Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Earth Abides

Earth Abides is an optimistic post-apocalyptic novel. Some disease sweeps through earth and wipes out almost everyone. It manages to happen very quickly, yet orderly. We just have to believe the author on this one. The narrator was out in woods when things happened, and nobody else seems to provide details. It seems there was time to properly bury everyone, but not to shut down stores or bring cars home.

Utilities were also still running. The hydroelectric power and plumbing still kept chugging along for a while, even without anybody to attend to it. Roads were still usable, though gradually tree-falls and floods cut off some routes. (However, long distance travels were still possible.)

The few people that remained tended to stay by themselves. Nobody seemed to ask why or engage in serious conversation. At first, they were mere scavengers trying to gather what they could and live off the working utilities. Eventually, things broke down and they found themselves returning back to nature. However, they do take shortcuts. Instead of going all the way back to stone arrowheads, they use the metal found in coins.

The new generations soon lose all contact with "civilization". They have become hunters, obtaining their sustenance from nature. The stored up knowledge of society had been gradually eaten away by nature. The old ones that remembered the civilization are treated as deities.

The novel seems to be attempting a connection between "savage" lifestyles and our more modern society. Perhaps the "natives" that had been encountered by Europeans had had advanced societies, but saw them quickly disappear due to the diseases that were brought in. By the time there was large-scale cultural contact, they had fallen into a pure survival mode.

The book paints the new society in an optimistic way. Rather than roving bands of thugs, we have people that want to work together and be happy. The one "bad guy" that they do encounter is quickly removed. People can still be happy even after the fall of society.

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