Tagra's Reviews > Earth Abides

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
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it was ok
bookshelves: post-apocalyptic, ugh

The Final Word: A resounding "meh". The first part was boring, the second part was stocked with characters I hated, or characters with no personality (which I hated), who all made dumbass, arrogant decisions that made me hate them... and the third part was just fine, but not quite enough to redeem everything else. The third part is *almost* the book that I WANTED to read, showing humanity solving problems and adapting to the changes in the world. Instead, the entire book focuses on a bunch of ungrateful whiners who refuse to get off their ass and do anything, and somehow succeed anyway thanks to amazing engineering. Seriously, I think my city has more technical problems with things that *are* maintained than these guys have over the course of 50 years with things that are completely and utterly forgotten about. It would have been nice if they were at least shown trying to maintain things. Then they would have at least been problem solving something... instead, (view spoiler)

I wish I could give it 1.5. Starring it "I didn't like it" would be accurate, but I think it deserves a bit more than 1 star, if only because it's interesting to see a precursor to the more modern day post-apocalyptic stories.

The rest of my review follows, which was pieced together as I went.

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I'm half way through now but I'm going to start writing my review anyway.

I was pretty excited to read this book. I love post apocalyptic stuff, I love survival stuff, and I even like "The World Without Us" stuff. This fits the bill perfectly!

The disaster happens and Ish wanders around until he realizes that serious shit went down, and then he has a moment where he's like "Well, I like to observe things. I'm going to observe this!"

And that is pretty much the first half of the book. It plods along as he drives from place to place and observes what happens when things aren't maintained. Some of it is interesting, but we now have books that do a much better job of it (like, "The World Without Us"...). There is literally no other plot. I kept waiting for something to happen, but the most interesting thing was the discovery of Princess, and even that was described in an outsider-style "Hmm this dog's behaviour suggests..." sort of way.

There was never a point where he was really in any sort of danger, or anything tense happened. He panicked about driving through a desert and starts stockpiling backup plans, lest something go wrong... and then just as he gets started doing that he goes "Well fuck it, I should be dead anyway" and so much for that.

And then he goes home. End the first half of the book.

The second half has some interactions with actual characters, but perhaps that is a generous description of them because there hasn't been any building of personality. I just finished "The Quick Years" and they certainly were quick. It was practically a bullet point list of 15 years worth of happenings which read like "This happened. Then this person showed up. Then babies were born. Then this person died. Then this happened."
There were some opportunities for interesting things in those years, like the plagues of rats and grasshoppers, the various illnesses they dealt with, what to do if someone was injured... but instead it was more stand-offish observation narration which completely fails to get the reader involved emotionally. I was more emotionally invested in the grasshopper plague described in Little House on the Prairie than I was in this book's description of the decimation of possibly the only garden on the entire planet.

The characters are continually spared of anything interesting. The rest of the city crumbles around them but oh hey, they found someone who's a carpenter so their houses weren't touched, even by earthquakes. They just observe everything else happening, never really getting involved themselves. There is no survival in this post apocalyptic world (They even have a never ending supply of canned food and medicine, thanks to being in a city), other than the occasional offhanded mentions of "This character that was introduced a sentence or two ago and never had an opportunity to gain a personality has died. Gosh look how dangerous things are!" (Hmm I wonder if they were wearing red shirts...)

Perhaps it is to this book's credit that I am still interested despite that, but I feel like it could be so much more.

Starting in on the second half now. This review may be updated if things change!
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In the second half, things start to break down and everyone spends their time whining about it, refusing to do anything about it, or whining about how everyone refuses to do anything about it. (While also refusing to actually do anything about it because, well, no one else is so why should I!)

I really dislike arrogance, and that is one of the best words to describe the majority of these characters. Ish is arrogant about how much smarter he is than everyone else and laments how there will be no smart people left when he dies. Yet he doesn't particularly want to encourage anyone else to use his precious libraries, either. "His ego was not above being pleased with the belief that he was a demi-god. Was this a way to treat a demi-god?" fuuuccck you. Whenever he starts ranting about how no one will think of the future, everyone interrupts him with ironic clapping. Arrogance. Splashes of good old fashioned misogyny and prejudice (appropriate for the time I suppose) mixed in for flavour too, whenever they declare how inferior women are or how the dim witted shouldn't be breeding.

Maybe it's a deliberate anti-humanity statement, in which case it's effective because none of the characters are likable and I am rooting for them all to hurry up and die so the Earth can cover their corpses in Kudzu or something.

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Annnd done. Whew! Part three was better, mostly because everyone I disliked was dead, and Ish was too senile to be an arrogant ass. He still managed a bit, though. The outcomes were more believable and it was nice to see some of humanity not portrayed as dipshit elitists. It's unfortunate I had to wade through the rest of it to get here, though.

The final part of the book, after the next generation takes over and becomes a hunter gatherer society, is the book I would have WANTED to read. Unfortunately it's a footnote tacked onto the end of the story of the group of whiny assholes who sat around eating canned food and bitching that they have to dig outhouse pits and take care of the girl who has a mental deficiency. Disappointing, although I do have to admit I am impressed that Stewart portrayed the subtle changes in mannerisms and tribal behaviours in a realistic manner, given when the book was written.
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Reading Progress

May 3, 2012 – Shelved
June 1, 2012 – Started Reading
June 2, 2012 –
0.0% "It was recommended as the inspiration for The Stand, but so far it reminds me more of I Am Legend. Except without a plot. I think it's going to pick up soon though. I hope."
June 7, 2012 –
45.0% "everyone in this story seems to be an asshole or an idiot. I kind of hope they hurry up and die out. maybe that's the point of this book :P"
June 8, 2012 –
67.0% "struggling to not quit reading. why won't they all die?"
June 8, 2012 –
75.0% "wow, someone new shows up and is kind to the mentally challenged girl and the response is to literally bar the girl in a bedroom while confronting the guy about how they don't want any half witted "brats" being born. and I think its intended seriously, not as some kind of literary statement. jeeze"
June 8, 2012 –
76.0% "ahaha and then they solve everything by killing him. excellent. this fucking book, man..."
June 8, 2012 –
77.0% "and justify it by saying he didn't have a soul. if there is deeper meaning it's being lost under the absurdity of it all"
June 8, 2012 –
88.0% "and when the mentally challenged ones die they specifically state she didn't matter and no one remembers her. harsh"
June 8, 2012 – Shelved as: post-apocalyptic
June 8, 2012 – Shelved as: ugh
June 8, 2012 – Finished Reading

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