One of the most chilling aspects of this story was how much nature kept moving on without human interaction. It’s easy for humans to think of the world as being a better place with us here. Even through industrialization, harming the climate and the ozone layer, etc., everyone still falls into the trap of thinking that we’re somehow making the world a better place and wondering what Earth would do without us. But I think that Stewart’s book critiques that belief by showing how Mother Nature still goes on without ‘human control’. Eventually, humans to begin to populate more of Earth again, but I liked seeing Ish’s observations on the state of nature without as many humans around to interrupt it.
At first their new society, or tribe, seemed to be doomed from the start to me because there weren’t that many people and because Ish was so wrapped up in restoring humanity to what it once was, (back to good old ‘murica) when he should’ve been focused on what it was then and there. I mean really, over two decades of steady water and no one wonders where the heck it was all coming from?? However, I liked the tribe’s attempt to rebound from that by creating a well, and then going off in search of other survivors, and later democratically voting to kill Charlie to preserve themselves, similar to the way Ish noted that the rats were killing each other to preserve themselves.
Ish’s determination to maintain and pass on the knowledge and the supposed ‘intelligence’ of the old world was something that struck me as reasonable. But as a contemporary reader, I found it particularly frustrating that he only saw the women and girls of his tribe as breeders and homekeepers, incapable of positions of leadership within the tribe. At times, he even seemed to contradict himself on this topic, noting that his wife Em was: “greater than he, but he also knew that she would not be of help in planning toward the future”. My biggest question as a contemporary reader was, ‘Why?’. Of course, he eventually picks his own son to be the next prodigy, as Joey seems to be the only one interested in Ish’s love of knowledge and books, but I wonder what would’ve happened had Ish asked any of the women or girls in his tribe if they were interested.
Overall, it was an okay book. The regression back into the bow and coin-arrow state seemed natural enough, I guess? Who knows where society will go from there.