My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The main strength of this book is that it is beautifully written. One really feels like he is fishing or flying with the protagonist.
The weaknesses are substantial. The plot moves along very slowly. If you are glad to enjoy beautiful prose without much action, this book is for you. If you like apocalypse and action, check out Lucifer’s Hammer.
It is difficult to envision a post-apocalyptic setting like this without a person–especially a literature man like our protagonist–reflecting rather deeply on the question of God and the ultimate (or primordial) nature of humanity. But aside from a brief narrative about meeting a fundamentalist, anti-Semitic Christian on a ski lift, there is almost nothing. I relished the brief reflections on Ecclesiastes in Earth Abides, not to say anything of brilliant, devastating theological tome A Canticle for Leibowitz. Heller was capable of more.
While the book does end with a slight hint of hope, what we are waiting for is new life from his new Eve. Why does the author not provide this? Is he so negative about the nature of humanity? Is it his way of promulgating the late modern narrative that one can be happy while denying their biological drive to procreate? The same late modernity that led to the near-eradication of humanity, I would note.
The book was worthy of my time. It represented to me a slow induction into the uncertainty and precariousness of existence in Heller’s wasteland. The loneliness is palpable. The depravity of Heller’s demonic humanity is painful. He reveals to us the paradox of the human state: our profound depravity and our ability to venture forth in humble heroics. But he fails to even humbly suggest an explanation.