book from which Stewart takes his title Ecclesiastes In fact, Ecclesiastes is the only Biblical book to take a cyclical view of history The rest are linear But the cyclical Ecclesiastes exists within the otherwise linear view of history of the rest of the Bible Ish expresses it thusHistory repeats itself, he thought, but always with variationsp 189.
Ish desires that the cycle of civilization not be repeated The Tribe has a satisfying and successful way of life Like Rousseau, Ish seems to have reached the painful conclusion that for all its sophisticated art, culture, and science, for all its suspension bridges and university libraries, civilization is founded on slavery and conquest and war and oppression p 344 But the words that ring in my mind after finishing this novel are not those of Ish but of Em, who Ish so often called Mother of Nations the epithet of the Biblical Sarah Not by denying life was life lived p 111.
There is creativity in Ish s Tribe, in his grandchildren and great grandchildren there s life and love of life, so there is hope for their future.
Rating 4 of fiveThe Publisher Says A disease of unparalleled destructive force has sprung up almost simultaneously in every corner of the globe, all but destroying the human race One survivor, strangely immune to the effects of the epidemic, ventures forward to experience a world without man What he ultimately discovers will prove far astonishing than anything he d either dreaded or hoped for.
My Review Call him Isherwood Cause that s his name On a camping trip in the mountains, Ish gets bitten by a rattlesnake and barely survives Clearly he can t call for help on his cell because 1 the mountains and 2 1949 After all his sufferings, Ish drives down the mountain and finds humanityin Los Angelesgone Just not there Oddly, there are also not heaping mounds of dead bodies everywherehe s only been gone a week or so, and the Plague killed quick That nit being picked, I resume Ish spends his time alternately looking for survivors and ruminating on the justice and inevitability of the plague As for man, there is little reason to think that he can in the long run escape the fate of other creatures, and if there is a biological law of flux and reflux, his situation is now a highly perilous one During ten thousand years his numbers have been on the upgrade in spite of wars, pestilences, and famines This increase in population has become and rapid Biologically, man has for too long a time been rolling an uninterrupted run of sevens.
When he stops being stunned, he sets out to contact and assess his fellow survivors He spends a lot of the book out a wanderin , and he picks up here and there some fellow remnants No one is a medical research genius or a high government official or anything, thank goodness, so no one knows where this plague came from, how many are dead in other places, or any of that other stuff that pockmarks other post apocalyptic stories I ve read I completely buy that the survivors are shocked and isolated, where I ve always been hmmphy about the better informed character stories.
Any road, time passes, life goes on, babies are born and people die and food is grown in tune with nature We revert, in other words, to the way things were for 10,000 years before monoculture and factory farming Ish ages, and the younger people without strong attachments to the pre apocalyptic world start to think about what the meaning of life is If there is a God who made us and we did wrong before His eyes as George says at least we did wrong only because we were as God made us, and I do not think that He should set traps Oh, you should know better than George Let us not bring all that back into the world again the angry God, the mean God the one who does not tell us the rules of the game, and then strikes us when we break them Let us not bring Him back.
If there is an apocalypse while I m alive, I m makin this my post apocalyptic mission Disestablishing religion Ish is my soul brother in this regard But as you can imagine, he s fighting a rear guard action despite being the oldest person anyone knows, and also the last survivor of Before in the Now Having lived through the AIDS apocalypse, some days I feel the same way.
And as it must, Death comes for Ish at last, putting an end to his moanings about the stupidity of the human race for making the same mistakes that cost us so dearly before, his pessimistic views on the sustainability of his made tribe, and his invaluable store of knowledgedespite the fact that the whippersnappers don t listen Then, though his sight was now very dim, he looked again at the young men They will commit me to the earth, he thought Yet I also commit them to the earth There is nothing else by which men live Men go and come, but Earth Abides I suspect all of us over a Certain Age feel this way to a greater or lesser degree Plague or no plague, Youth isn t inclined to listen to Age, and apocalypse is relative My apocalypsethe endangerment of tree booksis youth s Bright New Dawn, bulkless environmentally sound infinite stories Yes, I m going, I m going, stop pushing me This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.
0 Unported License.
If I were to teach an upper level college writing class, I d use this book as the foundation for my semester Just as secret service agents need real, expertly crafted, counterfeit bills removed from circulation and brought into their classroom to learn how to identify bad paper, every writer needs a counterfeit novel that made it into circulation and received praise Through deconstruction of this book, I could teach almost everything writers shouldn t do.
Hundreds of places the author could have shown us , with suspense, but instead tells us , with none As an example, this is all we are told about our main character being attacked by a mountain lion In the end there was bad luck, because Ish missed his shot and instead of killing a lion merely raked it across the shoulders, and it charged and mauled him before Ezra could get another shot home After that he walked with a little limp,And this, I believe, is the author s failed attempt at suspense, which actually results in confusion I ve omitted nothing one question, he knew, that they had not yet faced, and now she brought it forward That would be fine she said I don t know Yes, it would I don t like it You mean you don t like it for me Yes It s dangerous There d be no one else but me, and I wouldn t be any use But you can read all the books books he laughed a little as he spoke The Practical Midwife The first sentence was probably supposed to read and now he brought it forward But even without the typo, this is not only horrible dialogue, one of several in a book desperately short on dialogue as well as a glance at massive misuse of exclamation points, three times on every page, minimum but a good example of the authors incessant self censorship and avoidance of certain words and descriptions He not only avoids reference to human intercourse, but birth, death, pain, anger, hatred, bigotry and bloodshed In a story detailing a handful of human survivors, in 1949 California, after a planet wide plague avoiding those topics or glossing over them becomes a herd of white dinosaurs in the bathroom.
There are thousands of poorly constructed sentences like this one, which contains a large word proximity hiccup He began to temporize, just as he used to do when he said that he had a great deal of work to do and so buried himself in a book instead of going to a dance Factual errors, which could have been avoided with a small amount of research, are prevalent here are two batteries with the acid not yet in themthey made the experiment of pouring the acid into a battery put it into the station wagon It worked perfectly I guess in 1949, putting battery acid in the battery charged it too The clock was run, he knew, by electrical impulses which were ordinarily timed at sixty to the minute Now they must be coming less often AC power is 60 pulses per second.
This book contains one main character and dozens of secondary characters we never grow to care about On almost every page a situation unfolds that could be easily re written to involve the reader in the action, infuse the character s with depth and emotions, or add suspense to the plot Instead, the story centers around an emotionally dead man who preaches to a bland cast of less than ordinary, paper cut out idiots about their failure to reach for a fraction of their potential, while he wallows in an uncomfortable rut and never lifts a finger to attain any of his own potential.
Aspiring writers and educators should use this counterfeit paper, available for less than the price of a cup of coffee at used bookstores, as a valuable learning teaching tool Where books filled with examples of great writing abound it s nice to have something chock full of such a concentrated and vast range of terrible writing to weigh down the other end of the scale.
Perhaps, he felt in his mind, that was the difference That was the difference between woman and man She felt only in terms of the immediate, and was interested in being able to spot her child s birthday than in all the future of civilization Again, he felt superior to her.
I don t mind dated language in books, particularly when the book was written then I don t mind dated ideas necessarily, as someone who likes classics and historical fiction What I found in this book, which I had hoped to like as a fan of post apocalyptic works and with a respect for its fathers, was that it dragged on slowly albeit as slowly as time would drag on post apocalypse , had little in the ways of interesting characters I liked the dog than the passive, egotistic protagonist, who, despite his sense of self grandeur, was hardly a fountain of original thought , and that it did not redeem itself in any way An interesting and perhaps accurate depiction of a speculative post epidemic America, but with blinkers on.
The bleakness seeped into my consciousness like water oozing from a sponge of desolation, but unlike works like The Road, I found it not touching, not disturbing, not moving at all just bleak and empty and rather devoid of character And, yes, as the fact I quoted one of the repulsive lines from this book, as a woman I felt put off by the misogyny in it Ah, she may be the mother of nations, but woman, according to Earth Abides, is stupid, excitable, and unable of perceiving the same distant concepts and abstract notions that Ish and, indeed, Stewart are.
Then there are Evie and the native Americans Ish encounters early in the book It would have been better, he had often thought, if they had merely put a can of sweet ant poison within her reach somewhere.
Well I don t think Charlie thought so And George certainly saw her as than what he had written off when she was struggling as a child from the shock of the whole thing Who knows She was just Evie none of the characters were particularly fleshed out, except Ish, and to an extent, Em and Joey Joey s death was probably the most interesting part in the book.
It s not a terrible book, but I only finished it out of a sense of completionism Even books I don t like have their place in my literary canon, refining my palate and reinforcing my contempt of certain ideas Further, by virtue of its citation as influences of greater works, and its place in post apocalyptic literary history, it s at least notable, but I can t help but find that merit undeserved.
The rise and fall of humankind is a fascinating story, but I definitely think humans themselves are far fascinating than this Naturally its outdated worldview can be forgiven somewhat for its archaicness, but it doesn t make it any easier to swallow.
PS I did enjoy this bitOh, she cried, do not ask me for courage I do not know the arguments I never went to college All I know is that we did what we thought best If there is a God who made us and we did wrong before His eyes as George says at least we did wrong only because we were as God made us, and I do not think that He should set traps Oh, you should know better than George Let us not bring all that back into the world again the angry God, the mean God the one who does not tell us the rules of the game, and then strikes us when we break them Let us not bring Him back Not you too In its defense, perhaps I was looking for something else in this book that was not there Did I understand what it was converying, that men go and come while Earth Abides Yes, but somehow, I found it so colourless I could not really develop a conviction about it at all.
Instead of the typical apocalyptic aftermath story with brave survivors fighting for survival, we get a small band of average people who would rather coast along by scrounging off the old world rather than trying to rebuild Stewart was doing a version of Life After People decades before the new book and History channel series here with pretty detailed theories about the way things would break down His view seems optimistic than what would actually happen Electricity and running water lasting far longer than seems feasible But he obviously put a great deal of thought of how the break down of civilization would occur.
Bands of cannibal raiders Hordes of flesh starved zombies Radioactive wastelands stalked by vicious mutants.
If you re a fan of post apocalyptic fiction you ve encountered all these scenarios, often blended together You re familiar with the best ways to dispatch the walking dead, why you should keep away from isolated farmhouses with locked cellars and what lies outside the vault silo What you most likely haven t encountered is an end of the world vision like the one George R Stewart spins in Earth Abides a zombie less, nuke less, cannibal less world that is all the compelling in its quiet realism Earth Abides is a gentler, slower story of the end of civilization than most of its peers The story begins with a virus that wipes out most of humanity in the late 1940s, leaving only a tiny percentage of the population alive You ve seen this setup before Stephen King s The Stand was inspired by this book , but where Earth Abides goes from here is both fascinating and original.
The remaining people clump together where they can, and Isherwood Williams who survives the plague somehow due his being bitten by a rattlesnake when the disease strikes joins a group in a now empty San Francisco There are no rocket scientists, no survivalists, no surgeons in this group They are ordinary people, with ordinary skills and they don t form a conquering army or create a post civilisation Dystopia Hell, they don t even try to restart civilisation, preferring instead to settle into the debris left behind, using tapwater and electricity until the utilities finally fail, eating the near limitless supplies of canned food left in untouched supermarkets and generally avoiding the reality of their situation In short, they behave as many ordinary people would in such a situation.
What eventuates is a slow reprimitivising of human society as knowledge is lost, superstitions reappear and old, hunter gatherer patterns of life begin to re emerge Isherwood, a man of science and reason, rails against this slow slide away from modernity and does his best to both limit the loss of knowledge and educate the children of his community His desperate struggle against the inertia of his de skilled community makes for gripping reading Earth Abides is a masterful work of post apocalyptic fiction, and it really resonated with me Where other novels are fuelled by Walking Dead style battles over resources, or mimic The Stand s good vs evil paradigm Earth Abides focuses on ordinary people surviving but failing to maintain modern civilisation in the aftermath of societal collapse In the post fact era of 2016, where the entirety of human knowledge is a swipe away, yet is usually completely ignored in favour of leisure, emotion and unfounded opinion Stewart s depiction of post disaster decline feels ever prescient In my opinion Earth Abides is a standout champion of its genre, as gripping and memorable as the best of its ilk Stewart s unique take and striking ending have stuck in my mind longer than a dozen of his book s mutant and dystopia competitors.
I thought about giving this 5 stars as it is one of the best earliest of the modern, serious apocalyptic SF novels Written in 1949, it is a bit dated in some ways the use of chemicals, lack of panic, some equipment but overall, it held up very well over the years I don t agree with some of the specifics, but the story is not so much about specific technology, but about humanity I think he presented a very interesting set of ideas If you re looking for action adventure, this book isn t for you It is thoughtful, posing interesting questions about the human condition It does this by following one man who survives the end of our civilization sees what happens to several generations of his descendents How the rest of the world fares is briefly addressed, sometimes quite personally, but always in a perfunctory manner I don t think this harmed the story at all, though Any detail would have bogged it down not helped the central themes.
I m not sure if I read this before, but parts seemed familiar, especially the end Does anyone know if there was ever a short story done of this or did part of it appear as a novella or something view spoiler Our civilization dies quickly quietly due a plague that kills off all but a handful of people in weeks To give an idea of numbers, in an entire city, he might find traces of less than a dozen Stewart presumes that very little of the infrastructure is disturbed Electricity runs for months, city water for years The roads aren t jammed with cars So what happens to the survivors their descendents Stewart supposes that they become scavengers revert to barbarism There are plenty of canned goods, guns, bullets, gas housing for everyone to live comfortably for decades There are no other people around to cause many problems, so there is no reason for the survivors to strive for anything The original survivors give birth to a completely separate generation that grows up scavenging amongst a treasure trove They have no reason to learn to read or any of the old technology In order to repopulate protect themselves against extinction, children were encouraged to marry early, so the following generation were children raised by children Even less knowledge of the old world was passed along rank superstition arose By the time Ish, our hero, dies, mankind has returned firmly to hunter gatherers the technology of the past is merely a curiosity.
Is this a good or bad thing Ish isn t sure either am I this is the basic question that the book leaves us with The people are happy enough Much of what we once had, they don t either the good or the bad It s an interesting question well posed hide spoiler