11. Earth Abides

by George R. Stewart

Based upon a fine review of this book at Mount Benson Report, I picked up a copy of this one. It was an excellent read, capturing my imagination and carrying it all the way through.

First, one small point: the first part (of three) makes for a very unique and facinating travel novel. A post-apocalypse travel novel. I want more of this!

I really appreciate that the novel didn't turn into the usual good/evil battle, or a hard-to-swallow communist manifesto/uprising. No, this one was mostly free of the the usual politics and battles that are too often only smaller versions of pre-apocalyptic problems. That's usually boring to me. (Makes me wonder if this type of novel is not a device for "leveling the playing field" so that it's believable when the underdogs of society actually win).

Instead, Stewart writes a far more physical, or organic, story. The protagonist is constantly concerned with learning to become self-reliant instead of living as merely scavengers of stuff from a dead civilization, which will obviously come to an end. Eventually edible food in the supermarkets and convenience stores will run out. Water will not come from the tap forever.

I enjoyed Stewart's deep understanding of human nature and his positive view of people. As a reader who has spent a great deal of his life dreaming about the death of civilization, I found Earth Abides to be a hopeful vision and a thought-provoking instruction manual.

This is a brilliant book. A big thanks to the folks of at Mount Benson.

3 comments:

Olman Feelyus said...

Mike,

I'm glad you picked up this book and enjoyed it. Jason is in the midst of building up a pretty extensive body of knowledge of post-apocalyptic literature. I have benefitted from some of it trickling down and my own past readings and I would like to challenge your previous understanding of this body of writing. I would argue that very few post-apoc books turn into the "good/evil battle or "smaller versions of pre-apocalyptic problems." Perhaps in the movies and Stephen King's The Stand (probably the best-read PA book in America), those tendencies are strong, but many of the classic british books of the late '50s, really present new and complex issues, particularly how society behaves as it starts to degrade or as the structures of protection around it degrade. Often, the issue is more about how an individual and groups behave when the veneer of civilization and mod cons break down.

Mount Benson report has reviewed a bunch of these books, but some examples are John Christopher's No Blade of Grass, any of J.G. Ballard's first four novels (The Wind from Nowhere is my personal favorite) or Christopher Priest's Fugue for a Darkening Planet. These are all quick, powerful reads and will provoke thought in the same way that Earth Abides did for you. These are dark times and call for thinking about the worst.

Lantzvillager said...

Mike,

Thanks for the link-up's to my site. It's nice to see that a recommendation doesn't go awry.

As Olman said, there is a wide range of viewpoints in the genre but I'd have to say that the best books are the ones that look at the more complex , human issues.

I, on the other hand, will be heading straight for the sporting goods store. ;)

Crumbolst said...

Thanks, guys for the thoughful responses. I must admit that I have limited experience with this genre, so my assumptions are clearly off base. Yes, The Stand was one of which I was basing it on (and there haven't been many others). That's good news for me, because I'm really digging this stuff!

I read Ballard's Crash and loved it. I'll definitely go back and pick up some of the ealier ones.

Likewise, my first stop is definitely the sporting goods store.