I read an already old paperback novel in about 1969. Most human life is destroyed by a virus, and it is the story of one of the survivors. I remember:

  1. he survives because he had just been bitten by a rattlesnake and

  2. as he finds other survivors his hammer becomes the symbol of authority. There is a late scene when only his young son or protégé is willing to pick up the hammer.

It may have been called something like 'The Green Earth', 'The Good Earth', titles which do not do well on a Google search. My impression at the time was that the author was not a regular sci fi writer, but I don't know for sure.


This is most likely Earth Abides by George R Stewart.

All the corroborating information can be found on the linked wikipedia page;

Ish doesn't survive because of the rattlesnake bite, at least not clearly. But he is bitten and does recover from the world killing disease.

While working on his graduate thesis in geology in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Ish is bitten by a rattlesnake. As he heals from the bite, taking refuge in a cabin, he gets sick with a disease that looks like measles, and he moves in and out of consciousness (at one point being approached by two men who flee in fright). He recovers and makes his way back to civilization, only to discover that it has utterly collapsed—most people had died from the same disease.

Ish's Hammer becomes a status symbol.

As years go by, the community begins to grow corn. Ish presides at meetings, his hammer being a symbol of his status. He is given respect, but many of his ideas are ignored by the younger men.

It has a frequently recurring line that means I am unlikely to forget it. As Ish's status grows and he is assumed to know everything, when presenting him with a problem or solution other characters will say;

As you yourself Ish know well.

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