Charles Kerchner, October 30, 2013 (view all comments by Charles Kerchner)
A good read describing the end of human civilization. Though long in the tooth at places and somewhat depressing, it is a much more accurate representation to a doomsday scenario than most. One man watches as apathetic humans are uninterested in rebuilding society but instead living off what others have built. An interesting mixture of very detailed sections to fast forward ones.
PrimalWriter, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by PrimalWriter)
This is my all time favorite novel. I love apocalyptic stories, and this one satisfies without needing to rely on gore or shock. I read it at least twice a year, and always seem to come away with something new each time. This is one of the few novels that I look forward to reading because I know it will be everything a good story should be. If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and read this book!
Stephen Moore, September 14, 2012 (view all comments by Stephen Moore)
The last person/people on earth premise has been well worked in science fiction by the beginning of the 21st Century. This was not the case in 1949 when George R. Stewart, a professor of English at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote "Earth Abides." It is the story of one man who escapes death from a plague caused by a mutant virus which destroys almost all human life in America. His efforts to join a few other survivors and create the beginnings of a new society are the gist of this story. I could not help comparing it to "A Canticle for Leibowitz" and to Stephen Kings "The Stand." Stewart wrote this novel between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. Like its protagonist, Stewart made several cross-country motor trips (and wrote about them). The book is realistic but generally hopeful, save for the loss of literacy which occurs when it is found not to be an essential survival skill. What a remarkable thing for an English professor to conclude!
Francois Vigneault, August 4, 2012 (view all comments by Francois Vigneault)
I first found this book in a ratty paperback edition in the free bin outside of my local San Francisco bookshop, Dog-Earred Books. As I was sorting through the freebies, rejects from the book buyers, I paused on "Earth Abides," and a gentleman next to me, evidently the previous owner, said "Dude, you gotta read that book. It will change your life." Well, for free, who was I to argue with such an endorsement? I read the book, and surprisingly enough, it really did change my life and my view of the world.
This 1949 novel is often regarded as the first post-apocalyptic novel; following the very few survivors of a civilization destroying plague as they struggle to reestablish some semblance of civilization before the world forgets the past entirely. Stewart eschews many of the tropes that would be found in later end of the world scenarios, there are no roving gangs of cannibals to be found here. Instead, there is a methodical thinking through of the ramifications of mankind's departure from the globe, a startlingly prescient progenitor of Alan Weissman's The World Without Us (2007). Short interstitial chapters detail the fate of the electrical grid, the water system, and most especially of the natural world, from dogs and cats (most die without their humans, but some thrive) to cattle (which take to the great plains as a replacement for the nearly extinct bison). Stewart's vision of the cyclical rhythms of the natural world returning, and the slow and halting adaptation of the remnants of mankind to this new world makes for an enlightening and fascinating though experiment.
Don't worry, though: There is plenty of action and drive to Earth Abides, and the characters are well-developed; you feel for their small community's brutal ups and downs as they cope with everything from mountain lion attacks to sexual predators. But the chief source of fascination for this work is the chance to explore a world both familiar and strange. Since I first found this book for free, I have bought and given away a dozen copies at lease. Highest recommendation.
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