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The Scarlet Plague

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,320 Ratings  ·  270 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
Paperback, 88 pages
Published March 7th 2008 by Dodo Press (first published 1912)
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Jason Reeser
Sep 05, 2013 Jason Reeser rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Maryam Hosseini
،نویسـنده در این داسـتانها آیـنده جهان را پیـشبینی میکند
.و آن را بسیار تاریک و سیاه میبیـند
مضـمون مشترک همهی داستانها بیعـدالتی، نابرابریهای اجتماعی، پیـشــرفتِ عــلم و نقــشِ آن در جـنـگها و تسـریعِ ویرانیها و کشــتارهاســت؛
.و آرزویش برقراری یک نظام جدید برای برپایی صلحِ جهانیست

.راننده موجودی بود بدادا و بدخــلق و نادرست"
در حیرت بودم که چرا باید چنــین آدمی زنده بماند و هــزاران هزار نفر در سراسر زمین از طاعون ارغوانی بمیرند
،گویا بر خـلافِ تمــامِ مزخــرفات اخــلاقی و فلســفی
"...چــیزی که در دن
Dec 19, 2014 David rated it liked it  ·  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 tu
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
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
Histoires des siecles futurs, Jack London
عنوان: طاعون ارغوانی، نویسنده: جک لندن، مترجم: محمد مجلسی؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، دنیای نو، 1388، در 159 ص، شابک: 9789641720423؛
عنوان: طاعون سرخ - شاهکار جک لندن، نویسنده: جک لندن، مترجم: گیو آقاسی؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، انتشارات بنگاه آرمان، 1350، در 224 ص؛
Amy Rae
Well, this was certainly a book. It's more interesting as a footnote about Jack London than a story in its own right--did you know that Jack London wrote a post-apocalyptic novel as well as all those damn dog books? Fascinating, huh? No, don't bother reading it, just know that he wrote it.

The premise is interesting, and there's a mild tang of zeerust to it, since it's a writer envisioning in 1915 the downfall of humanity in 2013. (We survived the Scarlet Plague, everybody! Pat yourselves on the
Mar 19, 2013 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
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
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
Jan 08, 2013 Shari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, classic
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
The scarlet plague was a very interesting, creative book. It told the tale of a plague that killed most of the population in 2012, and a survivor (a few decades after), educating his grandsons and telling them about life before and during the plague. It was enjoyable and intruiging to to hear and see our world in a new light, and a new decade. I was surprised to see the grandsons not do basic things like count above ten, or know what restaraunts are, but after thinking about it, I realised it wa ...more
Jose lana
Dec 03, 2015 Jose lana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocaliptic
This is i think the first postapocalyptic short novel;written in 1912 describes with great realism,for moments i think was Reading the book The world without us by Alan Weisman,the world after a great plague,where only a few humans survive,the return to a tribal society and a primitive language because many words have lost its meaning,to the superstition ,to the analphabetism, the invading power of the nature,the memorys of a old profesor the only survivor of the time before the plague,the civil ...more
Almost everyone knows of London's adventure and dog stories, but post-apocalyptic? Who knew. And to think that he produced a compelling novella that presages many of the stories that so grip modern readers. Despite being dated (the plague hitting in 2013 if I remember correctly)---best shown by his mention of speedy airships and the telegraph, and the absence of television, radio, and planes---it is remarkably modern still, as well as a critique of the baser characteristics of humanity. it does ...more
Elena T.
Mar 15, 2016 Elena T. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anno 2073. Un ragazzo e suo nonno, coperti di pellicce animali, vagano attraverso le profondità dei boschi. Il nonno, in particolare, era conosciuto come capace professore di letteratura presso l'Università della California ma nel 2013 sono improvvisamente comparsi i primi sintomi di una nuova peste che ha iniziato ad uccidere un numero sempre più alto di persone a New York. Gli infetti hanno sviluppato un rash scarlatto e sono andati incontro alla morte anche gli scienziati batteriologici che c ...more
Sep 01, 2013 Misha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
the gift
apocalyptic, concise, elegiac, prescient. this pandemic is colourful and terrifying- and perhaps works best when you are overburdened by images of plague, social breakdown, zombies. these ideas came from somewhere: maybe here in this novella. very much of its time, very much of our time. that it is told as history, without much art, renders the horrors and the loss- of everything we are familiar in our technological civilization, understated and effective. you can imagine the worst. this only sk ...more
May 20, 2016 Jack rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Was this written by teenaged Ayn Rand? The story was okay and the writing was fine. No ideas that couldn't have come from any high school senior who loved dystopian stories. I'm usually very permissive of old -isms, with the logic of "it was a different time with different values, and what can I learn from this now?" But the anti-working class parts of this are actually distracting and unnecessary. A rapid and terrifying plague is quickly dismantling society, and immediately everyone becomes a d ...more
Douglas Tatelman
Sep 04, 2014 Douglas Tatelman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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".
Feb 19, 2014 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
James Howard Smith is probably the last person who remembers the world before the Scarlet Plague killed off most of humanity and caused civilization to come crashing down. His grandsons and friends are a motley assortment of savages, mocking their "Granser" for his fancy speech and use of metaphors, but they are eager to hear stories of the world that was and the deadly Scarlet Plague. And so, on a beach outside San Francisco---once populated with thousands of bathers, now a desolate stretch of ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Sep 12, 2010 Marts (Thinker) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, audio-books
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.
Christiam Mena
Nov 26, 2015 Christiam Mena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Muy buena historia con muchas moralejas.
Feb 08, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Generally I do not have a good track record with Classics so I tend to stay clear of them. But when I saw that this short story, by a reputed author, was about a post-apocalyptic world which had come about as a result of a plague, I just couldn't resist it.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The edition I had also had the occasional illustration dotted about. They were simple but I thought they added to the experience nonetheless.

The story is told by an old man
Wayne McCoy
Jan 08, 2016 Wayne McCoy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
'The Scarlet Plague' by Jack London is a book I was unfamiliar with until Dover brought it out in there Dover Doomsday Classics Series. I found it a really fun read.

Originally written in 1912, the book takes place 60 years after the great plague has wiped out humanity in the distant year of 2013. An old man, called Granser, tells his unruly (and mostly unlearned) grandsons the story of what happened. Apparently Granser was a college professor, but he can't communicate ideas like math or longer v
May 27, 2015 Batool rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
کتاب طاعون ارغوانی مجموع پنج داستان کوتاه از جک لندن نویسنده ی قرن نوزدهم است که در سال 1916 زندگی را بدرود گفت. در این داستان ها نویسنده با تخیلش زندگی بشر را در سالهای آینده تصویر می کند که اگر پیش زمینه ای از دوره ی حیات او نداشته باشیم هیچ تصور نمی کنیم که یک قرن پیش از ما می زیسته.
در داستان جالوت نویسنده طرحی برای صلح جهانی به تصویر می کشد و معتقد است یک قدرت بزرگ می تواند جهان را به سوی صلح هدایت کند او بدبختی انسان ها را در واقع در جاه طلبی های سیاسی و اقتصادی و بخش های خصوصی می بیند قهر
I love post-apocalyptic fiction and I had been looking forward to this book for some time, as it is cited as an influence of novels in the genre. I did enjoy parts of the narration, predictably the details involving the immediate panic and death. But the author's blatant prejudices first annoyed me and then simply pissed me off.

I'd hoped that some message, some warning, could have been inferred from the narrator's ignorant comments, and this man supposedly was an educated man before the plague.
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
Jun 25, 2016 Nathaniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novella was amazing! Quite believable as well.
A touch of heartbreak though is at the center of this story. The narrator is the last man on earth to remember the days before the scarlet plague. In every memory we find ourselves mourning for humanity with him. For all that is left now is savages to populate the earth again.
The answer to the question that plagues us all. No, the cycle does not end. The nihilism that creeps forth and strangles life and liberty shows no sign of slowing.
Jack Wright
Oct 08, 2012 Jack Wright rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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.” 8 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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