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Earth Abides

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  22,123 ratings  ·  1,770 reviews
A disease of unparalleled destructive force has sprung up almost simultaneously in every corner of the globe, all but destroying the human race. One survivor, strangely immune to the effects of the epidemic, ventures forward to experience a world without man. What he ultimately discovers will prove far more astonishing than anything he'd either dreaded or hoped for.
Paperback, 345 pages
Published March 28th 2006 by Del Rey (first published 1949)
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Greg Degiere I found Earth Abides to be much more compelling, for three reasons I can identify.

First, the ideas it deals with are much more universal…more
I found Earth Abides to be much more compelling, for three reasons I can identify.

First, the ideas it deals with are much more universal and interesting -- how people relate to one another, parenting, and on a biggest scale, what is civilization and what about it is worth saving? And the events that lead to the establishment of the state should be fascinating to anyone who was read Locke or Paine, or even has thought about how societies create governments.

Second, it's more exciting. Alas, Babylon constructs a hard-to-believe world, despite the fact that its catastrophe is much more obviously likely. Earth Abides is believable from the start.

Third, and this is related to #2, Earth Abides is more intellectually honest. It creates a world in which almost everyone has died and deals in a serious way with how the few survivors would act. Alas, Babylon creates a world that experienced a nuclear war that hardly has any effect at all on the survivors in the one place in Florida where it is set. To my way of thnking, On the Beach was more honest.

It's been a long time since I read A Canticle for Leibowitz so I cant comment much on it, except to say I remember enjoying it a lot.(less)
C.W. Hawes The book is only boring if one isn't used to this kind of writing. The work is essentially plotless and more of a character study. Something like the…moreThe book is only boring if one isn't used to this kind of writing. The work is essentially plotless and more of a character study. Something like the work of Kazuo Ishiguro. When I first read the book, I found it exceedingly fascinating. It may be this just isn't your cup of tea.(less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
”The trouble you’re expecting never happens; it’s always something that sneaks up the other way. Mankind had been trembling about destruction through war, and had been having bad dreams of cities blown to pieces along with their inhabitants, of animals killed, too, and of the very vegetation blighted off the face of the earth. But actually mankind seemed merely to have been removed rather neatly, with a minimum of disturbance.”

”The trouble you’re expecting never happens; it’s always something that sneaks up the other way. Mankind had been trembling about destruction through war, and had been having bad dreams of cities blown to pieces along with their inhabitants, of animals killed, too, and of the very vegetation blighted off the face of the earth. But actually mankind seemed merely to have been removed rather neatly, with a minimum of disturbance.”

 photo 9ab1aa60-96a7-4889-a072-ca5d7df1f0f5_zpsdb6c752e.jpg

Isherwood “Ish” WIlliams is out in the wilderness rock climbing to clear his head from the buzz of civilization when he puts his hand in the wrong crevice. He hears the rattle and feels the strike.

He is pretty sure he is going to die.

He gets back to the cabin, uses the snake kit to suck as much of the poison out as he can. He becomes too sick and too woozy to drive. He waits for someone to find him. As his time to return comes and passes he becomes angry that no one has come looking for him, not family or friends.

He doesn’t die and when he recovers enough to drive into town he finds only dust motes and echoes. A virulent disease has swept through humanity, killing indiscriminately, collapsing society as easily as a biker crushes a beer can.

The one thing that we have always been able to count on is our genetic diversity. There always seems to be a fraction of a percent of humanity that is immune to whatever nature has to throw at us.

“As for man, there is little reason to think that he can in the long run escape the fate of other creatures, and if there is a biological law of flux and reflux, his situation is now a highly perilous one. During ten thousand years his numbers have been on the upgrade in spite of wars, pestilences, and famines. This increase in population has become more and more rapid. Biologically, man has for too long a time been rolling an uninterrupted run of sevens.”

It was just our turn to roll snake eyes.

He goes through this period of time swamped with a buffet of feelings. Ish never quite feels lucky to be alive, but certainly reaches varying levels of depression as the extent of the devastation becomes apparent.

But for now the electricity still flows through San Francisco. Street lights come on as if the hand of humanity was still guiding the way. For a while he just goes about his life. There is plenty of food. He makes friends with a dog. He reads books, but his curiosity gets the better of him and he explores the city. He finds people, a few stragglers, still alive. He decides that he has to see what has happened to America.

 photo EarthAbides_zps0cbc3824.jpg
The Earth reclaims what man has built, quickly.

There is too much of everything now, too many cars, food spoiling, too many clothes, piles of things that no one might need for a thousand years. He drives across country and finds a survivor here or there. Some survivors can’t cope and suicide rates skyrocket among the few fortunate/unfortunate people who find themselves facing a new world bereft of family and friends. He discovers the the virulent entity has been thorough, unrelenting, all-embracing, and taken more far more than it has left.

He returns to San Francisco and finds a woman who becomes his wife. She moves in with him because, he...well...had a house full of books and anybody who has moved books before can relate to the fact that it is easier to move to the books than move the books to you.

Ish uses the term this is a New Deal to describe this new era which was ironic given that this book was written in 1949. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies had just been enacted in the decade before.

The book moves languidly along. There is never this feeling of desperation or Mad Max situations or really even scenes of high tension. George R. Stewart was more interested in exploring cultures, how they emerge, how they survive, what motivates them to innovate.

Being in the San Francisco area with a temperate climate, they don’t have to fight weather. The city is full of canned foods, weapons, bullets, clothes, and anything else they could possibly need. When the power does finally go out they switch to candles and lanterns. When the water shuts down they find streams and they dig latrines. Life overall is relatively easy almost better than before. Ish is the only intellectual in his tribe of survivors, soon offspring start to become plentiful. Ish finds himself to be the only one concerned about teaching them the ability to read. The only one that sees the importance of sharing a vision of the world through the lens of science.

Ish has a dream of restoring the world, to bring back the civilization that took several millennium to create, but to the new generations who never lived in that world they have all they need now. To bring that world back to life will take more labor than they are willing to give. They respect what he knows and even look on him, superstitiously, as a deity of knowledge, but they lack the curiosity or the desire to learn what he knows.

Ish reluctantly gives ground on his expectations. He soon realizes that instead of building an ice machine, or aqueducts, or keeping cars in working order that he needs to give them something they will desperately need when the supply of bullets finally run out, something that can be made with a sharp blade and a handful of feathers...the bow and arrow.

 photo PaintingEarthAbides_zps3e9a6a9b.jpg
Original Ace Publishing painting for the 1949 cover.

Certainly another very different take on the post-apocalyptic world. Some of the complaints that people may have about this book are the same ones that they had about On the Beach, that there isn’t enough action, not enough tension, not enough claws and teeth, but those situations were not of interest to Stewart. He wanted to explore what we need. Why civilization is necessary? What do we gain from it? Are we happier in a penthouse apartment or would we be happier if we had to forage for food every day? One thing that Stewart and I can agree on is: “Men go and come, but earth abides.” At least I like to believe the earth will ultimately survive us.

You can read my most recent book and movie reviews at http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Scott
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Bands of cannibal raiders. Hordes of flesh-starved zombies. Radioactive wastelands stalked by vicious mutants.

If you're a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction you've encountered all these scenarios, often blended together. You're familiar with the best ways to dispatch the walking dead, why you should keep away from isolated farmhouses with locked cellars and what lies outside the vault/silo. What you most likely haven't encountered is an end-of-the-world vision like the one George R. Ste
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Lyn
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Take er easy Earth."

"Yeah, well, the Earth Abides"

THE definitive post-apocalyptic novel.

First published in 1949, this has some dating but has stood the test of time remarkably well. Modern readers may notice some post-ap clichés and oft used techniques, but the same reader must consider that Stewart's remarkable work may have been the origin of many of this sub-grenre’s elements.

This is an archetypal work that should be on a MUST read list for any true fan of speculative fiction. While reading, I thought of many other works, most notably St
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Susan Budd
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For fifteen years I taught a university course in Western Civilization. It began in the spring. The textbook I assigned my students began with the sentence, “Civilization was not inevitable; it was an act of human creativity.” After reading about our primitive ancestors’ advance from hunting and gathering to the agricultural settlements of the Neolithic Revolution, we studied the great ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia.

By April, Rome had fallen and we were in the Dark Ages. Western
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Dan Schwent
Aug 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: early-sf
Men go and come but the earth abides.

I picked up Earth Abides because it was one of the inspirations for Stephen King's The Stand and because I've been in a post-apocalyptic mood lately. Earth Abides didn't disappoint.

It grabs you from the start. Isherwood Williams (Ish), gets bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake just after discovering an old hammer in the desert. After days of suffering from the rattler's bite, Ish wakes up and no one else is around. The beginning reminde
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Veach Glines
Nov 14, 2009 rated it did not like it
If I were to teach an upper-level college writing class, I’d use this book as the foundation for my semester. Just as secret service agents need real, expertly crafted, counterfeit bills removed from circulation and brought into their classroom to learn how to identify bad paper, every writer needs a counterfeit novel that made it into circulation and received praise. Through deconstruction of this book, I could teach almost everything writers shouldn’t do.

Hundreds of places the auth
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Richard Derus
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: A disease of unparalleled destructive force has sprung up almost simultaneously in every corner of the globe, all but destroying the human race. One survivor, strangely immune to the effects of the epidemic, ventures forward to experience a world without man. What he ultimately discovers will prove far more astonishing than anything he'd either dreaded or hoped for.

My Review: Call him Isherwood. (Cause that's his name.) On a camping trip in the mountains, Ish gets bitten by a rattlefor.
Myfive
The
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Alice
Feb 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kemper
Nov 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
It comes across as a little dated. (When the hero sprays his pregnant wife's clothes with DDT because of flea concerns and it's considered a good thing, you gotta laugh.) But the core story holds up remarkably well.

Instead of the typical apocalyptic aftermath story with brave survivors fighting for survival, we get a small band of average people who would rather coast along by scrounging off the old world rather than trying to rebuild.

Stewart was doing a version of 'Life After Peopl
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Jim
Dec 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
I thought about giving this 5 stars as it is one of the best & earliest of the modern, serious apocalyptic SF novels. Written in 1949, it is a bit dated in some ways (the use of chemicals, lack of panic, & some equipment) but overall, it held up very well over the years. I don't agree with some of the specifics, but the story is not so much about specific technology, but about humanity & I think he presented a very interesting set of ideas.

If you're looking for action & adventur
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Stuart
Earth Abides: Not with a bang, but a contented sigh...
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature)
You may have heard of pastoral SF (ala Clifford Simak), and this book may be best classified as post-holocaust pastoral SF, perhaps even "bucolic SF" (similar books include Leigh Bracket's Long Tomorrow and Pat Frank's Alas Babylon). Civilization is wiped out by a mysterious and never-explained virus, but our intrepid protagonist Isherwood Williams ("Ish" to his buddies) makes the best of a primitive existence, fir
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Bob Ross
Nov 30, 2010 rated it it was ok
Picked this up because I heard this was the inspiration of Steven King's "The Stand". Written in 1949, it tells the story of a man named Ish that is one of the only survivors of a worldwide plague. Ish was based on Ishi, the last Indian who wondered out of the woods in the 1920's in California and was studied by Berkeley. Stewart taught at Berkeley so we see how he came up with this story.

I am puzzled why this is considered a classic and is so well reviewed, other than what I call "S
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Michelle Morrell
I started this book without a clear picture of when or where it was written, just knew it was "a classic." It started out with the stereotypical "lone survivor surveys the empty cities" scenes and moved on to a cross country jaunt to see what humanity survived. However, there was a scene where he came across a couple, a "negro" couple, whereupon he began to wonder if he should just stay there, become their master and have them provide for him. My first thought was "WTF?" My second was "When was ...more
Evan Leach
Earth Abides, written in 1949, has a reputation as a landmark science fiction novel. It made Locus Magazine’s list of Best All Time Science Fiction and was a major inspiration for The Stand. I know a number of people who really enjoyed this book, and my dislike for it certainly puts me in the minority. However, I was very disappointed by this one and found it to be a real slog.

In Earth Abides, a super virus nearly wipes out the human race in the late 1940s. Only a handful of survivors remain across the
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Amy
Apr 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everybody
No wonder this is a classic. It's a wonderful book. It's one of those books that tells a story with such a logical progression that it seems that anyone could have written it (but didn't). Yet, the wisdom this novel contains is the wisdom it takes the main character a lifetime to learn.

In the novel, a plague falls upon the earth, leaving behind a scant few survivors. Our hero, Ish, is one of the few survivors. One of his first inclinations is to travel across the US from California t
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Chris Dietzel
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was excellent and lived up to all the good things I've heard about it. I loved the zoological and sociological look at the apocalypse rather than the typical us-versus-them or zombie apocalypse scenarios you seem to find so much of these days. Stewart did a remarkable job of making the daily lives of a few survivors not only seem interesting and extremely realistic (important for it to be a good book) but also provided philosophical insights and morals of human nature (the difference for me ...more
Manny
Jan 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
In this pleasant, low-key post-apocalyptic classic, nearly all the human race has been wiped out by a mysterious disease. Yet, as the title suggests, the rest of the world continues and barely notices we're gone.

I was reminded of this novel the other day when a friend was telling me about her father's view of the future. He thinks our society is doomed, and that we're also inflicting incalculable harm on tens of thousands of other species. All the same, as she said, he doesn't consider that it'
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Daniel
Jun 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometime in the 10 days that it took me to read through this book, I decided that the title could be renamed to "Earth Bides"--as in the Earth bides its time, and so does George R. Stewart in his deliberate study of the decline of civilization following a world-wide plague. After a strong first part, Stewart's story dips into a depression of shallow character development and didactic storytelling. Agenda takes the fore, and Stewart's writing takes a manipulative turn as his character marionette ...more
Bookman143
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought-provoking post-apocalyptic novel

Not an action-packed book and even quaint by today's standards, Earth Abides is a widely recognized classic of the genre with good reason. It puts one in mind of the Universal monster movies of the thirties and forties--enjoyable as classics but not facing the more stark and brutal realities portrayed in stories from our current time. So judging it by the time in which it was written, it was probably a ground-breaking book. But I think it has been much
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Stephen
3.0 stars. George R. Stewart's post-apocalyptic science fiction classic. I came into this story with incredibly high expectations and I think that may have tainted my experience with the book. It was well written with some very beautiful and haunting moments, but in the end it just didn't hold my interest enough to rate it higher. Good, but not great.

Winner: International Science Fiction Award for Best Novel (1951)
Voted to Locus "All Time Best" Science Fiction Novels.
Melissa
Aug 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
I tried, but this book is too old fashioned for me. It reminds me of something Richard Matheson would write. The main character, Ish, drives me nuts. The women are all idiots according to him - but courageous, since they have the children, so that's okay! Apparently, after a plague wipes out nearly all of humanity, the difference between men & women can be summed up as: "She felt only in terms of the immediate, and was more interested in being able to spot her child's birthday than in all th ...more
J.M. Hushour
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"At least," he thought, "life is quieter."

One of the golden age sci-fi greats, an early (1949) stab at the non-existent genre of the post-apocalypse. This is such a hoary trope now that one would be forgiven for not getting excited to read yet another goddamn post-apocalypse novel. But this one far surpasses, like many older genre works do, the crap that gets tossed off these days.
Folks will be reminded much of Stephen King's The Stand whose first half is essentially a near-complete rip-
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Thomas
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Teens and Older
This is my favorite novel of all time. I first read the story way back when I was in high school, so I can recommend this to young readers.

The story may well be the first post-apocalyptic novel of its kind - I know of no others that have proceeded it and I do not count H.G. Wells' The Time Machine as in this category. Regardless, I consider this book to be the standard against which all other post-apocalyptic novels should be judged.

This is my favorite novel of all time. I first read the story way back when I was in high school, so I can recommend this to young readers.

The story may well be the first post-apocalyptic novel of its kind - I know of no others that have proceeded it and I do not count
H.G. Wells' The Time Machine as in this category. Regardless, I consider this book to be the standard against which all other post-apocalyptic novels should be judged.

George R. Stewart is well suited to write this book as he has a strong background in biology. He uses the premise of "what if the human race disappeared from the earth?" as one of the themes. Few survive the planet-wide plague that all be destroys humanity. Only a few survive and this is the tale of one of those people, from the days of the plague to his death (due to old age). It is a remarkable journey and well worth the read.
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Sher Free
Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book turned out to be both amazingly rewarding and incredibly exasperating, which is why I can’t make it a 5-star favorite even though I’m terribly tempted. Unfortunately, there was a huge chunk I really didn’t enjoy enough to justify doing that. Bear with me though because I just might change my mind. But before I get to the reasons why, anyone curious about reading Earth Abides should know that a good 2/3 to 3/4 was pretty much ALL observational narrative. Supposedly, although how could a ...more
Huan-hua
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of post-apocalyptic fiction
Recommended to Huan-hua by: book club
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dawn
Jan 31, 2014 rated it did not like it
I did not like this, Dawn I am.

Boring. Antiquated. Boring. Asshole character. Boring. Did I mention boring?

Nothing happens. Plot goes no where. Everyone dies on page one... And that's pretty much it. I have no idea what the point of the rest of the pages was.

Main character, Ich, was a pompous douche. I get that it's partially a matter of the time period the book takes place in, but it's also partially a matter of him being a know it all full of himself dick.

A
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Peggy
Jun 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I don't read much science fiction but both my sister and a library friend recommended it. Wow! Not what I was expecting. It was written in 1949 the year I was born and was awarded the first International Fantasy Award. Imagine that most of Earth's population has been wiped out by an unknown virus. The main character, Isherwood "Ish" Williams, is one of the survivors and his emotional and physical journey is full of hope for himself a small group of men and women.

It took me a short while to get
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Wayne Barrett
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Men go and come, but the Earth abides."

I couldn't help but conjure images of the Norse God, Thor, as Ish carried his hammer throughout the story and slowly came to be idolized by the following generations who followed. I can see how this apocalyptic tale inspired Stephen King to write 'The Stand'.

This book is a dated piece of fiction, but whether taking place in 1949 or in present day, one thing holds true, regardless of mans evolution and technology it could all come crashing down
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Mur Lafferty
Nov 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
I am a couple hours into the audiobook, and annoyed that Ish is kind of a dick. I understand the book will reflect the thinking of the time, but that doesn't make me enjoy the sexist writing any more (this is why I have trouble with classic SF). beyond that, Ish doesn't seem to really mourn the world, he keeps a detached and scholarly view of everything. he abandons a drunk because he doesn't want a companion of that ilk, then feels little remorse when he finds the man dead of alcohol poisoning. ...more
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very unique story in the genre of post-apocalyptic type novels, Earth Abides looks at the story of one man who survives a world-wide outbreak of a lethal plague. Instead of the hard-core nuts and bolts of survival, you get a somewhat idealistic view here, which, to me, makes this novel different than anything I've read in this genre. Quite good; I would recommend it if you're into this kind of stuff.

brief summary; no spoilers
Isherwood (Ish) Williams is alone at a mountain cab
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George Rippey Stewart was an American toponymist, a novelist, and a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. He is best known for his only science fiction novel Earth Abides (1949), a post-apocalyptic novel, for which he won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. It was dramatized on radio's Escape and inspired Stephen King's The Stand .

His 1941 novel Storm , featuring
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“Men go and come, but earth abides.” 18 likes
“The trouble you're expecting never happens; it's always something that sneaks up the other way.” 13 likes
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