Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book Review: Earth Abides

I was tipped off to this book by a reader's home page. I had never heard of it before.

I bought it, and it sat on the side table, till Mr. Smak picked it up. Mr. Smak and I have very different reading preferences. I'm trying to remember a book that we both enjoyed....probably the last one was the Harry Potter series. He enjoys nonfiction, histories and science, which for me is the equivalent of eating a pound of saltines on the thirstiest day of my life. And he certainly doesn't enjoy my genre, which I guess I'd describe as fiction focused on character development.

He didn't put it down. I therefore, expected not to care for it much. Which was not the case.

Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart, is one of those books that if you asked 10 people what it was about, you'd get 10 different answers. It's a post-apocalyptic novel about a man in America after almost everyone is wiped out by disease. But that's not what it's about.

For Mr. Smak it was a survival novel, and prompted him to purchase a few fun and geeky items so that he's more prepared when the world ends.

For me, it was about humanity's need to understand it's world. The protagonist, Ish, was a man of rationality, education, science. I identified with him, with his world view. But his eventual society did not, and they needed a construct with which to deal with the world.

This message is very much where my thought process around religion is landing of late. We all need to believe in something, to have some structure or order to base our brains on. For me it is the scientific method, rationality. For others it's the teachings of christianity. For others, it's believing in tarot cards. And though I think that mine is "correct" (whatever that means), it's becoming more and more clear to me that it just doesn't matter. It's the having the belief system that is important. (Incidentally, I think this is why it seems so easy for people to alter their unalterable belief system when something happens that they don't understand. It's much easier than undoing the belief system.)

At any rate, it was a great book. Thanks, Tom.


...tom... said...



Wonderful post. But then . . .you would expect _me_ to like it.

I truly do find it an amazing story that I pick up time and again. As a matter of fact I read a few pages (at random) from it yesterday.

My son saw my yellowed and tattered copy laying out when he was visiting for the holiday and asked to borrow it. How could I refuse him..?!?

I think the part featuring Joey ...and Ish's hopes for the future might have been especially poignant for you. H3ll, my heart aches every time I read that chapter...

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts about it.


Anonymous said...

re your thinking about belief systems--You might be interested in The Faith Instinct. It echossome of what you are saying.

There are lots of customer reviews on the Amazon page.