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Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

Earth Abides (1949)

by George R. Stewart

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,664902,235 (3.96)1 / 252
Recently added byelphie93, kephradyx, Verkruissen, sponseller, private library, bness2, MonicaEH, pressmic, abrockca, fogus
Legacy LibrariesTim Spalding
  1. 70
    The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (infiniteletters)
  2. 40
    The Stand {1978} by Stephen King (sturlington)
    sturlington: Stephen King has said that Earth Abides was an inspiration for The Stand.
  3. 20
    The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard (Bookmarque)
    Bookmarque: another post-apocalyptic book that takes a more introspective approach to the role of humans on the earth.
  4. 20
    No Blade of Grass by John Christopher (timspalding)
    timspalding: Another (and far better) classic post-apocalyptic story.
  5. 10
    Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (jlparent)
    jlparent: Main character witnesses/narrates the fall of civilization and its rebirth over a long time.
  6. 00
    The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya (agmlll)
  7. 01
    The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (Anonymous user)
  8. 23
    World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (timspalding)
  9. 12
    The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (IamAleem)

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English (88)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All (90)
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
A fascinating post-apocalyptic novel that takes place primarily in Northern California. ( )
  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
Classic Post-Apocalyptic Fiction.

I really enjoyed it. It holds up really well.

I liked the parts that talk about what is happening in nature, to the dogs, the cats, the cities. It reminded me of the world with out man video I saw. ( )
  nx74defiant | Apr 7, 2017 |
Another post-apocalyptic novel?! Of course I had to read it. I enjoyed the first section of the novel, but unfortunately that began to fade after I hit the second section. I know the time period must be taken into consideration, but there's so much blatant sexism and racism that I could no longer feel much sympathy for the main character. Not to mention, Ish is kind of a stuck-up prick. Much of the second half of the novel consists of Ish lamenting on the stupidity of his company and the sadness he feels for himself and his son for being intellectuals. The arrogance wouldn't have bothered me as much if he had acted upon it to improve his life, but he rarely did. Clearly I need to stick with more contemporary apocalyptic novels. ( )
  PagesandPints | Sep 1, 2016 |
A worthwhile but ultimately disappointing read, Earth Abides is another of those books where its credibility and reputation comes from its status as one of the first of its genre, rather than of any particular literary merit. This is not to say it is poor: its prose is quite well-written and the themes well-articulated (if flawed). Though it could have done with some more dialogue just to loosen it up a bit, I read through the book as a whole rather quickly and have no complaints on that score.

There were a number of significant drawbacks: the characters were quite inconsequential and served only to advance Stewart's ideas, the prose was quite didactic, it made frequent use of exclamation marks (which always seem to jar with me) and the author has a habit of telling us, not showing us, how characters are feeling and how the world is changing. The book starts strongly, and the initial aftermath of the apocalypse with Isherwood, our protagonist, adjusting to his new environment, is compelling. However, after Ish meets up with more and more people and starts a community, the book begins to wobble significantly, even if it manages to avoid breaking up completely.

Earth Abides, after its strong start, is essentially an anthropological treatise in novel form. Ish sees himself as an observer of the new community which has formed (and a reluctant, de facto leader). There are two passages from the book which demonstrate the direction which Ish could have gone as a character – the first would have been compelling and the second underwhelming. The first:

… he thought for a moment of his life, and considered what he had piled up of sins and of virtues. For he realized that a man should make peace with himself, even though all conditions changed, and that a man should face the question of whether in his life he had satisfied the ideas which he had built up within himself as to what he should be…" (pp304-5 – my emphasis in bold)

And the second: "To Ish the whole affair, in spite of a certain horror that he still held of it, came to be a most interesting study in ecology, almost a laboratory problem." (pg. 108)

Unfortunately, Stewart for the most part chooses the second course. We are shown flashes of the first course, which would have made Earth Abides into a sort of post-apocalyptic The Grapes of Wrath (there is even a reference to the 'Okies' on page 122). This could have developed Ish's struggles to form a community, dealing with morality, law and order, love and happiness, and mankind's capacity for adapting to a more challenging environment. A compelling idea, you'll surely agree. As it is, such things as law and punishment, teaching and farming, are covered but only in small scenes; they do not constitute the main force of the novel. And whilst Stewart does avoid most of the clichés of characters and communities in post-apocalyptic fiction (which, at the time the book was written in 1949, wasn't even a thing), he doesn't replace them with anything more believable. Decades after the 'Great Disaster', as it is called, the community is still largely scavenging from the old world (tinned food, metals, piped water, etc.) long after such things could conceivably have been useable. For all the emphasis on community, Ish's group never develops a coherent social structure, nor any teaching for the children, nor even any agriculture. This leads me onto discussion of the second passage.

Ish, and the other characters who survive the disaster, are incredibly apathetic. They have no interest in doing anything more than the bare minimum to get by. Even decades later, there is no long-term planning for the community: as mentioned above, they rely on the old water pipes (which somehow are still working), eat only tinned food (decades-old canned salmon – really? You're going to put that in your mouth?) and don't teach their kids to read, write, or even teach them any basic information about how the world works. If there is no social structure, it is only because no decisions are ever in danger of being made.

Ish is perhaps the worst, and reminded me greatly of the titular character from John Williams' novel Stoner (which, seemingly myself alone, I disliked). Because he's intelligent enough to recognise where things are going wrong. He knows the sort of things that need to be taught. But he makes only half-hearted attempts to shape things in that direction, preferring to observe as if his community was an anthropological case study. Consequently, all of the children grow up illiterate and completely ignorant of any knowledge of the world (they think the sun goes round the earth (pg. 290) and worship a simple hammer as an artefact of divine power (pg. 205)). Ish tries to educate them at first but, considering a lack of support from the other initial survivors and his own disinterest, he soon just says 'School dismissed' and never arranges another class. We are told that in the old life Ish would have been a professor – a professor emeritus, no less – but not with this level of enthusiasm for teaching, he wouldn't.

It was this direction which the novel took which really baffled me, for the author himself was a professor. Surely he would be championing the value of learning and of civilisation to mankind's wellbeing? But no, Ish speculates that "perhaps the brilliant ones were not suited to survive" (pg. 282), admits he has long begun to have doubts in books "and all they stood for" (pg. 304), and that he no longer considered it a 'disaster' that civilisation had been lost (pg. 302). Stewart portrays a civilisation being wiped clean and replaced with a bunch of illiterate, superstitious primitives ("From the cave we came, and to the cave we return." (pg. 297)), and yet portrays this as a good thing. On page 311, Ish thinks on "all that had gone to build civilization – of slavery and conquest and war and oppression." All those hard-won lessons – developments such as freedom of religion, medical treatment, law and order, rationalism – all gone. All would have to be re-learned in the millennia ahead – a mass of unnecessary bloodshed and strife and toil – rather than just maintaining the traditions of the previous world. All just because the feckless Ish didn't want to sit a bunch of little brats down to learn how to read, or to correct a grown man who believes the sun goes round the earth.

Perhaps Stewart was responding to the aggressive consumerism which was just beginning to pick up steam in the post-war era (on page 49, Ish says he "had not realized how much of the noise in the world was man-caused") but unlike, for example, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 just a few years later, he misses the mark completely. Perhaps it's just a bunch of academic speculations – an experiment on the author's part – but I got the impression on closing the book that, whilst not a proto-hippyish attempt at making man one with nature, Stewart's themes ran dangerously close to Luddism and anti-intellectualism.

So, all told, it was a rather peculiar read. I enjoy 'Last Man on Earth' type books, and Earth Abides, particularly at the beginning, is a strong addition to the post-apocalyptic fiction genre. It evokes the desolation and loneliness of this new world quite well, even if this part of the book is short-lived. But I'm reluctant to condone what I consider to be a rather suspect theme, and readers should be aware that Earth Abides has many flaws and they may, as I did, find it all rather disagreeable." ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
Starts out with a fairly ordinary guy and follows him through the end of the world via a disease that's wiped out most humans. The changes are incremental over the years, but by the end the society around him is unrecognizable . He broods quite a bit about what he didn't do and should have done, but day to day life overtakes him, as it does everyone. I've read quite a few of these books, and the beginning seemed familiar, but the story builds on itself and I found the end profoundly unsettling and very moving. First rate storytelling. ( )
  unclebob53703 | May 25, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stewart, George R.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abbett, BobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bacon, C.W.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brunner, JohnForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edwards, LesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fournier-Pargoire, JeanneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fowke, BobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gleeson, TonyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lemos, GregorioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paolozzi, EduardoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sander, ErnstTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willis, ConnieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Men go and come, but earth abides ECCLESIASTES, I, 4
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. . . and the Government of the United States of America is herewith suspended, except in the District of Columbia, as of the emergency.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345487133, Paperback)

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.

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(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:32 -0400)

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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.… (more)

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