Earth Abides - a unique perspective on the fall of civilization
I enjoy books that deal with the fall of civilization as we know it. Be it nuclear war, zombies, aliens, an EMP or a virus, each story provokes the same questions for me: What would I do? Could I survive in this new world? Would my morals be tossed aside when my survival hangs by a thread? That is what makes the genre so interesting to me. Earth abides approaches the fall of civilization in a very different and laid back way. Mankind is practically wiped out overnight and the world becomes a lonely place for the few survivors. There is no gigantic battle or war as a back drop for this tale, nor is there any real lingering threat from the contagion that practically eliminates the human race. Rather it is a theoretical tale of what would happen to the earth if you took humans out of the mix. Is that a worthy premise?
Well, it certainly makes this book more about humanity itself than the fall of it. With our modern life so focused and dependent upon interactions with other people, would any of us even know what to do if we suddenly found ourselves alone in this world? The main character in this book, Ish, fancies himself an observer of life, and the reader ultimate becomes the observer of Ish. The book is divided into the 3 distinct stages of Ish and his life, all after the fall of mankind, and it is a rather meandering journey. Due to the slow pace of the story, this meandering journey leads your mind to also wander and contemplate the world in new and unique ways. This is ultimately a double edged sword as it makes you think of things that you would not normally have considered, but it also gives you plenty of time to think about and find fault with certain events in the book.
In the end, I enjoyed the book; however, it never consumed me as it has done to many other reviewers, so your mileage may vary. If you are looking for a different approach to the post-apocalyptic genre and are in the mood for some mental meandering then you should give this one a go, but if you are looking for a tense story of the struggle for survival then you should seek your fix elsewhere.
For the audiobook version Jonathan Davis did an excellent job as the narrator. I listened to the 60th anniversary edition on Audible which also includes an introduction from Hugo award winning writer Connie WIllis.