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The Scarlet Plague (Science Fiction) Hardcover – June, 1975

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Hardcover, June, 1975
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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews


"London's style is typically lush but his viewpoint is skeptical and dystopian . . . [the] story reminds us of the dangers we still court with our careless ways."  —The Times

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Jack London, world-famous adventurer and author of The Call of the Wild. The Scarlet Plague (1912) is set in London's hometown of San Francisco, California.

Drew Ariana is an actor from Chicago whose training includes a BFA in Drama from the University of Michigan as well as a certificate from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He has done a wide range of audio work from voiceovers in films to ESL iPad apps. Drew has most recently performed at theaters including the Peterborough Players in New Hampshire, Circle Theatre in Chicago, and the GBS Theatre at RADA.
--This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.


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Product Details

  • Series: Science Fiction
  • Hardcover: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Ayer Co Pub (June 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0405063040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0405063046
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,647,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Greg Hughes on December 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Sixty years after a plague killed billions of people, an old man tries to convey to his three grandchildren what the world was once like so long ago.
The cultured, civilized world of mass communication and technology abruptly gave way to a primitive, savage world of cruelty and barbarism. The survivors and their descendents now live like their stone-age forebears: wearing animal skins, hunting with bows and arrows and believing in superstition.
In describing the plague's onslaught, the old man tells his grandchildren of the chaos and degradation that wiped out civilization. Money became worthless, the streets of burning cities were littered with corpses, animals grew wild as mankind lost his supremacy over nature.
The three boys have a lot of trouble understanding the words "Granser" uses, due to their lack of education. (Even the word "education" is something the boys have never heard of.) Nevertheless, the old man does the best he can, in spite of the children's limited vocabulary.
It's interesting to compare "The Scarlet Plague", which was written in 1912, to the more widely-known "Earth Abides". Both books are set in the same place. They both contain that sense of nostalgia, where old men, left over from the "lost world" yearn for a past that was more attractive.
This could well be the blueprint for life-after-the-apocalypse stories. If this story hadn't been written, their would probably never have been such books as "Earth Abides", "The Day of the Triffids", "Empty World" or "The Stand."
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 30, 1997
Format: Hardcover
I found this book among my ninth birthay presents and loved it from the first page. what got to me was the description of a way in which everything we know could be destroyed in a few weeks. Also my boyish imagination and dark side were thrilled about the possibility of being left alone in a city, free to do anything i wanted. As the book advanced in explaining the effects of solitude and the need for information about what had happened I found myself questioning my readiness to face such a situation. I highly recommend this book as a way to introduce science fiction to new readers. You must be aware of several objectionable premises set by the author in terms of a racist future society but also a few "wish it were like that" plots which place as the highest paid occupations those like the ones performed by a junior poetry proffesor. My short review has to end by saying that this book has been a dear memory of mine for the past 29 years and writing about it and recommending it to others it's a way to say thank you to Mr. Jack London a great writer and a reason why today I rather read than almost anything else in my spare time. Thank you, and please forgive my primitive english. Milton Roussel,
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Christian E. Senftleben on August 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
The content of the book may seem to be a re-tread, but it is in fact one of the very first post-apocalyptic plague stories. It set the mold for later versions, such as George R. Stewart's "Earth Abides," Pat Frank's "Alas, Babylon," Nevil Shute's "On the Beach," and of course, Stephen King's "The Stand," amongst others.

First off in this book, the world as we know it is already gone. Out of billions, there are now only a few *hundred* people left on the planet - all scattered, all isolated ...all neo-lithic. There were not enough people left with the know-how to restart society and at the story's opening, there is only one man alive that even remembers the old world.

Furthermore, this book is not the product of an "All are created equal" mentality. No, this is a book that reflects the thinking of a society that sharply divided between nobles and peasants: the former were as unto the gods, while the latter were barely rabble, just mangy curs that needed stay in their cages ...or, be mercifully put out of their misery altogether. It is to the utter horror of the narrator that the debased, pig-like lowborn eventually take rule over the corpse of high society and make it as fetid as themselves.

Most of the book reflects the narrator's callous, maliciously aristocratic view of the world, both past and present. Every low-born in this book is detestable; every high-born is beautiful, desirable and ultimately, profaned and desecrated. The book's characterizations are the stark, black-and-white depictions of a deeply autocratic mindset.

The narrator is disturbingly aghast at the thought of "the servants taking over" the world with their "grubby little hands.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By MFK on May 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
1) This is a novella, not a short story; if you are expecting a thick book, don't go for it, but it's just as long as many published books.
1b) I was shocked to discover that Jack London had written what we'd now call postapocalyptic fiction. The frisson was stronger to realize that the apocalypse was now!
1c) I'd highly, highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys postapocalyptic fiction. I don't know if it's the origin of some of the tropes we often see, but it's definitely an early instantiation of them, and it's kind of heartbreaking.
2) This edition in particular is a beautiful edition of a text that is available online, proofed and corrected. I would much rather read this than any of the free editions for that reason: I find errors distracting and this version has none.
2b) I'm looking forward to the rest of the Radium Age series!
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