I'm a voracious audiobook listener, rarely found without my iPod.
The reviews of this one were so varied that I had no idea what to expect with this apocalyptic story written in 1950. Our main character is bitten by a poisonous snake and spends several days recovering in a remote cabin. When he's finally back on his feet, he returns to a world that has been decimated by disease. Most everyone is dead and the few that remain are scattered. This story is about the recovery after this worldwide event and is similar in many ways to Alas, Babylon in that it's about an older world, with very different technology and behaviors because of the timing. While Alas, Babylon takes place over the course of a year, Earth Abides spans 20 years and will be fascinating to people who take a very analytical view of the impacts and developments of societies over long periods of time. It's a neat social statement, but moves very slowly. The main character is very attentive of little social nuances and spends a great deal of time analyzing in great detail. It gets to be very dry. If you are looking for an action story...this isn't it. If you enjoy a stream of consciousness exploration of the factors impacting social groups, you will really enjoy this one. Either way, I did find that the endless examination of the main characters' own reactions, choices, relationships and interpretations were interesting and very insightful. But, it's dry stuff in many places. I listened to the audio, so I was doing other things while I listened. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to get through it.
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” ― Dr. Seuss
This book turned out to be both amazingly rewarding and incredibly exasperating, which is why I can’t make it a 5-star favorite even though I’m terribly tempted. Unfortunately, there was a huge chunk I really didn’t enjoy enough to justify doing that. Bear with me though because I just might change my mind. But before I get to the reasons why, anyone curious about reading Earth Abides should know that a good 2/3 to 3/4 was pretty much ALL observational narrative. Supposedly, although how could anyone really know, this is more of a realistic vision of a post-apocalyptic world, at least much more than the Hunger Games variety oh so prevalent these days. As such we get drawn out accounts of the life cycles of ants or rats and other fauna, post-mankind of course, as well as the minutiae of mundane daily activities. Still, there were several inconsistencies for me, such as where were all the dead bodies? For a quick acting virus to seemingly wipe out the entire human race (in less than two weeks!), there were no bodies in the streets (save one in the very beginning) or in any of the homes which merely appeared to be abandoned.
In addition every single character frustrated the hell out of me, including our protagonist, Ish. It seemed all he could do was bemoan the stupidity of those who survived even as he himself continued to be ineffectual – and all the while cultivating a god complex. One could see how that could occur, however, since everyone was so completely complacent, content to live off the remnants of civilization after “The Great Disaster“. Ish alone could see the dangers and futility of this, yet he was all too paralyzed by his cerebral nature and lack of leadership skills to do anything but worry. He was esteemed by his community of survivors as a visionary, if not mildly indulged, but certainly not taken seriously. Perhaps complacency is a more accurate portrayal of the response to a true apocalypse than we’ve been led to believe. I don’t know though, either it just didn’t ring true or I’ve been brainwashed into the vanity of human specialness and ingenuity. I’ll just say they really could have used an action oriented “Type A” person around, but nope, not a one in sight. I’m guessing the plague must have taken them out first.
What's more it was sometimes difficult to get past the outdated views of race and gender presented in this book, which was written in 1949; although I think an attempt was made to portray Ish as somewhat progressive due to his status as a scholar and intellectual. Every time some comment or characterization served to remind me of the publication date, however, I had to tell myself he, through the lens of the author of course, was thinking and acting realistically as a white male product of the era. It was certainly a reminder that we have come a long way despite lingering attitudes and unresolved issues.
Yet, regardless of these criticisms, some moments were beautifully written and captivating, arousing my curiosity enough as to want to see where it would all lead. And lead somewhere it most certainly did, enough to ultimately view all of my complaints as nitpicking, moreover, as imperative to the story’s denouement and essential message. It’s just too bad it was so protracted, or more likely that I am too much a product of our short attention span times to appreciate such a nuanced build up for what it was. The unending minutiae, the frustrations with the characters, even the race and sex issues to some extent, were crafted with such subtle intent as to come together in a powerfully emotional, meaningful climax. The long-awaited denouement was not only deeply satisfying, but probably the most effective, beautiful, and emotionally wrenching of any book I have ever read. I came to realize how invested in Ish I had become.
I can’t say much more without taking away the possibility of this same affective experience from anyone piqued enough to give this book a go. All I can say is everything that happens matters. It is a story about life, its ebbs and flows, how it endures and how it comes full-circle. Ultimately it is about the nature of man (yes, mostly man rather than woman, sorry to say, but again - 1949) and faith in humanity. But in its essence it is about faith in the earth, in both its constancy and change, and in its transcendence. Despite constant frustration throughout most of the story, I haven’t been able to let this one go. It is one of those books. The beauty and power of its conclusion will stay with me for a long, long time. If you listen to it, ignore all my nitpickings and stick with it. You won’t regret it.
Probably. An interesting read if you keep the historical context in mind, This is a pre-television story. It's probably 8 or 10 years pre-Atlas Shrugged
I have not.
Not an extreme reaction, but I thought Ish was much too easily pushed around by the other adults and did not stand up for the intellectual growth of the group. He started with mid-20th century people of a western civilization and and led them back maybe a thousand years.
That didn't have to happen.
I did find the last portions of the book annoying where the tribe was abusing Ish. I really didn't get that.
The story was writen in the late 40s. The way it plays out it represented that time in our history and the way we Americans thought back then.
The way it could have been.
I first read this book in the early 50s. One of my first book reports as a kid. To reread this today, with all that has changed, really took me back. It really was simpler back then.
Although not a complete stranger to the genre, this was a title new to me. Originally published in 1949, it will be soon obvious this is THE classic of its kind, one which laid the foundation for virtually every apocalyptic adventure tale that would follow, for another half-century and beyond.
I especially enjoyed the first half, joining our "lone" survivor as he explored a road map of barren, vacant cities and deserted highways, and while a few aspects are agreeably dated, even unabashedly racist (not completely out of step given the man's rather inflated self-perceptions), the mass of this epic is an engrossing, often "scientific" depiction of an end of the world that still rings true even sixty-plus years later.
James H. Bath
Thought-provoking, entertaining, profoundly sensitive, and yet easily readable, this story grabs you at the very beginning and does not let go of you until the very last word. It should be ranked among the top three or five of all the world's timeless classics. I cannot believe it took me 62 years of life to stumble upon this wonderful literary master-work but better late than never. And the narration is very good, too. I can't imagine anyone being disappointed with this book.
Yes. It was very good look at life after a disaster years later and how "non-American's" dealt with it. Being a long book, you have to be patient.
It was very long and detailed.
Learn as much as you can now because you will be teaching the future society.
For being an old book, it only showed its age once when the main character was waiting for the tube-radio to heat up. I also find it annoying that in most sci-fi future books, people still use gasoline over 100 years later. Even using a fuel stabilizer only gets you a year's worth of use. Other than that, it was a good story.
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.