EARTH ABIDES by George Stewart


Email this review


A contrived and unsatisfactory novel, with an idea that offers endless possibilities, but -- as developed here- reaches a dead end of futility and anti-climax.... A geographer, isolated from civilization on a project, escapes the onslaught of a plague that wipes out most of humanity in a twinkling. In part, his immunity seems due to the counter-irritant of a rattlesnake bite and its treatment, and he escapes with a violent but brief illness, which sends him back to what he thinks of as civilization- in the vicinity of Oakland, California, where he finds himself almost sole survivor in an empty world. A few have escaped- but nothing binds them together at first. A cross-continental trip convinces him that the situation is at any rate nationwide. And that nowhere is there any effort at organization, at doing anything to lay foundations of rebuilding for the future. A tiny nucleus gathers with Ish and his ""wife"" as focal points, the wife whose color proved- in the face of the holocaust -- a matter of no importance, whose strength and balance and quietness were what counted. Year succeeds year; intermarriage produces offspring; they live on the enormous accumulation of canned goods, on the products of the old times, and postpone continually taking any thought for the morrow. Even the idea of schooling seems meaningless, and only in Ish's youngest, Joey, is there a spark of intellectual curiosity. Joey learns to read -- even to use the library -- and then Joey dies when failure of the reservoir breeds typhoid. The story in studied pattern unrolls the static years; no spark of genius, even of curiosity, reverses the process of deterioration, acceptance of a slothful inactivity. Even a trip to Chicago, achieved with considerable excitement, fails to charge that dying spark. And Ish himself succumbs to old age and the acceptance of the negligible value of humanity and its achievements. Humorless and rather pedestrian, this is a disappointing novel.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1949
ISBN: 0345487133
Publisher: Random House