George R. Stewart – Earth Abides

Title: Earth Abides
Author: George R. Stewart
Year: 1949

I think that if I had read a summary of Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, I would probably never have got around to reading the actual book. In essence, it’s a classic post-apocalyptic novel with few or no original ideas (this might be partly due to its age, but that merely explains why rather than solve the problem). It’s separated into three major parts, all focused on the same character, Ish, and how he survives and in some regards also thrives after the epidemic-induced catastrophe that has befallen mankind. This allows the author to cover a wider perspective than most similar books, which is both a blessing and a curse.

The problem with Earth Abides is that it too much a description of what happens after the end of civilisation as we know it, and not much of a novel. There are interesting smaller stories and some characters, but as a complete novel it doesn’t really work at all. Stewart’s language is adequate to describe what’s going on, but is far from good enough to be enjoyable on its own.

Still, I don’t think Earth Abides is as bad as it might have sounded up to this point in the review. The final part adds some interesting themes as Ish grows old and starts thinking about and re-evaluating his role in the new society. Here I found something genuinely interesting that added perhaps one snail to the overall rating. However, the book itself is too simple, too unoriginal to deserve more than two and a half snails.

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  1. Xhakhal’s avatar

    Would one miss out on any good ideas by reading the last part and skipping the first two? I think the ‘growing old in new society’ sounds interesting and if not unique then at least a bit underrated overall, but the other two parts… doesn’t sound as fun.

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    1. Olle Linge’s avatar

      I think you could get away with reading summaries of the two first parts and then reading the last in its entirety. Between each part is a gap, usually many, many years, so although characters remain, there aren’t too many references to past events. Give it a try, I think it should be okay.

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      1. Xhakhal’s avatar

        Okay! Thanks.

        Reply