It is the year 2072, sixty years after the scarlet plague has depopulated the planet.
James Howard Smith is one of the few survivors of the pre-plague era left alive in the San Francisco area, and as he realizes his time grows short, he tries to impart the value of knowledge and wisdom to his grandsons.
Through his narrative, we learn how the plague spread throughout the world and of the struggles of the handful of survivors it left in its wake.
Out of billions, there are now only a few *hundred* people left on the planet - all scattered, all isolated ...all neo-lithic. There were not enough people left with the know-how to restart society.
The cultured, civilized world of mass communication and technology abruptly gave way to a primitive, savage world of cruelty and barbarism.
The survivors and their descendents now live like their stone-age forebears: wearing animal skins, hunting with bows and arrows and believing in superstition.
In describing the plague's onslaught, the old man tells his grandchildren of the chaos and degradation that wiped out civilization. Money became worthless, the streets of burning cities were littered with corpses, animals grew wild as mankind lost his supremacy over nature.
The three boys have a lot of trouble understanding the words "Granser" uses, due to their lack of education. (Even the word "education" is something the boys have never heard of.) Nevertheless, the old man does the best he can, in spite of the children's limited vocabulary.
This could well be the blueprint for life-after-the-apocalypse stories.
It is in fact one of the very first post-apocalyptic plague stories. It set the stage for later versions, such as George R. Stewart's "Earth Abides," Pat Frank's "Alas, Babylon," Nevil Shute's "On the Beach," and of course, Stephen King's "The Stand," amongst others.
Jack London brings you another masterpiece indeed.
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