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Earth Abides Paperback – March 28, 2006
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From the Inside Flap
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 more astonishing than anything he'd either dreaded or hoped for.
"From the Paperback edition.
About the Author
George Rippey Stewart (May 31, 1895 – August 22, 1980) was an American toponymist, a novelist, and a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. He is best known for his only science fiction novel Earth Abides (1949), a post-apocalyptic novel, for which he won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. It was dramatized on radio's Escape and inspired Stephen King's The Stand. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Ish can be annoying. He is fascinated by first principles, when he really should be galvanizing his energy toward practical work. Others join him in a community humorously called The Tribe. The name takes on greater significance later. Stewart’s post-apocalyptic community is relatively calm, given the genre; it is largely free from disease, strife, and want. In fact, Ish worries that the abundance of the previous world, all the cans of food in supermarkets in the Bay area, for instance, will hobble The Tribe.
By the end, Ish is the last member of what the thousand or so progeny of The Tribe call the Old Ones. He is treated as a god. Members pinch him for good luck, and ask him questions as if he was an oracle. Ish is satisfied with The Tribe. A group of young men, untroubled and stalwart, become the new leaders of humanity. The message is clear: people have had a severe setback, but they are undaunted.
For a story that was first published in 1949, Earth Abides remains relevant now more than ever. Mass plague vectored through air travel has been featured in a number of recent films (i.e. Contagion, Outbreak), TV shows, and yes, even the news. Set between the European Black Death of the late 1600s and the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s Earth Abides explores the waning hopes, hardships, and resignation of plague survivors of present-day California.
With only a tiny fraction of the world's population persisting after a catastrophic event in civilization, how would you fare? What wisdom would you pass on to those younger than you?
In George R. Stewart's post-holocaust novel, protagonist Isherwood “Ish” Williams, discovers that a virulent plague has wiped out nearly all of humanity, leaving only a handful of shell-shocked survivors in its wake. Armed with little more than a hammer and his philosophical prowess, Ish attempts to reestablish American civilization in a small suburban community overlooking San Francisco Bay. While the rest of the survivors live day-to-day and subsist on vast stockpiles of canned food, Ish strives to retain the knowledge of the past, preserving libraries, teaching his offspring—including his gifted son, Joey—all the facts and achievements of his bygone civilization. In time, Ish becomes an almost God-like figure, the "Last American" in the eyes of the younger generations, his old hammer being the symbol of his power. Uncomfortable with his deification and his near absolute authority over the tribe, Ish realizes that the people have become far too complacent and dependent upon him. When new threats emerge and the crumbling infrastructure no longer supports his community, Ish must abandon his dreams of resurrecting society and teach his people the most basic and practical skills of survival.
Ish is a very cerebral and introverted fellow—a walking Farmer’s Almanac, if you will. At times, readers may be frustrated by his constant brooding and pale, clinical views. Many may be turned off by his questioning of a mentally challenged girl’s right to reproduce. Conversely, Ish becomes a more interesting character near the novel's end whilst standing in stark contrast to his descendents, a simple hunting and gathering tribe. Primitive-like children with no concept of technology, history, literature, medicine, and all other forms of knowledge, obeying the rudimentary laws of nature; and although they’re aware that they’re living amidst the ruins of a dead civilization, they can only perceive the makers of that collapsed society as the mythical beings.
Earth Abides isn't without its shortcomings. There's not much in the way of dialogue or character development; the pacing is dawdling and sensationalist action is nowhere to be found. To its credit, the novel is a thoughtful tale of a devastated culture struggling to survive. Plodding albeit wonderfully written, Earth Abides is brilliant and thought-provoking in regards to its sober examination of not only human integrity but also the questions of what makes a civilization work, and how to reestablish one from the ruins. Readers looking for escapist literature will see this book as hard reading, but others will hopefully appreciate the book’s philosophical insight and poignant message about the human condition that remains true today.
It is very well written and the author is quite knowledgeable. He was probably a walking farmers almanac in his day. The problem with the book is the story which is slow and plodding and many times predictable. I found myself saying "Hurry up and get on with it already." There were, however, a few surprises, such as when one person is executed.
I enjoyed the in depth explanations as to how mankind's inventions would fail in the future. I enjoy post-apocalyptic stories even though most of them are not very good. My problem with this story is the main character, Ish, and the behavior of a lot of the people in the story. I find it hard to believe that such an intelligent person would lead such a large extended family and not make more of an attempt to educate them. Most of the characters were essentially illiterate and could seem to care less about doing much of anything.
The biggest problem I had is that there were so many characters in the story that didn't seem to want much to do with anybody else. I think this was a major error by the author. If 99.99% of mankind disappeared almost overnight, most people would be starved for companionship and would group together for no other reason than safety. In addition, the more people in the group, the more skills they would have. Most of the people in this book seemed to be loners or were happy with just one other person. I don't believe most people would just give up on life in such a short period of time. Sure, the might become alcoholics but they would want to go on living. The amount of resources available to the survivors would be immense. Just a little cooperation amongst a group of people would be able to enjoy a very easy life, especially when you lived so close to cities and farms.
I didn't like the end either and I lost interest for the most part after Year 1.
Recommended for fans of the genre.