I first read this book when I was a teenager in the 1960s. I've always remembered it and wanted to see if it was as good the second time around. It's better. Maybe because the reader was so good, or maybe because I'm older and have a family now, but it is a wonderful book. The protagonist, Ish, is one of the very few people to survive an epidemic and the book is about his journey to find others, the small settlement of people that he winds up with and the re-formation of society. Stewart, the author, has interesting ideas about how people would react to such a disaster. It's not exactly dystopic, but has a certain bleakness about it. Well worth the time spent to listen...
It was a great listen and will listen again one day. I felt like I could feel what it was like during Ish's life. However I got very frustrated at Ish's lack of foresight and planning. He just pretty much let everyone do whatever they wanted . Other than that an excellent book!!!
It was not as compelling as others in this genre (Alas, Babylon, The Stand). The only character the author developed was Ish. I found him weak and not very likable. I don't understand why he didn't make better use of the university library and insist on education for the survivors. I found it depressing that in 2 generations mankind would revert to basically cave men.
An excellent story - you will always remember the story.
The story is well told.
They were all good.
The pandemic comes to an end before you know the world’s population has been decimated. From there you follow the caricatures thought their lives. The book moves very quickly once it gets started and is very easy to listen to.
Retired teacher. Hometown: Eden, NY.
“… and the government of the United States of America is herewith suspended, except in the District of Columbia, as of the emergency. Federal officers, including those of the Armed Forces, will put themselves under the orders of the governors of the various states or of any other functioning local authority. By order of the Acting President. God save the people of the United States …”
With this radio announcement from the Bay Area Emergency Council that the West Oakland Hospitalization Center has been abandoned, and that its functions, including burials at sea, are now concentrated at the Berkeley Center, the modern reader is immediately propelled into a dark reality with which he is no stranger. George R. Stewart wrote his award-winning novel EARTH ABIDES in 1949 at the beginning of the Cold War when most people thought of our apocalypse as nuclear in nature. Today, however, the 2012 reader seems to have accepted not only this catastrophic possibility, but also others that have since infected the planet, including AIDS, Ebola, various flu pandemics, economic collapse, and global warming.
In EARTH ABIDES, civilization is brought down by a virus of nightmarish lethality. The people are dead; most of the bodies are buried or collected in the last places where emergency services were available. It is all very orderly. In this version of doomsday, we died well and left the place tidy. The lights are still on. There are no roving bands of criminals or cannibals, no zombies or mutants or cyborgs or nose-twitching apes intent upon ruling the world. There’s only one man alone. And that is as fine a way as any to begin a post-apocalyptic story.
So, there he is – Isherwood Williams, called “Ish” - a graduate student at Berkeley, studying the ecology of an area in the mountains, somewhere in California. The people are gone but the supplies and infrastructure of civilization are still intact. The first part of the book follows Isherwood as he explores the realities and limits of his vast new cage. No armageddon story is complete with a road journey, and Ish drives to New York City. He meets a few people along the way, but they are not the sort he would like to spend his life with, so he moves on. Without an external threat, and with enough groceries to last many lifetimes (mostly canned goods from local stores), people have no immediate reason to band together.
But of course they do band together. We are social creatures, and this unpredictable strength shapes the brilliant core of the book. Ish returns to California. He marries, fathers children, and eventually becomes leader of a small band of people. But his primary concern is how to begin the process of rebuilding modern civilization. This is the central obsession of his life, and he’s consumed over the decades to find ways to plant the seeds that will bring it all back.
More than twenty years pass, and eventually Ish the intellectual comes to the conclusion that teaching the old ways of “the Americans” to the children of the Tribe is a futile endeavor. They see little value in learning about academic topics that might help to restore a civilization to which only Ish gives value. Confronting the reality that he is not a nation builder, and after a typhus epidemic in the community, he decides instead to teach his people simply to survive. He worries about what will become of them when ammunition and matches are gone, and he inspires the children to makes bows and arrows, as well as to ignite fire through friction. The “Quick Years” pass, and soon Ish is the last American in the Tribe.
The book is rich in themes and symbolism. The biblical comparisons are inevitable but thought provoking. In addition, it would be impossible to be unaware of a persistent emphasis on such ecological considerations as biological controls on population, the idea that the number of human species subjects the world to artificial selection, and that such groups allow human diversity and the shaping of cultural customs.
Throughout the novel, Stewart takes the opportunity to tell how the remnants of the old civilization manage to decay in a predictable manner from how we know of things today. In this way, we are told – in italicized asides – how each of the basics of our present day foundations will ultimately erode and force adaptation by the Tribe to new needs. Unfortunately, this special italic formatting is not apparent in the excellent narration. ( I was, however, able to enjoy the effect through the purchase of an inexpensive print copy.)
Like many elderly Americans still alive in 2012, I am surviving in a culture that becomes increasingly alien to me as each day passes. The global economy continues to worsen, the impending national election campaign demolishes the cherished values with which I grew up, and I begin to wonder if I will really awaken on December 22. If for no other reasons than these, EARTH ABIDES has become my personal story. I can well relate to those fellow readers who insist that this is a story one will desire to savor in a future which can promise only change, for better or worse.
The story of Isherwood Williams’ large failures and small successes is as engaging as any quest in fiction. And the inevitable death, not only of America and all of modern civilization, but even firsthand reports of it, brings a long-burning and somehow satisfying sorrow that most similar books cannot match.
“Men go and come, but earth abides” (Ecclesiastes 1:4).
The age of the book is not the issue. As with most books written about post societal collapse, the age of the book is easy to get around. Since technology would revert initially. However, the survivors in this book must be some of the most ignorant people in any of the books i have read. It is a shame, because it has great potential. The main character is presented as an educated person, and as a camper, an amateur outdoors-man. But as the story progresses, it is as though he never evolves into a survivor, he never matures into an adult, really. I, personally, can not imagine the characters grouped together just existing, and so poorly for so long. I had to stop listening 1/2 way through book two and move onto something else before returning.
There are a few annoying technical details that really annoyed me. Maybe most people wouldn't think about them, but I doubt it. It is as though Mr. Stewart did no research on the technical aspects of time v.s. mechanics. This is separate from the annoyance of slow witted people "surviving". I suppose it could be a accurate representation of "career students", with no life experience, making a existence in a empty world, but over the YEARS the book takes place over, I can not believe that people would not start to evolve much better and faster than in the book. Also, the ease of which they find sustenance is a little beyond what I would think remotely reasonable. It almost seems like life in the book is easier than life before the epidemic.
I can't say don't read it, because a lot of others enjoyed it according to reviews, but personally, it would be last on my list of books to read.
Maybe in 1948 it was "in" to just sit around and watch the world move around you and do nothing about it; maybe that's why the world went to pot in the 20'-40's....
The main charector could have used his hands for more than just cleaning a spot off to sit and watch...
I would rather wait in a Walmart return line and find I forgot my receipt than hear this one again.
What a completely unbelievable story. The one criteria I have for science-fiction is that the story must be plausible. It is a given that this is a work of fiction and there will be things included that we will simply have to accept, but the whole story is simply unbelievable as a plausible apocalyptic narrative. The main character would not have survived and would hardly have been considered a leader if he had survived simply as a passive "observer" of life around him.
Earth may Abide, but I couldn't abide this story and quit about 60% of the way through. Too stupid for words.
I am a D-Bag.
They say "you will never forget" when describing the earth abides but they say that because the long winded lady who reads the intro tells you that. Its okay to listen to a book and think for yourself. This is a great book. One could see certain sections that are on par with The Grapes of Wrath chapters not relating to the Joads. Skip the intro and listen to the book with an open mind. Who was that lady anyway, alright I get it she liked it but what would a intro at the beginning of a book say, I hated the book you are about to here.