My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I first read this book more than 30 years ago, and it wasn’t new even then. Somehow, it stuck in my mind and memory with a clarity that is remarkable because I have read literally thousands of books since, yet this one stays bright and shiny in the front of my mind.
It is sometimes referred to as “the original disaster” story, but it isn’t a disaster story. It is, as the title suggests, a book of renewal and hope. True, events are set in motion by a disaster: a plague that starts somewhere, no one is sure where and kills off most of the population. Some few people are naturally immune and anyone who was ever bitten by a poisonous snake and survived also is immune.
The remnants of humanity find each other and together, they repopulate the earth, creating a new society that has bits and pieces of what had been before, but rebuilt in a new and hopefully better way. The book was re-released in a 60th anniversary edition a few years ago, including an audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis.
I cannot count the number of copies of this book I have owned. I love it so much that I buy copies of it, give them to people I think will love them, theoretically on loan, but they are never returned, so i buy another copy. The book is rather preachy, but that doesn’t bother me. George Stewart is a lot less preachy than Anne Rice and I agree with him. Moreover, what may seem no big deal today was revolutionary 63 years ago.
The book holds up well. Our current technology has moved on considerably since the book was written, but because technology is insupportable on a depopulated earth, it makes no difference what had or had not been invented. It is all useless anyhow. You can’t drive cars without gasoline. You can’t use telephones when there is no support for the service. Our satellites would continue to circle the earth, but who would send signals? Once the batteries are gone, it’s over for technology.
The world ends, the world begins. Earth abides.
Ish and Emma are the “mother” and “father” of the new tribe. Ish, in Hebrew, means “man” and “Eema” means “mother” which I am sure is not coincidental. It’s a wonderful story that suggests the human race has the ability to not only survive, but reinvent the world and be better than we are. If you haven’t read this book, read it. It’s also available on Audible and is an excellent recording with a fine narrator. I cannot recommend it too highly.
I love this book. It is timeless.