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Fantastic... At First.
on December 16, 2001
"Men come and go, but Earth abides." These chilling words written by George R. Stewart leave the reader feeling bare and stripped in the popular science fiction novel "Earth Abides." A novel I read and still can't decide what to think about it.
This book is filled with puzzling situations, frustrating moments, and mind-bending problems that make the reader ask, "What would I do?"
Plague has struck the world, and people are dying by the millions. A lone survivor, Ish, on a mountain camping trip manages to fend off the disease with snakebite. He returns to a frozen, empty world, and is determined to find civilization and life in the seemingly dead planet. Most of the people he meets are in shock, having seen the horrors of death and destruction of the planet and are stupefied, unable to talk sense or even take care of themselves. One man Ish comes across is drinking himself to death; only eating things out of cans and seems only half-alive. Through his journey's, Ish has a growing urge to settle down and establish life as he knew it again. He alone must save the human race.
I thought this book was very interesting, at first. The beginning was intriguing and exciting to think about. But after a while, the idea became old, and boring. Ish just begins to muse over the world's pathetic state, talk about how he's the only intelligent person left, and even starts to become a little snobbish to say the least. The way women were used merely as wombs, though logical in such a situation, got a little annoying also. The detail and wordiness left my mind to wonder away from the book, and I even recall something as simple as a storm drain overflowing taking up two pages to talk about. Ish's endless attempts to get people to think and work for themselves also become a bit momentous and bothersome. It really makes you want to slowly go crazy along with Ish, as you read his "bible", page after page of musing nonsense. I really wanted to tell him to start enjoying life and give up on trying to control everyone's thoughts and actions, just to let things go. But there were moments of truly beautiful writing and raw honesty that drew me out of the droning slump. When Ish finds something to believe in, though, it was really disappointing to have it destroyed so suddenly. Ish becomes so obsessed with saving the world, he becomes very self righteous and stuck up, he transforms from a hero into someone you are sick of and increasingly angry with. The author looses his grip on the story and turns the book into a guide of what to do if you find out the world's population has come to an end, and it's up to you, being the only truly sane and intelligent person, to save the planet. The character's personalities fade, and you are left with a bunch of names and occasional dialogue.
The novel begins with a bang, and ends with a whimper, which makes the reader want to whine as well. It was not something I'd want loved ones to read, but I would highly recommend the first two hundred pages, and then move on to something else. The people who say they truly enjoyed this book through and through, in my opinion, are liars. It's a thoughtfully written piece, and deserves the recognition it receives, but if you are looking to be entertained, find another book, "Earth Abides" will leave you out in the cold.