A Slow Burner Classic Sci-fi of Earth After PandemicReview by: Morgan Hobbes
I read this book many years ago, and now again in it's audiobook format. The second time round, especially given the current situation the world finds itself in with Covid-19 pandemic, the books themes and story line hit home somewhat harder.
Originally published in 1949, Stewart envisioned the fall of mankind after an airborne plague spread thanks to convenience of air travel has wiped out almost every human on the planet. Thanks to a bit of luck, our protagonist Isherwood descends from his mountain retreat to find a world with nobody in it.
From there the plot slowly unwinds as he makes a road trip to crisscross America and find out if anyone else is left alive. After finding unsuitable pockets of people, he returns to his home and happens upon a lady who becomes his wife.
Very much a product of its time, when read now the misogyny is rampant (women basically being treated as baby machines) as well as the occasional bouts of racism (even while noting that racism could not survive after such a catastrophe) . Isherwood feels he is intellectually superior to everyone who eventually joins "the tribe", spending a lot of his time worrying about how little they know or care to better themselves.
Most of his issues revolve around problems he's inventing for himself. The others are generally getting along just find, but as a learned man he feels a need to try to keep the old ways alive, even while admitting the reliance on the old ways will be their undoing.
It's worth noting that even though I had read it before so knew how everything would play out, I did see reviews complaining about the introduction spoiling the whole thing. I chose to skip this part as frankly, I instantly found Connie Willis' voice grating to my ears. As such, I can't confirm if it was truly spoiled, but maybe err on the side of caution and skip ahead.
The narration by Jonathan Davis was top notch without any issues that I could detect. His voice melodic, it perfectly fit with the story being told. Being mostly told from Isherwood's perspective, Davis didn't need to branch out too often with other voices, but when he needed to I found them distinct enough not to lose track.
All in all, certainly a slow-burner at a tick over 15 hours long but an immensely thorough telling of a world that could quite easily come to pass. Even today, even more so today actually, the world could take notes about how quickly society and life itself could fall apart if suddenly we were thrust into the same situation.