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Showing 1-10 of 27 reviews(4 star). See all 178 reviews
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 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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on May 19, 2002
This novel, Earth Abides, written by George Stewart takes place in San Francisco during present times. A worldwide virus overtakes and wipes out the entire human race, leaving only a select few alive. Of these few is a man named Isherwood who goes in search of other survivors to band with. He meets a woman named Emma and a few other people who start a new civilization. It is not easy, however, and they are constantly hitting head-to-head with nature, fighting for survival. As in any other society, there are some people who challenge the law that was laid down in the beginning. As a result, certain members of the tribe are divided. Unity is essential for survival...will they make it? Only time will tell.
The author of this book was probably raised in a Christian environment because there are many Biblical references in this book. For example, one of the characters in this novel is named Ezra, as is an Old Testament prophet. Stewart�s Christian roots are evident in the way he unravels his novel and the double meanings behind some of his story. For example, a child named Joey is born to Ish and Em that is far more intelligent than any other of the many children. Ish finds hope in this young boy because he knows that Joey�s outstanding brightness will one day be of great use to future peoples, just as God had much pride in His son Jesus.
This novel is a wake up call to the reader in that it brings attention to how weak and vulnerable humans really are. What if mankind were to die today? Would people have their affairs set in order?
This novel is a fictional story but has real-life applications. For example, there are real people facing real starvation and shelter needs. Stewart portrays very well the thoughts and feelings of each of the characters, which enhances the story line.
Earth Abides is an excellent novel. It is extremely well written and it flows nicely. Anybody thirteen years of age and older should definitely read this book because it captures the reader�s attention and has the ability to transport the reader to a world no longer inhabited by humans. Younger children may not be able to understand some of the vocabulary in this book and may be easily confused due to the complex plot line. However, I give this book a two thumbs up.
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on July 28, 2000
I recently re-read this book after twenty five years. The story drives with a unique force as the naturally detached observer-protagonist Isherwood witnesses the Earth and Mankind's remnants slowly re-establish a new balance. This reacquaintence also served as a reflection on myself.
As a teenager, I was drawn to Ish's character, much like my own at the time: quiet, reflective, socially uncomfortable. I took great delight in identifying that the book took place in my own neighborhood: The rock where they carved the years is a perfect description of Indian Rock in Berkeley, where I climbed countless times as a kid. For years after, wherever I went I liked to see how unkept gardens took over their yards, how abandoned houses returned slowly to Nature's way, how unused roads returned to the soil at a relentless if geologic pace.
As a man in my 40s I find the tale retains its fascinating hold. I still like to see how Man's works change in their own way when left alone, just as any other object in nature. Much of Stewart's description of that change rings true and is well visualized. But most striking to me was that the nature of the characters had changed in my mind. No longer were they just people like myself, making the best out of this extraordinary circumstance. The second time around, the characters were very unsatisfying. Ish is the only one with any ambition at all, and he is unable to make anything of it. This is due entirely to his personal failings: the social stiffness he never outgrew, his lack of focus, his increasingly insular view of his place in the surrounding world. I was particularly offended by a scene of "crime" and punishment. Yet these are not failings of the author nor of the book. Stewart was simply taking the opportunity to show that, barring the survival of some remarkably talented and organized people, civilization is not by any means guaranteed to carry on. Though "The Stand" is more entertaining, "Earth Abides" remains much more satisfying.
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on July 17, 1999
Ish, a college student, survives a rattlesnake bite and mysterious illness alone on a mountain camping trip. When he recovers, he can't find anyone and slowly realizes a plague has wiped out the human race. He wanders across the country, finding only a few stunned survivors and makes an intelligent and courageous decision to not join the first people he finds. After a period of terrible isolation, he finds Em, a true survivor like himself. They are happy together and attract five other survivors. A tiny little tribe grows around them. Ish devotes his life to trying to bring back civilization as he knew it. He fails at his superficial efforts at farming and at educating the children. He succeeds beyond his deepest dreams at giving his descendants the tools they need to create a healthy, happy way of life. The novel works as a thought-provoking study of what do you do when the world collapses around you. It has some weaknesses. Here and there, the fact it was written in 1949 shows. One can argue that Ish would have been able to get the children to read if only he hadn't been such a boring pedant and he could have been a better farmer if he'd been willing to explore alternate ways and crops. The book's strengths greatly outweigh its weaknesses. For one thing, with not much action, it's a true page turner. This is a fantastic novel to discuss and to argue about and to ponder the fundamental question it raises. What would you do for the rest of your life if you survived the end of the world?
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on May 29, 1999
Misinterpretations abide, it seems, when it comes to this book. This "disaster" novel merely uses the disease plague scenario as a backdrop to explore human nature. There are many subtle examples here of how individuals develop as adults, how everything people know and believe is dependent on their own life experience and frame of reference. Most of all this is about the myriad of seemingly small things that people take for granted every day and do not even notice, seemingly unimportant things which are really the foundation of society and culture. Here the characters are stripped of all their artificial interests, and are left with only that foundation. The genius of this story is that it will leave you wondering just how independent your own thoughts and views are. There might be many reasons people go in the various directions they go in life, the least of which have to do with independent choices. This book is much more than a disaster novel, it is a fascinating look at sociology in action. And always in the background, amidst all the human trials and tribulations, Earth and non-human life continue as they always have, oblivious to human superiority. Hence the title, and the ultimate humbling message.
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on December 26, 1998
This is a story of the first years and the ensuing decades in the lives of the very few survivors of a natural plague. At first, there is a detailed overview of one survivor's (the main character and often narrator per se) actions in the first several months after the plague. This account of the "short-term" impact of a plague has been seen in other SF stories and might seem repetitous. But where this story is different, and where this novel is in a class of its own, is where the plot goes when this survivor meets others and small families begin and a community develops. The challenges which are faced by and met with by this group are detailed, yet are those involving environment and illness which are perhaps expected. But more interesting is what new moral values that arise and what "holdover" values (school, religion) which are attempted to be maintained, but are not or can't be embraced by the new generations which follow. The book follows the community though several decades, jumping years and stopping to go into detail about an event or time period -- but giving several pages in between as a summary to provide a good junction between sections...thus keeping the story flowing. The book ends with the natural death of the main character and seeing that the new generations have embraced a "new and different" value, knowledge, and societal system which is suprisingly similar to another culture -- and perhaps quietly challenging the reader to ask whether or not such the result is good or bad; and, whether or not the result was destiny, or the result of proper or improper actions of the original group of survivors. For a book written in the late 1940's, it was very, very far ahead of it's time.
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on February 27, 2002
I would have given this book fewer stars if I had been able to put it down. In spite of the stilted prose, odd inaccuracies, and generally bleak view of human nature, Earth Abides' end of the world scenario is completely gripping. There's none of the pseudo-mysticism of The Stand, just pure mid 20th century sci-fi goodness. Some of the scenarios Stewart presents aren't very subtle, and his views of women and blacks are what you might expect from 1949, but if you're at all interested in the "what happens after a mysterious virus wipes out most of humanity" scenario, Earth Abides is worth a read.
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on May 13, 1998
It was a must read for my Physical Geography class. We were supposed mto read it from a Geographers point of view. My teacher prefaced it with "this book was written in the 40's and it is sexist - so ladies please don't let it irritate you." I however, didn't find it sexist I found M, the lead female charachter, a strong and wonderful woman. I also liked the fact that there was interracial marriage and poligamy. Forward thinking ideas in the 1940's. All in all it is a good weekend read. But, it is way corny! Especially all the text in italics.
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on September 4, 1999
I have been looking for this book for a long time. I read this book for an Environmental Science class at Long Beach State about 20 years ago and it made such an impact on my thinking about the environment. Every time I see grass growing up through the cracks in the street or the roots wrapping around pipes I think of the book. While the environment seems quite fragile, it appears that it is not a fragile as we think and we are the fragile ones.
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