Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book Snark: Earth Abides

Perhaps, he felt in his mind, that was the difference! That was the difference between woman and man. She felt only in terms of the immediate, and was more interested in being able to spot her child's birthday than in all the future of civilization. Again, he felt superior. 
Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart (1949).

In fact, in reading this book about the fall of civilization, I am possessed by a great urge to preserve and protect the history of the world for posterity, just in case something should happen. If humanity vanishes for whatever reason, and/or if electricity eventually fails, what will be left? ebooks? I certainly think not. While electronic formats may be "the future," may be convenient, may be efficient, they will not last beyond the next wave of advancements. Neither will mp3 files, dvds, or all the information on the internet. In this fantastic future world, when perhaps everyone will be gone, those who are left, or those who make a galactic archaeological dig of the planet Earth may find files that are in no way compatible with their technology, or they might find vast libraries of knowledge on paper, which have only to be translated.

Earth Abides was a fantastic book, but in the end very frustrating. It became evident that it was not just the aforementioned woman who was uninterested in preserving civilization, but all of the "stolid" people who happened to survive the plague. Apparently it was beyond their capabilities or caring to teach their children how to read or write so much as basic numbers, much less entire books. Strange that in a novel about a post-apocalyptic world that was what I found most unbelievable.

The future may be defined by forward movement, but that movement should not assume complete abandonment of the past.

1 comment:

  1. You make a good point. I had the same reaction to Justin Cronin's "The Passage," in which 75 years after an apocalyptic event, a remaining enclave of people have lost all links to the outside world and have but a few books and the one person with a music collection has to listen in secret. People retained the ability to write but apparently not to create anything through that writing. The first thing to go in civilization seems to be the ability to remember.