September 30th, 2006

Relax!  Grab a Book!

42 of 50

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  1. Dick, Philip K. — A Scanner Darkly
  2. Stewart, George R. — Earth Abides

Earth Abides is a remarkable book! Stewart possesses a keen mind and vivid imagination. He creates his premise and outcomes with convincing attention to detail and a subtle understanding of scientific processes. The result is extremely thought-provoking and absorbing.

Now, despite the presence of straightforward enough plot, this book's worth lies not so much in the story it tells as in the observations the main character, Ish, makes about the changes in the world about him. The plot does, in fact, lag a bit in places. After all, we hardly encounter anyone other than Ish for the first hundred pages, so around page 90 I started to think, "Okay, I get the point, civilization has been wiped out." But Stewart recovers from this in short order, shifting from a biological and ecological to a psychological and anthropological perspective.

This is where the book shines. Ish had been a doctoral student when the Great Disaster hit. Thus, he had been trained to study and observe. We get treated first to his observations of a world that tries to cope without man exerting his influence on the environment and then to observations of a small community of survivors as they adapt, evolve, and survive. Some of his discoveries are quite surprising, things we might overlook but are completely plausible or even likely given such a premise. Above all, this is an honest book. There is no MacGyver-like hero come to save civilization with, say, a corkscrew, a rubber band, and a hammer—although a hammer does figure prominently in the story. Instead, Stewart gives us a fascinating appraisal of what might happen to the world if mandkind were effectively removed from the equation.