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The Scarlet Plague
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The Scarlet Plague

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  1,577 ratings  ·  177 reviews
'An old man, James Howard Smith, walks along deserted railway tracks, long since unused and overgrown; beside him a young, feral boy helps him along. It has been 60 years since the great Red Death wiped out mankind, and the handful of survivors from all walks of life have established their own civilization and their own hierarchy in a savage world. Art, science, and all le ...more
Audio Cassette, 98 pages
Published August 1st 1986 by Dercum Pr Audio (first published 1912)
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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins1984 by George OrwellThe Giver by Lois LowryDivergent by Veronica RothBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Best Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
274th out of 1,998 books — 17,572 voters
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Books for a Pandemic
34th out of 134 books — 229 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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David
Dec 19, 2014 David rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: feral grandchildren, old men who like crabs, post-apocalyptic college professors
Did you know that Jack London wrote a post-apocalyptic novel? I didn't!


"The Scarlet Death broke out in San Francisco. The first death came on a Monday morning. By Thursday they were dying like flies in Oakland and San Francisco. They died everywhere—in their beds, at their work, walking along the street. It was on Tuesday that I saw my first death—Miss Collbran, one of my students, sitting right there before my eyes, in my lecture-room. I noticed her face while I was talking. It had suddenly tur
...more
Jason Reeser
I had trouble reading this and believing that Jack London wrote this one hundred years ago. I kept expecting to discover this was a different Jack London, one who wrote in the late 1950s or 1960s. This was far too evolved to be something written by a man in 1912. However, it supposedly is Jack London (it really is, but I can't seem to rid myself of the doubt). So with that in mind...

Wow, this story is perfectly told. A tight, fun read about the end of civilization. London's futuristic view of th
...more
Benjamin Duffy
So short as to barely even qualify as a novella, The Scarlet Plague still manages to be slow-moving. There's almost no action, as 90% of the book is the aged protagonist rambling on to his four grandsons (all of whom are filthy, illiterate post-apocalyptic savages) about how the world was before and immediately after the titular plague. London commits one of the cardinal sins of speculative fiction - making his characters speak in weird pseudo-futuristic jargon, which always always always just e ...more
Andrew Leon
Jack London is a writer I greatly admire, as much (or more) for his work ethic as for anything he ever wrote, though I did love both The Call of the Wild and White Fang when I read them as a teenager. In fact, they started me off on months worth of reading books with animals as central characters. Which I eventually moved away from, because, the farther you got from London, the worse the books got. But I digress...

We often think of post-apocalyptic literature as being a new phenomenon but, reall
...more
Kevin
It was slightly jarring to read this in 2013, the year the Scarlet Plague is supposed to wipe out mankind. It reminded me of reading The Stand a few years ago when Swine Flu was all the rage.

The storytelling is fairly descriptive and provides an interesting take on post-apocalyptic society. It portrays the resulting society as far more primitive than most other stories in the genre. It was interesting to see London's guesses at the technology existing in 2013. Some of the things he described vag
...more
Misha
This is a strange little future dystopian novella by an author better known for his rugged portrayals of people and dogs surviving the Alaskan wilderness. I’m going through a phase of fascination with authors associated with capital “L” Literature who also wrote speculative fiction, e.g., E.M. Forster and his novella “The Machine Stops,” published in 1909 that is eerily evocative of the loneliness of life in the Internet age. Likewise, “The Scarlet Plague” was published in 1912, but envisions a ...more
Ed Mestre
On a recent visit to Jack London Square in Oakland, CA I realized I hadn't read any Jack London works since adolescence. So, I checked into it & found one that wasn't in the Call of the Wild mold, a short novella format, with an interesting premise. The Scarlet Plague surprised me in that it's setting is the very familiar cities & locales around me in The San Francisco Bay area, but in the post apocalyptic year of 2072. It is a grandfather telling his rude & savage goatherd grandkids ...more
Shari
My reading of The Scarlet Plague is quite timely. Set in the year 2013 (!), the story tells about a plague that kills so swiftly and spreads so efficiently that in just a matter of days humanity is nearly wiped out from the face of the earth. The event is narrated by Granser, a professor of literature, who seems to be immune to the plague. Through his story to a group of children he tells of how mankind plummets from its high culture to primitive conditions during and after the coming of the pla ...more
Shinynickel
This is one of the first post-apocalypse books ever written, and by Jack London no less! However, like many firsts, it is remarkable more for being the first than for any quality of content or originality of thought (largely because the truly original ideas - oh god, guys, WHAT IF THE WORLD ENDS!? - got propagated wildly by so many other people that by the time I'm reading it now it's not all that. Like the scene when Marlene Dietrich comes on-screen in a tux, and the plot has to stop for about ...more
Ryan
Feb 19, 2014 Ryan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: sci-fi
Startlingly prescient for something written over a hundred years ago. This must have been one of the pioneers of dystopian fiction, telling of the rapid downfall of civilization and degeneration of man into savages brought on by a virulent plague, through the memories of an old man. Except for the reliance on newspapers and airships that are glaringly dated, the world of 2013 depicted in this short novel is pretty close to reality, down to wireless communication technology. The theme of sole sur ...more
Thom Swennes
This novella can’t really be categorized as science fiction as science has no part in its conception. I think a more appropriate classification would be future fantasy as it speculates life on earth centuries in the future. First written and published in 1912, London places his plague in the year 2013 (purely coincidental but nevertheless eerie and definite food for thought) and it wipes out 99% of the world’s population. Although the premise resembles that of Stephen King in The Stand, the emph ...more
Jack Wright
It's a short story that's told from an 87 year old man's perspective about a devastating plague that wiped out a majority of the known population. The story takes place in the hills outside of San Francisco in 2073, 60 years after a plague ripped through the world. That's all I'll say in regards to the actual plot.

The only thing that bothered me about the story was the obvious elitist mentality that Jack London has with some of the characters. That there are characters who are very much of the u
...more
Douglas Tatelman
I had no idea Jack London wrote such speculative fiction. This post apocalypse story is dated in style, but very sad and powerful in substance. As the world loses communications and civilization crumbles, it reminded me of recent stories speculating on an EMP event.

Again, well written for the time, seriously depressing. This review is only about the one short story "The Scarlet Plague".
Evan
One of the first works of post-apocalyptic fiction, this is a worthy read for any fan of the genre.

(view spoiler)
...more
Sergi Oset
Edició molt acurada la de «Libros del Zorro Rojo», amb il•lustracions molt plàstiques i d’estil personal a càrrec de l’argentí Luis Scafati, que combinen a la perfecció amb el relat apocalíptic de London.
Desconeixia aquest «The escarlet Plague», relat catastrofista que l’autor va publicar l’any 1912.
L’acció se situa a l’any 2073 a les rodalies del que un dia va ser la ciutat de San Francisco. El protagonista, un antic professor universitari sexagenari al que anomenen simplement «avi», intenta tr
...more
Herman Gigglethorpe
Although this is a Jack London book, it is very different from the Northern adventures one might come to expect from him. This is a pioneering work of the post-apocalyptic genre. It's set in California 60 years after the Scarlet Plague wiped out civilization in 2013.

There's hints of dystopia in the backstory too, as the President in 2013 is appointed by corporate moguls rather than the people/Electoral College. There was also a sharp divide between the rich and poor to the point of reviving ari
...more
Joe
As dystopian stories go, this is one of the better ones. Sure, it has all the hallmarks of a story written in the 19th century, despite being of 1912 origin, and feels like a story H.G. Wells wrote, but this is a particular achievement, given that the story was written not by Wells, but by Jack London, better known for pessimistic potboilers of the 'Man vs. Wild' variety. The story opens with a brief introduction to the characters, but this is merely a framing device for the actual story, the ol ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Fast forward to 2073, the world has been de-populated due to an epidemic which occured in 2013, in the tale James Howard Smith a former university professor (in an ordinary world, or lets say, the one we know), one of the only pre-plague survivors left on earth, tries to impart his knowledge to his savage grandsons.
Bárbara
3.5 estrellas
Un libro post-apocalíptico que se acerca bastante a nuestra realidad. Sorprende la tríada cronológica: 1912, el año en que fue escrito; 2013, el año en que la peste escarlata afectó a la humanidad, y 2072, el año en que se encuentra el narrador de la historia, un abuelo que aún recuerda aquel mundo que sucumbió a la peste.
El autor ofrece una visión muy cercana de nuestro mundo, tanto que asusta. Pero no sorprende lo que ocurre en el año 2072: la humanidad, con suerte, es una especie
...more
Jean Farrell
More of a 3-star read, but I give it 4 stars because it was written in 1912, one of the first, if not the first, of the post-apocalypse genre. It is quite short--I read it over lunch. The Scarlet Plague of the title was supposed to have hit in 2013, so it was interesting to see what London got right and wrong about today's world. It was mostly wrong. It reminded me quite a bit of The Earth Abides, another classic of the genre. Particularly in that it imagined the first generation of man in the p ...more
Bonnie
Probably more like 2.5. It wasn't great but wasn't too terrible either.
Aaron
Not bad for one of the world's first apocalyptic/post apocalyptic novellas. It was interesting that the Scarlet Plague happens in a 2010 - 2012 future America that is dominated by a stratified society.

The writing is good and I really enjoyed London's description of the new wilderness. However, some of it is a bit slow as Ganser is shown to be an relic of 2012 attempting to relay his story to his grandchildren. The story he tells is violent, but not gory and you get more of a sense of forlorn los
...more
Nate
A 100 year old dystopian book that takes place 50 years from now which features a plague that takes place in the present day (circa 2010s).

Really neat to read a book with such a similar story to so many published today. Not much of a book. No background on the plague, but really the book is more about the fall and rise of man more than anything else.

Thought it was neat to see London's predictions as to technology and society 100 years from when he wrote the book. He described cell phones or wa
...more
Hákon Gunnarsson
I find The Scarlet Plague somewhat interesting as a early post apocalyptic story and I like the structure of it. An old man, that knew the world before the plague, tells his grandsons, that only know the post apocalyptic world, how it used to be. That structure works for me. It's not a thriller and there isn't much suspense, but fairly simple story of a cataclysmic event that leads to the destruction of civilization.

The predictions Jack London makes about the future are less than accurate, but
...more
Barbara
With the popularity of dystopian fiction and movies it is fascinating to read this Jack London story, published in 1912. A story of the coming of a plague in 2013 which saw the destruction of civilisation as 'Granser', the key story teller in this book, and one of the few original survivors of the plague, knew it.

A powerful, if short and quick read, except for references to 'dirigibles' there is little in this story that dates it ... as Tony Robinson writes in his introduction to the edition I h
...more
Sam
I was rather surprised when I first came across this as I had no idea that Jack London had written a post-apocalyptic story and that surprise continues still given how modern this story feels. It could easily have been written two years ago not a hundred and two years ago. The story is told through the reminisces of an old grandfather who is telling is grandsons how civilisation fell so many years ago and how their clans came about. It is a little slow in parts but this adds to the charm as gran ...more
Andy Phillips
This book was originally published in 1912 and it shows from some of the language used and attitudes that are portrayed. I guess the text must be out of copyright or something as my edition was printed by Amazon and has no publishing details or introduction at all. It also features a number of illustrations but they look like they are scanned in from another version as they are fairly poor quality.

However, the age of this book is what made this interesting to me. It's one of the original apocaly
...more
Azzageddi
An enjoyable read about a plague that wipes out 99.xxx% of humanity. London uses such a catastrophe to weave in his usual themes of class and social Darwinism.

This was The Stand 66 years before it came out. It's also about 1/12th the size. I thought The Stand could have used some trimming, and The Scarlet Plague could have used some additions. It's way too short to be much more than a sketch. It's London saying, "Hey, imagine if a plague killed nearly everyone, and this and that started to happe
...more
Jan C
I'm not really very much for science fiction.

This was OK.

But, remember, the plague doesn't hit until 2013 - so we still have two more years to enjoy ourselves!

I have a bunch of London's books hanging around waiting for me to read them. The only others I actually read were White Fang and I think The Call of the Wild, although I also have a copy of that because I really couldn't remember whether I'd already read it or not. I'm also currently reading Tales of the Fish Patrol.

Anyway, I'm hoping I wi
...more
Brandon
I'm a big fan of post-apocalyptic stories, and this one was a good read.

It takes place in the 2070's, and is about an old man telling his grandchildren about the "Red Death" that destroyed almost all of humanity. Interestingly, although written in 1912, the Red Death, is described as sweeping humanity mostly off the earth in the year 2013, so it is set in our time. I always find it interesting to read books written long ago that describe life now. This particular story describes a world that is
...more
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1240
Jack London was an American novelist, journalist, social-activist and short-story writer whose works deal romantically with elemental struggles for survival. At his peak, he was the highest paid and the most popular of all living writers. Because of early financial difficulties, he was largely self educated past grammar school.

London drew heavily on his life experiences in his writing. He spent ti
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“The human race is doomed to sink back farther and farther into the primitive night ere again it begins its bloody climb upward to civilization.” 5 likes
“It was what should have been a bright summer day, but the smoke
from the burning world filled the sky, through which the sun shone
murkily, a dull and lifeless orb, blood-red and ominous.”
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