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Showing 1-10 of 27 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
on May 1, 2007
Earth Abides is not a typical post-apocalyptic novel. It doesn't present a world of mutants, giant cockroaches or bands of marauders. It simply shows the slow and inevitable decay of man and all his works, in the teeth of attempts by the protagonist to restore the old ways of civilization. In that it succeeds beautifully and shows us the grandeur of our world and the majesty of what we have wrought...then compares it to the greater majesty of nature and the eternal gaze of time. The novel works best as a family drama, more Swiss Family Robinson than Mad Max, and has no sensational adventures to offer other than the daily tribulations of life. For man may be a great creature, but he is still small and the world doesn't really need him at all...

Earth Abides is the most meditative and serene post-apocalyptic novel I've ever read, and it's recommended for more thoughtful readers who won't be easily bored.
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Earth Abides, written in 1949, tells the story of the fall of civilization from deadly disease and its "rebirth". It is actually three books in one: the disintegration of the world, the establishment of a new collective culture, and the moral weights of leadership. I initially read it as a post-apocalyptic novel and was rewarded with a philosophical treatise on the loss of a way of life and the dangers of man oversimplifying himself. The development of the tiny band's subsequent generations is more terrifying than a plague wiping out the planet. It is a story of 'what man wrought' but not in the way one anticipates. Originally classified a "science fiction" novel, now, with time, it must be categorized as literature.
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on August 31, 2003
Earth Abides by George Stewart is one of many post-apocalyptic novels written during the height of the Cold War. However it is quieter and more introspective than most of its peers, something made evident by the manor of disaster that devastates mankind in the novel. Instead of a nuclear inferno, a viral plague almost eradicates humanity. Isherwood "Ish" Williams is trapped in an isolated cabin recovering from a snakebite when the epidemic is unleashed. When he heals and ventures outward, he discovers the near extinction of his species and begins a search for others who immune to the disease.
That section is interesting but Earth Abides becomes a truly outstanding novel when Ish discovers others and they found a new society. Stewart takes a sociological approach to this development. He gives a fascinating account of a community completely isolated from other communities and a generation living in a Garden-of-Eden-state, completely isolated from its own past. One of the novel's best moments occurs when an untrustworthy visitor comes to the area and Ish and the other elders must decide what action to take. Their decision will surprise you. Both in the post-apocalyptic genre and the field of science fiction in general, Earth Abides is a gem.
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on May 17, 2003
When I write "one of the most memorable books I've read," that's saying something, because I've kept up a pace of reading at least four books a week since before entering Kindergarten and am now 67. I borrowed EARTH ABIDES from the library a year after it came out, in 1950, when I was a 14-year-old high school sophomore, reading everything and anything labeled "science fiction." I didn't own the book until fairly recently, but it stayed vividly in my memory. I could call up characters like fussy Maureen, stolid George, loyal Em and the tragic genius child, Joey. I remembered the fascinating journey across America, the vague frustration I felt (even so young) over Ish's passive character and the generally negative slide of the tribe from scavenging off civilization into what appeared almost to be an Upper Paleolithic lifestyle at the novel's end--not even qualifying as barbarism.
But it's Stewart's refusal to tread the usual Golden Age sci-fi path and make Ish a superscience hero that makes the novel very special. Ish may be a scientist, he's academically bright, but like many people he's low in energy, street-smarts, and foresight. By and large his motley clan possesses even lower survival skills. They aren't much different from the Valley Girls in another good story in the end-of-the-world genre, the movie NIGHT OF THE COMET. Both are based on an understanding that if the human race's average IQ is 100, half the people who are likely to survive a major disaster aren't going to be awfully competent. Stewart certainly knew that, and it provided both the uncanny realism and the rather depressing pessimism of this story. It's fascinating to note that the other reviewers have noted both aspects of EARTH ABIDES.
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on March 24, 2003
While doing research in a remote cabin, Isherwood Williams is bitten by a rattlesnake. Emerging from a short delirium, Ish returns to civilization only to find that a new virus has wiped out 99.9% of the Earth's population. Ish sets out to see if he can find any survivors.
The story is told in an irregular fashion, slowly detailing Ish's immediate experiences, then speeding into the future only to slow again for years that are more important. I enjoyed the haphazard narrative, but wished that the author had focused more detail during several essential emotional scenes regarding birth and death.
The focus of the story revolves around Ish's struggle to preserve the American society against superstitions that threaten to govern the new society. The author touches on many of the possible earth changes that might happen in such a catastrophe. Some systems immediately fail while some last for many years. Fans of Stephen Kings "The Stand" will enjoy this similar, yet simpler tale.
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on November 11, 2002
Stewart weaves a tale of what happens to a survivor, isolated on a camping trip, when a pandemic eradicates the human population of earth in a matter of weeks. The book is technologically dated: the primary means of communication is radio, to a lesser extent, telephone. TV and the Internet are in the future. Also, without revealing too much of the plot, some of the "modern conveniences" his group of survivors depend on could not last as long as he writes - our marvels of civilisation require too much human intervention, and computer monitoring. BUT, Stewart isn't writing about technology: he's writing about a human response to the end of life-as-we-know-it, and it's a convincing, interesting tale. Since he's interested in human dynamics and relationships, the story remains interesting even without Star Wars technology. What he paints strikes true, something between "Lord of the Flies" and "Swiss Family Robinson:" humans aren't quite so bad as the former, nor as noble as the latter, but retain moments of both great nobility and horrible action.
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on June 18, 2002
First off, I should state that this novel was written in the late forties, and thus reflects many of the prevailing attitudes of the time. It is rather sexist, and even vaguely racist (although neither element is malicious, just ignorant) so if you think that may ruin the novel for you, then you probably want to skip it. That said, if you can look at "Earth Abides" in the context in which it was written, you will find a thoughtful, entertaining novel.
"Earth Abides" is predicated on a super-virus wiping out the overwhelming majority of the Earth's human population, while leaving the rest of the animal kingdom unaffected (at least directly). The story follows "Ish" as he struggles both to survive, and come to grips with the loss of civilization. Over time, a community of survivors gels around him, and they work to scratch an existence out of the ruins of San Francisco.
Stewart takes a rather bleak view of the survivors of the holocaust, not to mention their children. Rather than trying to reestablish "civilization" they slip into a more or less Stone Age existence, supplemented by the leavings of a culture they are completely alienated from, and that is not understood by the children at all. While I understand that Stewart was seeking to comment on what makes up a "civilization", and what the natural human condition is, or should be, I think he introduced an element of wishful thinking into his narrative (strange as that may sound). It is extremely unlikely that things as fundamental as literacy would completely disappear within two generations, and while they might very well fail, I suspect that survivors would at least attempt to maintain electricity, water supplies, etc.
Where this novel really shines, and what I found most interesting to read, was Stewart's descriptions of the ecology of a North America largely depopulated of humans. He does a superb job of predicting the fluctuations in various animal populations, and I believe that the long-term balance that he predicts is probably not far from what would actually happen.
Ultimately, "Earth Abides" is an entertaining novel that leaves one thinking about how they would react in similar situation. While I don't necessarily agree with the way the novel plays out, I was constantly challenged to come up with an explanation as to why I thought things might be different. In the process, I gained a deeper appreciation for the depth of Stewart's characters, and the challenges he pitted them with. If you enjoy "apocalyptic fiction" this is definitely a book for you, but even if you have not strong feelings for the genre, I suspect you will enjoy the excellent characterizations, thoughtful story and wonderfully realized world.
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on May 19, 2002
Chris Fitzgerald
English 10
Mrs. Cruces
Earth Abides Evaluative Essay
The novel Earth Abides, written by George Stewart, took place in San Francisco,
California. This science fiction novel focuses on a plague that has spread across the North
American continent and is threatening the human species. The novel contains the life that
an individual survivor, Isherwood Philips (Ish), lives. A majority of the population has
seized to exist. Ish is an important part of the Plague because he is a biologist. Ish goes
through his life in this novel by bringing other characters into his life. Ish is one of the
survivors that has the intelligence to form a tribe and become the leader of this tribe. Ish
has a compassionate soul and struggles to help other survivors find their way.
Earth Abides is a very interesting novel. This novel is easily enjoyable because of
its connection that it gives of the key characters who are intertwined in a drama that is
dealing with a cataclysmic event of a Plague. This makes the novel a good read. This
kind of event is very possible considering the times that we live in now. This novel does
not only relate with people coming together to struggle for survival. It also deals with an
event that could very well take place.
This novel is great for anyone over the age of about 12 years old, because of the
way that this novel is set up to involve thinking and real life experience to understand the
true meaning of the novel. Anybody who is looking for a good science fiction novel will
like the great novel Earth Abides.
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on May 19, 2002
Earth Abides, a novel by George R. Stewart, is an excellent novel that depicts a possible scenario for a post-apocalyptic world. It provides people with a fantasy realm with questions of what could happen and what will happen all through the eyes of the novel's main character, Ish. He joins up with a couple of survivors in what he sees fit for the new world and they create a society that tries to cope with it. George Stewart further enriches the story with character chemistry and strong elements of theme.
Themes of survival and love are strongly present throughout the novel. Ish's strong will to contain the community he had once known pushes him to survive so he can teach the next generation of what good can become of it. His relation to Em also draws out the love and caring in Ish.
George Stewart uses chemical equations between characters to draw an exact importance of each person in their society. He chooses a man named George who is a carpenter to build and repair homes. He has a friend named Ezra, who acts as an advisor to Ish. They all piece together to form Ish's envision of a good society.
The topic that concerns Ish the most is the community he had once known. Ish, who is trying to inflict positive change in society, is cursed with the inability to change himself.
Throughout the book, he learns to trust his society and the future, which is dependent on him to lead them. He learns of the differences between the two generations and tries to blend in. He goes through many experiments, which has led in to some disaster and many good.
Earth Abides is a great novel about the fantasy and high possibility of a post apocalyptic world. The characters and themes in the novel are beautifully inscribed drawing an essence of drama and suspense into an already stone set feeling of both feelings. Reprising themes of love, survival and many other themes are present to enrich the story. Earth Abides, a novel by George R. Stewart, is a novel I'd recommend to anyone who is interested in character chemistry and the post-apocalyptic ideology of George R. Stewart.
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on May 19, 2002
Societies Rise and Decline but the Earth Abides In the classic apocalyptic novel Earth Abides George R. Stewart creates a nightmare on earth that could occur tomorrow when a massive unknown epidemic obliterates almost all of society. A young man named Ish is forced to search for companions on this barren, naked earth void of human life. He searches for sensible people to aid him in his quest for survival and mental sanity. Em is the person who keeps Ish sane and through her love and courage helps him to face the future. Together they find a group of companions, and together they establish a tribe in the Berkeley Hills in the Bay Area. George Stewart1s powerful and realistic writing captivates the reader and makes one imagine how each of us would react in Ish1s situation. Even though his novel gets rather slow in the middle with few dramatic events adding to the plot, Stewart demonstrates the harsh situations and triumphs of life this small nucleus of mankind must face without modern society. Stewart1s writing fascinates the reader by exploring the actions of the offspring of the original seven tribe members and shows how people develops without modern society and all its conveniences. Stewart shows how all-human societies have come about, by tracing the development of this small tribe that survives a cataclysmic disaster. In the novel Stewart puts Ish and the tribe through many difficult trials as they struggle to survive. He is able to create an almost unimaginable situation and turn it into a reality. Each character is developed so well that the reader is able to experience the events. Ish1s leadership is strengthened by Em1s courage and Ezra1s loyal friendship. Because the reader can relate to these believable characters in this unbelievable situation, it is easier for the author to relate his point. Stewart fascinates the reader by showing how man develops with all his customs and superstitions and without a modern society. While reading about the tribe1s triumphs and failures we are able to step back from the modern world and see how civilization perhaps developed. The author examines the growth and characteristics of individual characters. What each of them bring to enable this tribe to survive, show how a society begins and flourishes. Em brings her courage, Ish brings his knowledge and his leadership, George is the carpenter and so on. Each member of the tribe contributed to the betterment of the whole society. Then at that point we are able to see the growth of society again, as if it was cut out from man1s actual past history, when ancient tribes started to develop. . At first the challenges are just simple, to fulfil the basic necessities of survival like shelter, water and food. Once these needs have been fulfilled, the tribe progresses to larger concerns such as education of the younger generations, keeping records and calendars, rules and exploration. Eventually the tribe integrates with outside members sometimes successfully, sometimes not. For instance when Charley comes back with the Robert and Richard he brings disease and chaos to the tribe. The tribe had the difficult decision of banishing him or killing him to protect their way of life. Many of them, including Joey who was the hope for the future as a leader because of his intelligence, die because of this outside influence. Later however the tribe successfully mingles with another tribe, which helps their society grow because there are more possibilities for men and women to find mates in a larger society.All through the novel Stewart accurately demonstrates the development of a simplistic society with all its triumphs and failures, to symbolize the history of human development. He is able to show that future societies would develop as past societies have as long as basic human needs are met. When people have food, shelter and more importantly significant human relationships then a society can begin. The society that Stewart creates starts with two people who found each other in the midst of chaos. They unite with others with whom they are compatible and from this small group a multi generation society formed. In his lifetime Ish saw a society develop. He saw his children and grand children and great grand children living happily. Through Ish1s eyes, the author masterfully shows all of us how societies rise and decline but how through it all the earth itself abides. Stewart in this famous apocalyptic novel captures the reader and artfully demonstrates the nature of human societies.
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