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.
NOTE: This 60th anniversary edition of Earth Abides includes a special introduction written and read by Hugo Award-winning writer Connie Willis.
©1949, renewed 1976 by George R. Stewart; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
There was good and bad in this book.
I've read so many post-apocalyptic survival books that I nearly gave up on this one about a third of the way in. Ish was going different places, he got out of the car, he got back in the car, he found a dog, he opened some cans of food, he met some people, I almost fell asleep in my car and drove off the road. (Not really.) Then came the misogyny... I don't think you can have a midcentury science fiction book without women asking stupid questions or being patronized by the male protagonist, the male author, or both. Em (M?) was a mother and that was her WHOLE job (said by the author!), she didn't think ahead, she was emotional rather than logical, oh my god. I wanted to return it to Audible and buy something worth my time, but I'd gotten through a fair bit by that point, and I figured I'd just keep on going.
And I'm glad I did. While the first half of the book wasn't at all memorable, the second half was fantastic. Ish and Em settle down in uninhabited Berkeley or Oakland, and the story follows them and the tribe they create for the next forty or fifty years. This stuff is novel. (So was the post-apocalyptic stuff when it was written, but that's been done to death in subsequent years.) Stewart is a pretty genius writer, and he seems to have thought of everything, from the ecological consequences of humans' near-extinction, to the failure of utilities and machines, to strangers, to -- and this part was really what made this a good book -- how human culture changes to suit its environment, and how things get forgotten. If we suddenly reverted to a hunter-gatherer society, would we lose the ability to read? Would guns, unreliable due to mechanical failure or aging ammunition, become a toy while reliable bows and arrows became grown-up tools? I don't know anything about George Stewart, but I suspect that he had more than a passing interest in sociology, and that's where Earth Abides really shines.
Brilliantly conceived and developed, this is not the frivolous, forgettable science fiction we are so used to. Even at 65 years old, it is still relevant, fresh, thought provoking, and fun. We should all hope to be so at 65.
I listen mostly when driving. It is better than the radio any day of the week! I mostly enjoy Dystopian Fiction and Ancient Rome.
I loved two very important aspects the best. One: I loved how Mr. Stewart incorporated the environment into the story. The weather and events were almost characters in themselves! Even going as far to speculate on how mother nature would have to regain balance after humans vacated the top of the food chain. Two: This is quite possibly the best and saddest book I've ever read, and you will want to read it again. He is not afraid to make you feel the hardship that may come with the end of the world as we know it, but at the same time you feel so elated that the group is able to carry on and each success is that much sweeter. I love this book. Though written in 1949, it carries over almost seamlessly to today.
Definitely Ish. Not only can I relate to his reasoning, but I really enjoyed how from the very beginning he may have not been the most imposing, he has a quiet charm and intelligence that not only makes him the de facto leader of the group, but I wanted to follow him myself. What a great character.
The narrators did a great job of voicing the many different personalities. Sometimes I have trouble associating names with characters and voices, but it came naturally with this book.
I tried. I was driving to Arizona from New Jersey and I finished it about halfway through the trip and boy did time fly! The ending was PERFECT. The last conversation between Ish and one of his descendants was beautiful and really ended the book well. I continued for another few hours down the road just imagining what I may have done, or how I would carry on if I were fortunate enough to survive. Now THAT, is a good book.
It may be slow at times, but stick with it. That lull is there for a reason, trust the author, you are supposed to feel that way.
A Sci Fi junkie who occasionally goes slumming to read other literature.
I'm not sure why this book is considered science fiction by some. It's an early apocalyptic survival story. I enjoyed it but it didn't knock me over.
Even though Earth Abides was written in 1947, it holds it meaning very well and does not come across as stale at all, but only a little anachronistic. Keep in mind, though, that the book is not an action-packed apocalypse novel, but a slow-paced psychological study. Stewart spends an order of magnitude more words writing about the main character's thoughts on events than on events themselves.
I'm not going to talk about my favorite character, but my least favorite character: the main character of the book: Isherwood Williams, aka Ish.
Ish is a stereotypical ineffectual intellectual, constantly talking about problems, but neither using his position as a leader to effect change nor even to live his own life as an example of how others should live. I suppose the part of the book that drives this home more than any other for me is when Ish is cogitating on the fact that his tribe doesn't creatively provide for itself, but rather scavenges from the remains of civilization -- he decries the fact that they don't grow their own food or make fire other than using matches, but then he shaves, and maintains the habit of using each razor only once, then disposing of it, because razors are so plentiful. Sometime around halfway through the book, definitely by the shaving scene, I had come to find galling Ish's laziness, rationalizations and hypocrisy.
It is not a book anyone should try to listen to in a single go. The author's details into the psychology Ish and Ish's musings on the sociological trends in his tribe sometimes required me to take breaks and digest what had just happened.
This was not a bad book. I enjoyed it. However, it is definitely not action-packed. The book follows the life of a man called Ish, who finds himself one of the few who survives a plague that kills nearly all of mankind. He later is the leader of a small group, mostly made up of his children (born post-apocalypse) and grandchildren, plus a friend and his wives, children and grandchildren. The story mainly follows Ish's cerebral musings regarding life, the old civilization, and how the post-apocalyptic children will grow and adapt, not having the knowledge of anything concerning modern life in the past, other than the remnants that man had left. This is an old book, and quite different than the books I have read recently, and different than most other books about an apocalypse. It is more of a saga, chronicling the life of Ish, his mullings, and his hopes and fears about the future. Not everyone will like it, so be aware of what type of book this is before you listen.
The narrator was okay. Nothing special, but not irritating in any way. Probably a good choice for this book.
I realize this will slightly lower the overall score for this book (very slightly, given it has over 1000 ratings), but I wanted to call attention to something important for Audible.com listeners: the horrible introduction by Connie Willis.
The first 9:15 of this edition are taken up by the introduction. Despite being 42 years old at the time she read the intro, Ms. Willis has a powerfully nasal voice with a valley girl accent I associate with teenagers, so painful to listen to that I wanted to stick icepicks in my ears - and for the record, I was born in the same year as Ms. Willis, and in Southern California, so she has no excuse. Fortunately for me, I was in the shower while listening over computer speakers, so I wasn't able to harm myself. But I worst part was that, right after talking about how great it is for people who have never read the book before to encounter it for the first time, Ms. Willis proceeds to give PLOT SPOILERS IN HER INTRODUCTION. Did nobody at the publisher think that this was, perhaps, not a good idea? I actually had t jump out of the shower, dripping wet, and rush to my computer (proceeding to cause water damage to several hard-copy books) to turn off the audio while she continued to prattle on about details I really would have preferred to learn from the author.
I therefore choose to slightly lower the overall rating of this product for the greater good of this information not being buried in a sea of 5's..
Skip to 9:15 to avoid the intro (Ms. Willis not the narrator for the novel itself).
#1 Aud Bks: T Help,T Darling, All D Sedaris,Prayer for Owen M.All G Flynn ,Secrt Lang of Bees, Bel Canto, 11/22/63 H2O fr Elephants Dog Star
I gave up 4+ hours in. Please read the reviews under the "Most Recent" category to get a broad spectrum analysis of this book. The default "Most Helpful" (who decides that?) is full of very positive reviews, undeserved in my opinion.
This book is full of a lot of dull people. Hard to sympathize with anyone, even the protagonist. He is quite passive, an observer, a Geographer, as was my major in college. he has no huevos.
All science fiction/ fantasy/ futuristic stories require some level of suspension of belief, but there are way too many just plain stupid and ignorant details that enable these people to survive an Apocalypse. Liking the characters would have helped.
I recommend "Dog Star" for a great "End of the World" Audible listen.
Great story great narration.
I have often day dreamed about what would happen if most all the people on earth died and I was one of the only survivors. This story covers the easy times the hard times the lonely times.
One of my favorite parts of the book was when the main character lets go of his paranoia and starts living the rest of his life rather then worrying about everything he is doing to survive.
Where did everybody go? And now you are alone. Could you survive?
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