Earth Abides is a 1949 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American writer George R. Stewart. It tells the story of the fall of civilization from deadly disease and its rebirth. Beginning in the United States in the 1940s, it deals with Isherwood “Ish” Williams, Emma, and the community they founded. The survivors live off the remains of the old world, while learning to adapt to the new. Along the way they are forced to make tough decisions and choose what kind of civilization they will rebuild.
Earth Abides won the inaugural International Fantasy Award in 1951. It was included in Locus Magazine’s list of best All Time Science Fiction in 1987 and 1998 and was a nominee to be entered into the Prometheus Hall of Fame. In November 1950, it was adapted for the CBS radio program Escape as a two-part drama starring John Dehner.
The book earned much praise from James Sallis, writing in the Boston Globe:
This is a book, mind you, that I’d place not only among the greatest science fiction but among our very best novels. Each time I read it, I’m profoundly affected, affected in a way only the greatest art—Ulysses, Matisse or Beethoven symphonies, say—affects me. Epic in sweep, centering on the person of Isherwood Williams, Earth Abides proves a kind of antihistory, relating the story of humankind backwards, from ever-more-abstract civilization to stone-age primitivism. Everything passes—everything. Writers’ reputations. The ripe experience of a book in which we find ourselves immersed. Star systems, worlds, states, individual lives. Humankind. Few of us get to read our own eulogies, but here is mankind’s. Making Earth Abides a novel for which words like elegiac and transcendent come easily to mind, a novel bearing, in critic Adam-Troy Castro’s words, “a great dark beauty.”