Earth Abides, Paperback
4.5 out of 5 (6 ratings)


In this profound ecological fable, a mysterious plague has destroyed the vast majority of the human race. Isherwood Williams, one of the few survivors, returns from a wilderness field trip to discover that civilization has vanished during his absence. Eventually he returns to San Francisco and encounters a female survivor who becomes his wife.

Around them and their children a small community develops, living like their pioneer ancestors, but rebuilding civilization is beyond their resources, and gradually they return to a simpler way of life.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Science fiction
  • ISBN: 9781857988215



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Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.

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Review by

I love the post-apolcalyptic genre; I grew up reading books like the Tripods trology and Day of the Triffids. Having recently been disappointed with _A Canticle for Leibowitz_ I wasn't looking forward to this classic SF story... but I'm glad I read it. Truly marvellous, and showing other books in the genre as mere wannabes. I still have a soft spot in my heart for Triffids, but _Earth Abides_ is the real deal.

Review by

This book chronicles the experiences of Isherwood Williams, who returns home from a research trip in the mountains to find that humanity has all but died out from a mysterious disease. Banding together with a few other survivors, he tries to survive in the ruins of civilization, while dreaming of one day rebuilding it.I quite enjoyed this book. While I was not overly fond of the main character, as I found him a bit too arrogant and inefficient, the story as a whole was quite interesting. I should admit that my ambivalence towards Ish might come from being hit a bit too close to home, though.I particularly enjoyed the little segments on what happened to the things Man left behind, the plants and animals and constructions. Especially in the first segment of the book, these observations on how the natural world would change without people there to keep it in the mould we've built for it, were much more fascinating than Ish himself. Possibly, the author thought so too, as the first part of the book is mostly Ish driving around to observe the effects of the calamity, rather than taking any active part in events. In the second segment, when Ish and some other survivors have banded together to form their little tribe, these little asides become rarer, but it doesn't matter much, as the formation of the new society becomes the interesting part. The books characters aren't really all that much to shout about, many of them can be described in a single word, and several of them never get any more characteristics beyond a name. At this point, the story is much more about the character of the emerging society than of its individual members. It is really only Ish and his wife who are more than background, yet it is the background that is interesting, the rites and customs that emerge in the little tribe, like the New Year ritual they develop. As the survivors age, the tribe becomes numerically dominated by their children, who never knew the old world, and who have original ways of seeing the past. The reverence they have for Ish's hammer, which has acted as a sort of safety blanket for him, was a touch I really liked.Overall, I wish we had seen more of the culture and mythology of the tribe, especially in the third part of the book, when Ish is old and dying as the last of the Americans, and the tribe consists entirely of people who have never known any life but the one they lead. Since Ish is the focus point, and at this point in the story, apparently senile, we get only fleeting glimpses. I would dearly have loved to see the story continue beyond where it ended, to have a look at the new world when the old was truly gone.Overall, this story is enjoyable chiefly for its plot, rather than its characters. The plot is very interesting, and while the characters might not be the most developed personalities, they do not detract from the enjoyment. It was well worth the read.

Review by

Okay, 99.9% of the world's population die of an unexplained plague so it's not what you'd normally call cosy, but a cosy catastrophe in this case is one that allows the catastrophe to have rather benign effects on the person suffering it, which this certainly does. Ish's exploration of his new world is effectively at one remove from the events that have happened - this is presented as a side effect of Ish's character.The presentation of the society that evolves out of Ish and the rest of the survivors is a delightful part of the book.

Review by

An outstanding book, probably one of the best I've ever read. This one will be added to that core group of books I'll never, ever get rid off and will periodically return to read again. It's a thought-provoking story of the end of the world, written in 1949 but incredibly pertinent. It's a little dated when discussing social issues (women, coloured people) but other than that it stands the test of time extremely well.What I loved about it is how Stewart discusses the effects of time and the lack of human involvement upon the natural world. Other end-of-the-world stories I've read focus on what would happen to the people, but very little on the way the world itself would adjust to the absence of humanity. This aspect makes it an even more pertinent book to be read in the present day.Get it, read it, fall in love with it. A great book

Review by

Intelligent, intense and poignant (even if did pull me out of the narrative more than a few times with its 1948 attitudes to gender and race). Definitely worthy of being included in the SF Masterworks series.

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