Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Normally I make it a point to keep my reviews free of spoilers, but with this I just couldn’t. There were too many going-ons that need to be revealed. Even if you haven’t read the book, I think you should still read this review – I don’t really care if I spoil it. I don’t wish this book upon anyone.
Call me an uncultured swine but I think this book is dirt. It’s one of those stories where the main character has too much damn self-knowledge. We as readers just sit there and watch as the main dude knows everything about himself and everyone else. The reader doesn’t get to figure out anything on her/her own. Instead we have to watch Ish-the-Magnificent watch everything around him. This, in theory, may be interesting except the man never changes. He just thinks the same obnoxious things over and over again.
I kept trying to speed the audiobook up to x2 so I could get through it faster but the narrator sounded so silly I had to turn back down. I never felt anything and was,therefore, bored. Society goes to pieces and I calmly read on. I don’t care because the protagonist doesn’t care. He’s so stoic and thinks through everything without a shred of emotion. For crying out loud, Ish’s parents are dead, Ish’s KID dies, there’s a massive plague that wipes out his favorite son and other UNNAMED CHILDREN, and he just doesn’t care. It’s insane and infuriating.
Even with that aside, let’s just say that’s just how the main character is. I thought I was going to rip out my hair on two main points…
1) The Society (or lack-thereof) – What is this insistence that everyone else is stupid and that no one in his little tribe would care about anything, ever? The idea that this group of people would raise a whole family of children and only Ish, over the course of 21 years, would have the idea to teach them anything at all is stupid and offensive. No one thought learning to read was a good idea? You don’t have to be a magnificent scholar believe in education and history and society. The concept that this group of people could just lie around for years and years and do NOTHING – no hunting, no planting, no improvements, nothing is the most unrealistic thing I have ever heard.
I know this sounds dramatic but, according to the protagonist, he is the only person out of a group of about 30 or so people who think that reading and writing are valuable.
Dumb. Just dumb.
2) Just Die Already – The last however-many pages where Ish is an old man by myself? I was listening by audiobook and I swear for the last half hour of the book I was certain he was going to kick off and he never did. It was agony. I just didn’t care.
There was about 50 pages near the end where I thought maybe, just maybe this book would earn two stars. But the ending dissolved that completely.
I think I should probably stop here – I have so much I can rant about (somehow these supposedly uber-lazy people managed to train dog teams to drive sleds around the city? I just- I can’t- just no. The impossibility of such a thing is straight up laughable).
My final word? Unless you’re just aching for some faux, boring as all hell philosophy just stay far away from this book.