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Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
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Earth Abides (1949)

by George R. Stewart

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,297842,769 (3.98)1 / 225
  1. 60
    The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (infiniteletters)
  2. 30
    The Stand by Stephen King (sturlington)
    sturlington: Stephen King has said that Earth Abides was an inspiration for The Stand.
  3. 20
    No Blade of Grass by John Christopher (timspalding)
    timspalding: Another (and far better) classic post-apocalyptic story.
  4. 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.
  5. 00
    The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya (agmlll)
  6. 01
    The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (Anonymous user)
  7. 23
    World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (timspalding)
  8. 12
    The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (IamAleem)
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English (82)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (84)
Showing 1-5 of 82 (next | show all)
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: 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.

My Review: Call him Isherwood. (Cause that's his name.) On a camping trip in the mountains, Ish gets bitten by a rattlesnake and barely survives. Clearly he can't call for help on his cell because 1) the mountains and 2) 1949. After all his sufferings, Ish drives down the mountain and finds humanity...in Los Angeles...gone. Just not there. (Oddly, there are also not heaping mounds of dead bodies everywhere...he's only been gone a week or so, and the Plague killed quick. That nit being picked, I resume.) Ish spends his time alternately looking for survivors and ruminating on the justice and inevitability of the plague:
As for man, there is little reason to think that he can in the long run escape the fate of other creatures, and if there is a biological law of flux and reflux, his situation is now a highly perilous one. During ten thousand years his numbers have been on the upgrade in spite of wars, pestilences, and famines. This increase in population has become more and more rapid. Biologically, man has for too long a time been rolling an uninterrupted run of sevens.
When he stops being stunned, he sets out to contact and assess his fellow survivors. He spends a lot of the book out a-wanderin', and he picks up here and there some fellow remnants. No one is a medical research genius or a high government official or anything, thank goodness, so no one knows where this plague came from, how many are dead in other places, or any of that other stuff that pockmarks other post-apocalyptic stories I've read. I completely buy that the survivors are shocked and isolated, where I've always been hmmphy about the better-informed-character stories.

Any road, time passes, life goes on, babies are born and people die and food is grown in tune with nature. We revert, in other words, to the way things were for ~10,000 years before monoculture and factory farming. Ish ages, and the younger people without strong attachments to the pre-apocalyptic world start to think about what the meaning of life is:
If there is a God who made us and we did wrong before His eyes—as George says—at least we did wrong only because we were as God made us, and I do not think that He should set traps. Oh, you should know better than George! Let us not bring all that back into the world again—the angry God, the mean God—the one who does not tell us the rules of the game, and then strikes us when we break them. Let us not bring Him back.
If there is an apocalypse while I'm alive, I'm makin' this my post-apocalyptic mission: Disestablishing religion. Ish is my soul-brother in this regard. But as you can imagine, he's fighting a rear-guard action despite being the oldest person anyone knows, and also the last survivor of Before in the Now. Having lived through the AIDS apocalypse, some days I feel the same way.

And as it must, Death comes for Ish at last, putting an end to his moanings about the stupidity of the human race for making the same mistakes that cost us so dearly before, his pessimistic views on the sustainability of his made tribe, and his invaluable store of knowledge...despite the fact that the whippersnappers don't listen:
Then, though his sight was now very dim, he looked again at the young men. "They will commit me to the earth," he thought. "Yet I also commit them to the earth. There is nothing else by which men live. Men go and come, but earth abides."
I suspect all of us over a Certain Age feel this way to a greater or lesser degree. Plague or no plague, Youth isn't inclined to listen to Age, and apocalypse is relative. My apocalypse...the endangerment of tree books...is youth's Bright New Dawn, bulkless environmentally sound infinite stories! Yes, I'm going, I'm going, stop pushing me!


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. ( )
  richardderus | Aug 17, 2014 |
The Good: This was an unbelievably realistic portrayal of an post-apocalyptic world. Major and minor details considered and covered in an entertaining and satisfying fashion. The scope of this novel was extremely impressive. Moreso, that this novel was written 65 years ago and is so perfectly relatable to what we could imagine a post-diseased world in our own future.

The Bad: The book drags a little and is heavy on the detail. Some portions are hard to make yourself muddle through. ( )
  TequilaReader | Jul 15, 2014 |
SPOILER ALERT: Huge spoilers ahead.

George Stewart's Earth Abides is a post-apocalyptic novel, set largely in San Francisco, between the years of approximately 1950 up to roughly 2010. Isherwood Williams is engaged in some fieldwork for his graduate studies in geography at the University of San Francisco. While out one day he finds an abandonned four-pound crack hammer, and shortly thereafter is bitten by a rattlesnake. He reaches the small cabin where he was staying, under primitive conditions, and manages to extract some of the snake venom with his snakebite kit, and spends several days' delirium poised between life and death. When he is sufficiently recovered, he emerges from the cabin to find that a plague has swept through the human population, leaving very few still alive. He returns to his parents' house, and then elects to set out and explore, to see what has become of the rest of the country. His explorations take him all the way back to New York City, but he returns alone despite having encountered a few survivors. Slowly, however, he falls in with others, including Emma, Ezra, George, and others, who become the foundation of "the Tribe", a group of survivors.

That, at least, is the setup to the book, accomplished in the first section. What is annoying is Stewart's decision - made repeatedly - to gloss over the sections which might have advanced the story dramatically, and instead favoring philosophical instances and discursions in Ish's mind. The details of the mechanics of the collapse of society appear to interest Stewart far less than philosophy. The sole dramatic tension in the book is created by the appearance of Charlie, a survivor from Los Angeles who threatens the balance of the group. But instead of using this tension for dramatic purposes, Charlie is summarily executed and buried in the space of a few words. The action, as it were, takes place entirely off-camera, with the result that the only thing impelling the reader to continue is sheer bloody-mindedness.

Ish is also a curiously incompetent "leader". Although he has youth working against him, he is seemingly unable to devise simple solutions to problems in the burgeoning community. Crows come and eat your crops? You have limitless supplies and some skilled manpower - why not build greenhouses? Children begin to run wild? Institute school from an early age, so they know nothing else, and devote one member of the community to curriculum. Maintenance and chores are an issue? Develop a rota, prioritize tasks. Leadership is a question or an issue? Form a simple government. For a philosophically-minded man, Stewart and his hero are woefully impractical, and as a result, the community will slide back into the bronze age in a matter of three generations.

And the rest of the book rather peters out from there. Ish gets older. All of the other original survivors die, and Ish is left with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, crossing into the 21st century without much heed being paid. The Golden Gate Bridge continues to stand as something of a symbol, but of constancy or decay Stewart can't seem to decide. Maybe Mount Tamelpais, mentioned by name only once, would be a better reference for constancy. Some notions of the story were interesting: the discussion with his great-grandson, for instance, about the faces which appeared on coins, appeared to indicate that the story was written about a decade before it was published (references to the "Buffalo" nickels, which ceased production in 1938 when they were replaced by Jefferson, and the "Mercury" dimes, which were discontinued in 1946 when they were replaced by the Roosevelt dime); also the noting of the fact that dimes, quarters, and halves were made of coin silver, rather than the mix that replaced them in 1964, was something which a casual numismatist might enjoy puzzling out.

I struggled to like this book, and finally decided that it was not all that it was cracked up to be. Stewart seems to have wanted to be both philosopher and storyteller, and as a result he accomplished neither with any particular degree of aplomb. I don't object to the philosophical angle of the novel, but rather the fact that Stewart allowed it and his ideas about what was important for survival to dominate the drama. Much better novels about the "end of the world" have been written, and some, like John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids, tell similar stories without succumbing to these flaws, and even manage to make similar ecological and philosophical points. Unfortunately, although I enjoyed some elements and the San Francisco setting, there were too many weaknesses in this book for me to give it more than a middle-of-the-road rating. Two-and-a-half stars.

eBOOK NOTE: if you read the Kindle edition of this novel, be prepared for numerous errors resulting from sloppy editing of an OCR-scanned text. The first half of the book appears to have been proofed more thoroughly than the second, and if you're a careful reader, it will be hugely irritating. Say what you will, paper is often still better. ( )
  Bill_Bibliomane | Feb 2, 2014 |
Yanki, profundamente yanki (todo pasa en EEUU), la novelita plantea algo similar a lo que había leído hacía poco en "El día de los trífidos": sociedad postapocalíptica, casi todos muertos (en este caso por un virus) que debe volver a organizarse. A partir de allí, el protagonista Ish intenta volver al esplendor de la civilización antigua. La referencia obvia, con la que el libro juega, es -al menos al comienzo- Robinson Crusoe. Mientras en Robinson se entiende que un hombre contiene en sí mismo a toda la civilización, en la obra de Stewart esto no parece ser tan así. El libro juega, entonces, durante toda una larga segunda parte con una situación de laboratorio: 3 parejas y una retrasada mental que deben repoblar la tierra. Se ponen a ello, en pocos años superan la treintena y surgen algunos problemas. Viven de la rapiña de la civilización pasada, comen latas de conserva, etc. Surgen algunos problemas cuando se viaja, aparece un nuevo integrante y se abre un sistema judicial, en fin, el protagonista envejece, la tierra se repuebla con la naturaleza, vuelven a aparecer cuestiones primitivas, cosas así. Parece ser que la novela cuenta con muchos fans (Javi, que me la prestó y la considera poesía pura, el primero), sin embargo a mí no terminó de convencerme por cuestiones estrictamente literarias. Parece una novela más preocupada en el devenir que en lo que está contando (en eso se parece un poco a su personaje), la sucesión de acciones rara vez se detiene en el detalle que enriquecería, creo yo, enormemente la narración de este mundo que se asume más que otra cosa. A su vez, se busca un tono melancólico, se entrecruzan parlamentos que no se entienden si son de Stewart, de Ish o de algún otro personaje (en el episodio de las clases es evidente que está desde la perspectiva de un alumno, en otro algún vocativo señala que es alguien cercano a otro personaje, en fin, fluctúa o no lo entendí bien). En definitiva, se deja leer, por momentos se me hizo larga y me pareció de inferior ejecución a Los trífidos (que ya no consideraba una gran obra) y a otras novelas postapocalípticas (Soy leyenda, claro). ( )
  gabrielgraves | Dec 29, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stewart, George R.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davis, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edwards, LesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gleeson, TonyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willis, ConnieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Men go and come, but earth abides ECCLESIASTES, I, 4
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To Jill
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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.


From the Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:34 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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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