Book Reviews of Earth Abides

Earth Abides
Earth Abides
Author: George R. Stewart
ISBN-13: 9780449213018
ISBN-10: 0449213013
Publication Date: 9/12/1986
Pages: 352
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.

3.9 stars, based on 84 ratings
Publisher: Fawcett
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

29 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Earth Abides on
Helpful Score: 6
I am a fan of post-apocalyptic literature, but this one sits high on my list. EARTH ABIDES is not the punked-out, mad-ass-dash for gasoline and mutant-freak battles one might be used to with this genre.

True post-apocalyptic literature isn't as much about the disaster as it is about the people who survive the cataclysm, and more, how they live and cope. That said, EARTH ABIDES fits the bill nicely, moreso than any other I have read.

George R. Stewart looks at the survival of mankind from an ecological and sociological viewpoint. What would it take for man to survive near-destruction from plague? Should they rebuild, or reform society? Is regression preferable to progression in this brave new world? There are many such questions posed throughout, and the absolute joy of this book is that all of them aren't the answers we want.

Get this book, read it, give it to someone else. Only do it FAST.
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Helpful Score: 4
Earth Abides is a classic post-apocalyptic tale about what might be and what might happen after humanity has been visited by a great plague, killing most of the humans. Although written in 1949 George R. Stewart knew how to implement what scientist already knew all those years ago.

He describes how young Isherwood Williams, also called Ish, survived a snake bite which might have conquered the greater disease that had fallen upon him and saved his life.
The young student soon learns that he isn't alone left in what he knew as civilization. He travels through the U. S. now and then finding survivors who were either under shock and crazy or hostile against him. Sometimes it was even him who feared them. He sees how fast nature takes but men took from it a long time ago.
Domestic animals vanish or become hostile. Whole animal species seem to vanish overnight while other thrived from what men left. Insects and rats without boundaries overrushing towns destroying what's eatable and vanishing when the resources are eaten. What's left are cans and bottles and other goods that aren't eatable.

Getting back to his hometowm he meets Emma and in an desperate attempt for love and ending the loneliness they become a couple and later a family. With the months passing more people enter the little community, bearing children who bear children.

The community grows and with it the thoughts about future and what might become of Ish's children and their children. During his whole lifespan Ish tries to teach them how to read without understanding that the new generation isn't interested in reading and knowledge but likes the careless life they life, indulging what is left of a civilization they never knew, slowly learning to adapt to the world they know.


Sometime in the beginning of this year I saw a documentation on the history channel which was named Life After People that pretty much described with impressing pictures what happens to what's left of the civilization we know today.
Earth Abides is just one example of how things might go on if there are people left capable to go on.
A plot that can't be outdated, at least not yet, but nevertheless gives impressions and lots of thoughts.
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Helpful Score: 2
A fantastic book about a plague that almost wipes out mankind. Set in the late 1940s early 1950s. Excellent read.
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Helpful Score: 1
This book is as relevant now as it was when written in 1949. An excellent insight into the human race and the ability to survive and thrive.
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Helpful Score: 1
AMAZING book. A little bit old-fashioned in the way the main character thinks and acts, but still really great. Good book for fans of "On the Beach" or similar.
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Helpful Score: 1
This was one of the most memorable books I ever read, I read it for Jerry Williams' Geography class in 1979. Stewart has been called the inventor of the Ecological Novel, since it is about what happens to the environment (of the world in general, of the East Bay around Berkeley in particular) after humans all but disappear.
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Helpful Score: 1
Hard to believe this was written in 1949. An End of the World vision that is truly timeless!
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Helpful Score: 1
I don't generally enjoy the sci-fi genre, so take my review with a grain of salt.

Focusing on the overall message of the book, I greatly enjoyed Stewart's illustration of how the social, philosophical, and ideological are affected through generations as his characters' world is restructured after The Great Disaster. The Americans (whom were those who lived before and after The Great Disaster) understood the practices and traditions of old, but their way of living was slowly lost as they died off ('extinction' is an accurate descriptor), causing the ideas of modern civilization to regress into something more tribal. It was quite interesting to watch those ideas and traditions organically warp and adapt to something more practical for a life without paved roads, running water, modern education, etc.

The details of the book weren't as enjoyable and most of them were quite unbelievable. I found the protagonist entirely unlikeable with his sexist, misogynist, grandiose and superior view of himself in relation to the other survivors, which is exacerbated by the two-dimensionality of ALL of the other characters. I found it entirely absurd that 20 years after The Great Disaster, there is still running water and edible canned goods with no focused attempt to learn to farm, hunt or gather. Because of these things, I found long stretches of the book to be tedious and unbearable and I would have loved to see it shortened by 100 pages or so.

My grievances aside, being the first (or one of the first) in an ENTIRE GENRE is an impressive accolade and I am glad to have (finally!) read it... and also GOOD RIDDANCE!
reviewed Earth Abides on + 149 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
As an avid fan of apocalyptic and post apocalyptic fiction, and very well read in the genre, I can highly recommend this book as one of the best.
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Helpful Score: 1
Fabulous book, I'm a huge apocalyptic fiction fan (atom bomb baby!), this is right up there at the top of the pile of this sort of literature, right next to "The Last Ship".
reviewed Earth Abides on
Helpful Score: 1
As I read this book I remembered I read it in the 70's part of the golden age of SF, I didn't exactly remember the end, but it's so well written and fully developed, I wouldn't have cared. Tho written in 1949 it is very current to today's world, and not at all dated. He has deep insight into the nature of mankind and of the average individual and how they might face such a disaster. It is refreshingly free of violence, and horror and makes the reader ponder more deeply our connection to our manmade world....One of my favorite SF books of all time, partly because the writing is of a caliber that I seldom see anymore, not an extra word or misstep in the whole book.
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This is an awesome book! It kept me riveted from start to finish. I really cared about the main characters and I could see myself in their shoes post-plague. This is a good one!
reviewed Earth Abides on
This was a decent post-apocalyptic story. It was a little slow in some places, and a little vague in others, but the story pulls through and you're there until the end, with the character. It starts where the main character wonders out of the forest after being there for some time, to a world where there are no people, cars are parked everywhere and where electricity starts going out. A virus has wiped out most of the population, leaving few. In his journey the main character finds people, some come to him and he discovers the extent of the destruction. He forms his own little community and the tale continues as generation after generation are born and he tries to hold onto what once was.
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Written in 1947, it's sort of the story of Ishi in reverse. Mostly takes place in the East Bay (San Francisco Bay)
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This is pretty dated,it was written in 1947 but it was a good read. I don't know why the author thought that the electricity and water would stay on for so many years, wishful thinking I guess, but all in all it was worth reading.
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great post-apocalyptic book!
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Great apocalyptic read - I read it for a science fiction lit course, but it's a perfectly good read for the beach, too!
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I really enjoyed this book. An interesting look at a possible future for earth. Nice twist that it is set in the Bay Area.
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This book is about a futuristic world ravaged by plague and struggling with hope.
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In reading this book from a 2016 point of reference, one has to keep in mind at all times that this novel was written in 1949....before television but during radio. Social mores were far different 60+ years ago, technology vastly different. So I tried to read it from a 1949 point of view with a blind eye toward more modern ideas. My attention was immediately captured by a Biblical quote on the title page, "Men go and come, but earth abides." (Ecclesiastes 1:4). This really sums up the book. Earth Abides tells the story of the fall of civilization from deadly disease and mankind's struggle to rebuild. Whole populations are wiped out. With such a severe shortage of highly educated, highly skilled people, will man be able to rebuild what he had before? Without the care and nurturing of man, how will his near-total absence affect the animals/natural world he controlled? The author wants us to consider that survival is not necessarily of the fittest and civilization may or not be rebuilt based on the skill sets of the people who survived. Will man move forward toward a technological civilization or backward in time to the hunter-gatherer society of ancestors? These are pretty hefty ideas to chew on, moreso because of being written in the late 40s. When you read it, don't get hung up on the l940's language. Go beyond that to the underlying message that, as above, "Men go and come, but earth abides."
Overall, I enjoyed this book, which I had read before about 30 years ago. I can overlook a lot of differences because it was written so long ago, but one thing that bothered me was.....where did all the dead people go? If almost everyone is wiped out, there should be piles and piles of dead bodies. Ish (the main character) does encounter areas where there are dead people but not in the numbers that a plague would necessarily leave behind. Other than that, I recommend Earth Abides to anyone who appreciates post-apocolyptic fiction with a slightly archaic flavor.
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A classic book by George Rippey Stewart, an American historian, toponymist, novelist, and a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. Earth Abides is a post-apocalyptic novel written in 1949. It won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. Mr Stewart also wrote another great book, Pickett's Charge in 1959 (a detailed history of the final attack at Gettysburg, it was called "essential for an understanding of the Battle of Gettysburg".), among others. He is a history professor with excellent writing skills and winner of many awards. I also recommend his Ordeal by Hunger about the Donner Party. His scholarly works on the poetic meter of ballads (published under the name George R. Stewart, Jr.), beginning with his 1922 Ph.D. dissertation at Columbia, remain important in their field. Read his Wikipedia entry. His professional history is interesting proving often that he could write as a professional and an author.
This story draws you in with it's frequent explorations of the impact of an apocalyptic pandemic and how the world's ecosystem adjusts. The characters are very well done, the story credible and the action just enough to keep you entranced by Ish's adventures. A few revelations open your eyes like "Wow, didn't see that coming". It can get kind of deep as you become lost in Ish's fog of his thinking,but it is a great story about mankind's recovery from this disaster and how that might happen. Sleepy's review above describes the story very well.
I highly recommend this book!
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Originally written in 1949, this was one of the first "post-apocolyptic" novels. I read it for a college course in 1980, I have vivid memories of it. The author was a professor of Geography at UC Berkeley, and the main character was a geography student, so the insights of the author/main character resonate with me. Later editions of the book were edited, because a major sub-plot was whether after civilization was destroyed the white middle class main character would hook up with a woman of color.
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Started out slow. Continued slow. Im a big fan of the post end of the world genre, but this book put me to sleep. I dont see how it received all of its rave reviews through time. The characters were not very likable and the knowledge gleaned from the story was useless. (Keep in mind I try to gain a useful bit of survival knowledge from each of these books I read)
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A must read for any post-apocalyptic junkie. It stands the test of time. Also great for SF-Bay Area lit heads.
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Very good book
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Really interesting look at post apocolyptic america from the point of view of a loner.
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Read this in middle school and it really stuck with me. I decided to read it again 20+ years later and really enjoyed it.
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Hmmm, if my calculations are correct, the final pages of this story are due to take place this October, even though it was written in 1949.
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This is the worst post-apocolyptic book I've read, and I have read several. This is supposed to be one of the first books written on the topic, as it was written in 1949. As such, the dialog is odd and difficult to follow, and the book is definitely dated (for example, Ish turns on the radio and has to wait on the tubes to warm up). I made it about half way through the book before putting it down and posting it here. There is way too much self reflection by the main character. I was looking for more storyline and action. In my opinion, this doesn't compare to books like The Cell or I Am Legend.