Radium Age science fiction novel by Jack London: The Scarlet Plague

Jack London’s 1912 science fiction novel The Scarlet Plague, which is part of HiLobrow's Radium Age library, is now available at Amazon.com.

201205081536Jack London’s plague novel, in which the world’s population has been reduced to a few scattered bands of primitive scavengers, has influenced subsequent science-fiction apocalypses and dystopias — from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four to the movies Road Warrior and Idiocracy.

Outside the ruins of San Francisco, a former UC Berkeley professor of literature recounts the chilling sequence of events which led to his current lowly state — a gruesome pandemic which killed nearly every living soul on the planet, in a matter of days. Modern civilization tottered and fell, and a new race of barbarians — the western world's brutalized workers — assumed power everywhere.

Over the space of a few decades, all learning has been lost. Unlike the professor on Gilligan's Island, the narrator is the least useful member of a thriving tribe, whose younger generation (who boast names like Hoo-Hoo and Har-Lip) are mostly descended from a the tribe's brutish founder. He was known only by the title of his former occupation, so the tribe's name is: Chauffeur.

A bleak, at times darkly humorous glimpse into the future by an author best known for red-blooded adventure yarns set in the Klondike Gold Rush.


The Scarlet Plague

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  1. To read too : “The Iron Heel”, a novel that is the mother of all dystopias, I’ll say. Maybe a little bit socialist for americans to read. There is also a horrible history (don’t remember the name) where it is suggested to kill… every inhabitant of China, to avoid overpopulation !

      1. Yeah, London got sucked pretty deep into that whole Yellow Peril thing, the fantasized, racist menace of his day.

  2. Not to do HiLo Books out of their money or anything but this book is in the public domain and can be downloaded for free from Amazon or Gutenberg.org.

  3. Read it when I was a kid.  Always liked it andwanted to read it again.  Somebody should make the movie.

    1. Looks like “Earth Abides” ripped off the character of the old man survivor  and his grandsons. 

  4. Remember reading Star Rover by him, about prisoners escaping by entering their past lives.  It was sort of scifi.  I was about ten when I read it, so not sure how it’d stand up today.  

  5. I was going to do a narration of this story but the Guttenberg text had numerous typos.

    1.  Were you reading the .txt version? I’ve noticed lots of typos with them, but took some of them (Like the Pickwick Papers) and redid the entire books into .odt documents. A bit tedious, but I found it to be an interesting experiment. What you should probably do is get an ebook version like EPUB and also the free reader  Calibre at http://calibre-ebook.com/. This works beautifully!

  6.  Eh. An earlier version. And more sensationalist and class-warfare focused.

    And not a pessimistic as “Earth Abides.”

    Both fun reads, however.

  7.  Eh. An earlier version. And more sensationalist and class-warfare focused.

    And not a pessimistic as “Earth Abides.”

    Both fun reads, however.

  8. I read a true story he wrote about exploring in Alaska and how the ships rat killing terrier would go ashore and wander around alone. London climbed a glacier and the dog followed. They ended up opposite sides of a crevasse. He had to coax the dog across a very thin snow bridge or he would have had to abandon it on the glacier, and the dog knew it. Anyway, the dog made it. But he sure could pack action, suspense, and emotion into a couple pages.

  9. The old man describes pellagra as an infection when t was actually a B3 deficiency.  Vitamin deficiencies are awful and pellagra would often kill many children in orphanages.  The  lesions just rip the skin  right off a person, but it’s not an infection. 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pellagra

    1. If your skin is ripped off for any reason, the wound is likely to get infected, especially when you don’t have a concept of sterile bandaging.

      1. The wikipedia photos don’t show how gruesome it is.

        It affected children in orphanages who were fed white bread and white rice, and since it would often afflict several people simultaneously, it was assumed to be an infection. 

      2. The wikipedia photos don’t show how gruesome it is.

        It affected children in orphanages who were fed white bread and white rice, and since it would often afflict several people simultaneously, it was assumed to be an infection. 

  10. Jack London started the Post-Apocalypse Trope of naming groups after their ancestors’ jobs. Leela from Dr. Who was from a tribe named after the survey team her ancestors had been part of. If London had written this today, the Chauffeur tribe could be called the Barristas.

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