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4.5 out of 5 stars
Earth Abides
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 1999
Ish, a college student, survives a rattlesnake bite and mysterious illness alone on a mountain camping trip. When he recovers, he can't find anyone and slowly realizes a plague has wiped out the human race. He wanders across the country, finding only a few stunned survivors and makes an intelligent and courageous decision to not join the first people he finds. After a period of terrible isolation, he finds Em, a true survivor like himself. They are happy together and attract five other survivors. A tiny little tribe grows around them. Ish devotes his life to trying to bring back civilization as he knew it. He fails at his superficial efforts at farming and at educating the children. He succeeds beyond his deepest dreams at giving his descendants the tools they need to create a healthy, happy way of life. The novel works as a thought-provoking study of what do you do when the world collapses around you. It has some weaknesses. Here and there, the fact it was written in 1949 shows. One can argue that Ish would have been able to get the children to read if only he hadn't been such a boring pedant and he could have been a better farmer if he'd been willing to explore alternate ways and crops. The book's strengths greatly outweigh its weaknesses. For one thing, with not much action, it's a true page turner. This is a fantastic novel to discuss and to argue about and to ponder the fundamental question it raises. What would you do for the rest of your life if you survived the end of the world?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 1999
Remember the TV series 'Survivors', by Terry Nation? This book was reccommended to me about the same time, dealing as it does with a similar subject - civilization all but wiped out, the few remaining survivors having to rebuild it.
However, George R. Stewart paints on a far broader canvas. He starts with the immediate problems ('the Government of the United States of America is herewith suspended') and takes things forward. We see not only the end of the old world, but also the genesis of the new. Children are born and grow into adults, having no recollection of what existed before, beyond what the Old Ones recount. They have their own brave new world (and brave it is too), where such curiosities as money have no relevance or use, except perhaps as small pieces of metal to act as weights for fish bait, perhaps. They have their own religion, and their own language, evolved from English, but different.
A rich, fulfilling and human story, deserving of much greater recognition than it seems to have received so far.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A moving novel tracing the experiences of one survivor in the aftermath of a plague that wipes out most of humanity, then his experiences with a small group of fellow survivors in trying to build up a sustainable community. This was one of the inspirations for the 1970s UK TV series Survivors. Many similar phenomena occur and similar debates take place between the survivors, though in this novel the first debates about not just relying on the remnants of civilisation (eating out of cans being the most obvious example), but re-learning old skills, do not take place until a rather unrealistic 22 years have elapsed since the Great Disaster. The descriptions are haunting and whole story quite emotional, though the first section when Ish is completely alone is my favourite part of the novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 1999
This book is one of the most moving and realistic surival novels that I have ever read, the suceive plauges of Domsicated animals and pests for one, and the point that the most brilliant minds of of western, and Gobal Civilization would break under the strain of the end of civilization seems all to true. Though the very end of the book was depressing(as San Fransico burns, and the Part about the new Human tribes) but even though civilization is pushed under, it is suggested that it will rise again in the far future though as we watch civilization unravil as Isherwood tries to pick up the peices is heart breaking, his attempt at a school is sad and the way that he finally breaks under the strain of being remembered as a god. This is a great classic of Sf Read this book!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Imagine waking from a fever and discovering that you are suddenly alone on this earth. This is what happens to Isherwood Williams, and in "Earth Abides" we follow his journey through the world without human clutter; where almost the entire population has been struck down by a lethal supervirus and the Earth is taking back the concrete jungles.
Reminiscent of the 1970's BBC TV series "The Survivors"? Why yes, there are definite parallels, and if you loved that series, you will love this. This novel is quite rightly collected into the cannon of the "SF Masterworks" series, as it is masterfully told and discusses the many matters of a society without lawgivers, from basic survival needs like food gathering to social issues such as the education of children.
Read it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This might not be the first thing you would think of if you were thinking about books or films dealing with the end of the world. As post apocalypitic literature goes it's not mentioned as much as some other books. It does not have the glamour of much other sci fi but it does have one thing going for it-it's probably the most accurate!

All my research and reading into the future of humanity and existential risks makes me think that this is precisely how a community would rebuild itself in the aftermath of a near extinction. Persevere with this book and it's lack of flashy action and you will be rewarded with something much more useful and thought provoking than the usual Hollywood treatment of this subject.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 July 2013
First published in 1949, the theme is simpler than "War Of The Worlds" or "Day of the Triffids". The story gives light to the nightmare that might result should an "epidemic" of some kind swept the Earth OVERNIGHT. Although pre-electronic era, the story is still valid, and worth a read. Chillingly, it tells of people without religion inventing their own "idols" and superstitions, and it also reminds us of some of the evils that lurk amongst humans, - that we will always have to be ready to deal with, perhaps with the ultimate sanction. A good read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 18 July 2007
I don't want to prattle on so I will do what my title says. Overall a great look into what COULD happen, classicaly told from a distant era. I felt a little cheated in places where the author skipped over many years in small paragraphs, although I understand why he did it (he wanted to show the long term survival of the Human race). The characters are almost believable in their actions however slightly inhuman in their ability to adapt. I find it hard to believe that the tinned food would last so long, along with sanitation and a few other human luxuries.

I enjoyed the story enough to ignore the finer points and finish the book. Not gripping or exciting but steady and interesting.

My only gripe is the character of Ish, who I think may have had more than a little of the author in him. I found it increasingly annoying throughout the book that he seemed to have little emotion and believed that humans where catagorised easily into two groups, those who were intelegent and educated but found themselves struggling with life, and those who were so dumb they couldn't even string together vocabulary properly but could survive because "apparently" anyone with practical skills didn't have the intelect to worry or look to the future. Although as I said before this is from a different era.

In conclusion: If you can overlook the little annoying factors, like political incorrectness, and the fact that it has been written like a long essay I would deffinately give it a go because it can be fascinating and is a classic look at literature.

Oops prattled on anyway, sorry.
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on 14 August 2013
Earth Abides is often unfavourably compared to another (so called) sci-fi classic of the 50s, it's UK equivalent, 'The Death of Grass' but it is much better. Like Death of Grass it expresses a gamete of views which are completely beyond the pail today racism, sexism and classism, disability-ism...pretty much the lot, but unlike it, it's positive theme, that mankind can survive humanely (despite the extremely introverted and self-analytical ruminations of the central character Ish and the tenuous biblical references), is over all well executed. The plot is indeed pretty gripping (although a bit disappointing we are shielded from the immediate cause and occurrence of the apocalyptic event, something which would be seen as a bit of a cop out in modern scifi).

Then after the initial excitement of oh look, there's no one around but the lights still work, and oh, there's another survivor or two, the book drags a little. From around Year 26 for those in the know! And there are pretty big holes in the plot, already alluded to, like why there are very few bodies, why other survivors make it as well as the central character, (who reasonably plausibly survives because of a snake bite), how come there's so much tinned food around (if presumably there would have been a lot of looting as people dying of the 'General Disaster' would have tried to survive surely), let alone how it's edible 50 years later, and why the survivors scavenge for so long after the disaster instead of dealing more creatively with their new world, growing crops, raising animals in earnest.

Nice touches too though, like the way the tribe uses nickels and dimes for arrowheads, (without realising what the old value of the materials were), the way it examines love brought about by tough circumstances, the examination of the need for religion (or superstition), and its sympathetic description of old age and alzheimers and the innate love of young people for their elders, something not really in the scifi theme at all, but which had me gripped. In fact it was the span of the book and the transformation of mankind which is this books main draw. So despite some shortcomings I thought while this hasn't got the attention to detail and characterisation of most modern apocalyptic classics (Banks, Bova, Scarrow), it's pretty worthy of the scifi master mantle.
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on 11 March 2012
I first read this book when I was in my early twenties, and it stuck stubbornly in my mind for the next decade, until I read it again. Now I'm reading it for the third time: not many books have such an enduring appeal.

It works on several different levels: the first is obviously that of Ish, the main character. He's a bit of an outsider - intellectual, solitary, self-reliant: I think these days we'd call him a nerd. Yet he finds himself the leader of a handful of people, survivors of a terrible plague which has wiped out almost all the people on earth. The second level is that of the group, and its dynamics and the tensions within it. And the third is the environment, what it does, how it behaves, when people are suddenly swept away: this is a fascinating train of thought to head down, if you are of a geographical turn of mind.

It's well drawn and vivid, and the time shifts are well-handled (neither obtrusive nor confusing). If I was going to quibble I'd say that the people are perhaps a bit too.... dependent on the leavings of civilisation: we live in a land of supermarkets, yet a lot of people grow veg and keep chickens, and if fresh veg and fresh eggs suddenly vanished from the shelves, even more of us would be digging allotments and worrying about foxes (witness what happened to suburban back gardens, 1939-45).

If you want a good read which will make you think about how people influence each other, and how they influence the environment, this is well worth your time.
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