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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Earth Abides - George R. Stewart

Read for the It's the End of the World Reading Challenge.

Isherwood Williams is in the mountains when the plague that wipes out most of humanity happens. He travels back to his home in San Francisco through an oddly silent land, having to piece together what happens from what little information was left before most people died.

Once home, he embarks on a journey across the whole of the United States, to see who might have survived, and the state of the empty land. It’s ultimately a lonely journey, and he returns home to San Francisco, where he meets a woman named Em. Together with Em and a few other survivors that they meet over the years, Ish and his family eventually form a new community, and he lives long enough to see a new society form.

The thing that struck me about this book is that even though it was published in 1949, it has a very timeless quality about it. Ish’s travels through the newly empty world could take place today. It’s only in a few minor details along the way that the age of the story comes through, and they’re not details important enough to take away from the timeless quality.

The timelessnes made the story of how the Tribe evolves ring very true. The author obviously put a great deal of thought into how children born after the end of the great society that built everything around them would view the leaving of such a society. To have Ish and the other direct survivors of the plague labeled as “Americans” as if Americans were somehow demigods made perfect sense by the end of this story. And while there are trials and travails, I think this is ultimately the most uplifting post-apocalyptic tale that I’ve read.

1 comment:

Corinne said...

Awesome! This sounds like one I would like. Thanks for the review - I found you through the challenge :) I've put it on my list!