Elaine's Reviews > Earth Abides

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
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May 24, 11

Read in May, 2011 — I own a copy

I love most science fiction, and I always enjoy a good post apocalyptic book. I recently bought this and some other PA books as part of trying to make sense of the horror of the ongoing Fukushima disaster, although this book isn't about nuclear holocaust, but about the end of civilization as it was in 1949, and what happens to one small group of people who live as a community in what was Berkeley, California. I won't lay out the plot, as hundreds of people in this review list have done that, but I want to share my feelings about and responses to it.

The style of writing and conversation was slightly formal, sometimes stilted, sometimes lyrical, and I rather enjoyed its difference in style. One reviewer here said something about the author setting up the situation and then seeing what the person/people would do, and I feel that's true, that it's what the author did.

I felt Ish was a bit too pedantic, and not traumatized enough, perhaps, by what had happened, although he mentions that himself. I also felt he was, well, maybe a bit of a jerk! The book was inside his head all the time, as he made judgments about people and things, some of which were a bit embarrassing, but maybe true to a certain type of graduate student, a bit full of himself and his intellectual prowess.

I enjoyed reading how the Tribe evolved and changed, and it was interesting how they didn't seem to be very industrious, but seemed to just live by scavenging from the detritus of the civilization that was gone. Ish, too, didn't seem very ambitious, with no follow through. Although he talked often of how important it was for the children to read and do math, and tried to teach them, I got the impression he didn't do very well, and he even inadvertently made the Doe Library at the UC campus into a taboo place instead of a place where the children would feel free to go and enjoy and use, read and learn.

The evolution of the hammer was an interesting thing; it made sense that something like that would happen. The last section, where Ish is very old, worked well, I thought. The style was different, and the people were by that time talking differently, as well. It seemed that Ish did attain some understanding and peace with how things went, and how they would go. In all, the book was one specific take on life after civilization. It's actually more likely, when you think about how passive we have become, that people would be unambitious, as The Tribe was, than all the organizing in other PA books, such as The Stand, although they had that Good Vs. Evil thing going on.

It couldn't happen that way now, however, because if most people died from a plague, that would leave all the nuclear plants in the world untended, and they would sooner or later explode, and then there would be a nuclear holocaust. That's the saddest thing to me, that if/when this civilization goes down, there can't be another, at least not for 4 billion years (U-238's half life), because no one in the world has put in place a way for the plants to be just turned off and left alone.

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