My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have a PhD in divinity, have taught and published on the Roman and Ottoman Empires, and have conducted anthropological research throughout four continents. This book challenged me in all of these areas.
Let me first say that the book is not dated. There is a certain timelessness to it that the greatest books have–I think of The Lord of the Rings and Lord of the Flies. Indeed, I kept on going back to meta-metaphor of the hammer in Earth Abides in relation to Piggy’s glasses in Lord of the Flies.
But this book touched me on a deeper level: I am like Ish. I am the kind of person who is always asking. Or as one former girlfriend asked me a long time ago: don’t you ever stop thinking? Like Ish, I cannot.
This book is set apart from other ‘end of the world’ books, like Lucifer’s Hammer or The Stand, in that it extends decades beyond the apocalypse, which in this book is a plague which eliminates very close to 100% of humanity. While those other books focus on the preservation of technology, this book gets to the primordial question: is civilization better than primitivism? Does reason, and so science, and so applied science–technology–make life better? What is progress? Is it, in fact, good?
Enjoy the audio book version I listened to. It is narrated by Jonathan Davis and he does this masterfully. The language is refreshingly clean, so let your children listen too while you’re on a trek from, say, San Antonio (where I live) to Denver (where my dad lives).
I will, in closing, note that the main character’s name is Isherwood, but he is always called ‘Ish’. It is a Hebrew word. It means ‘man’.