Wednesday, March 9, 2011

SciFi Challenge/Book of Choice: Earth Abides

A friend recommended Earth Abides by George R. Stewart to me and since I want to read more SciFi this year anyway, I gave it a go.
Ish, a young man is on vacation on a remote spot in California and by the time he notices that he hasn't seen any other human for weeks, the apocalypse is already over and mankind is pretty much extinct after a disease rapidly spread. Ish makes his way to New York and back, meeting a few peolpe on the way and finally settles down in his parents house in San Fransisco again, with a woman and later their children and other people - The Tribe.

What struck me most is how calmly the book is told. The years pass and even dramatic changes are accepted and become part of the daily life. It's a meditation on society, customs and traditions. There are no The Stand-like showdowns or Walking Dead-like drama, all that has already passed. But there is the gentle and slow developement of a new culture that turns away from the society is came from. Much is lost, knowledge and traditions, but new things are discovered.

I also liked the theme of population collapses, explored in the book with the example of cats, rats, ants, cattle, corn, wheat and other common animals and plants. Of course the human race is just another population that has collapsed.

The book was written in 1949, but it's very hard to find that out just by reading the text. There are some hints (no cellphones, the fact that Ish easily gets cans of DDT when the ants become a pest), but on the whole, the book is timeless.

I've had my own theme of post-apocalyptic books over the last few weeks and Earth Abides is one of the best. The theme "Men go and come, but earth abides" is very comforting and I'm sure that I will re-read the book a lot. I was listening to the Tron: Legacy soundtrack by Daft Punk while reading it and the two will stay connected in my mind, the music somehow fits the book very well.
I bought the SF Masterworks edition and I play to buy more from that series, there are some great books there and the editions ar fairly cheap.

This is my fourth book for the Science Fiction Challenge

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