Saturday, 14 February 2015

“The Danger of Books”

Some while ago I read the 1949 SF classic Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart. (Click here for full text in pdf format.) I very much enjoyed this dreamy exploration of life for one man in a post-apocalyptic USA.

Ish is a scientist, and he approaches the overturning of civilization and near extinction of humankind with an observer's detachment at the same time as experiencing it in all its personal shock and upheaval. It is a pleasure to see through his eyes the slow recovery of his urban landscape by natural forces, and the even slower resurrection of some sort of kinship unit as people gradually come together around him. It is neither a utopia nor a dystopia, but an even-handed depiction of what might come to be.

There is a lovely scene where Ish takes his child to a long-disused public library, a place of sanctuary for him but a totally new sensation for the boy.

“He was actually glad to get Joey away. The stimulation of seeing so many books seemed almost more than was good for the frail little boy. Ish was glad that he had not taken him to the university library.”

I know the feeling Ish. Get his feet wet slowly. It's the only way.