Friday, May 5, 2017

Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart

Earth Abides, a 1949 post-apocalyptic novel written by George R. Stewart, is by turns fascinating and boring, long winded and action packed.  In this uneven novel, a plague has wiped out humanity, and Isherwood Williams, a naturalist holed up in a cabin, survives.  Ish becomes the new Adam (and ish in Hebrew means man) and works, by fits and starts, to once again create civilization.

Ish can be annoying.  He is fascinated by first principles, when he really should be galvanizing his energy toward practical work.  Others join him in a community humorously called The Tribe.  The name takes on greater significance later. Stewart’s post-apocalyptic community is relatively calm, given the genre; it is largely free from disease, strife, and want.  In fact, Ish worries that the abundance of the previous world, all the cans of food in supermarkets in the Bay area, for instance, will hobble The Tribe.

By the end, Ish is the last member of what the thousand or so progeny of The Tribe call the Old Ones.  He is treated as a god.  Members pinch him for good luck, and ask him questions as if he was an oracle.  Ish is satisfied with The Tribe.  A group of young men, untroubled and stalwart, become the new leaders of humanity.  The message is clear: people have had a severe setback, but they are undaunted.  

No comments:

Post a Comment