Jack London is a writer I greatly admire, as much (or more) for his work ethic as for anything he ever wrote, though I did love both The Call of the Wild and White Fang when I read them as a teenager. In fact, they started me off on months worth of reading books with animals as central characters. Which I eventually moved away from, because, the farther you got from London, the worse the books got. But I digress...
We often think of post-apocalyptic literature as being a new phenomenon but, really, it's not. In its modern iteration, it goes back almost 200 years, all the way to Mary Shelley, but even ancient cultures wrote apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories. With that in mind, London's The Scarlet Plague isn't all the old and isn't all that original in what it does. In fact, there are strong echoes of Shelley's The Last Man in London's book.
What it does do that is interesting, though, is that it jumps 100 years ahead of when London wrote it and set that year as the apocalypse but, then, it jumps ahead another 60 years as its setting and has the last survivor of the collapse of civilization telling the story to his grandchildren. In that, we get both the story of the apocalypse and what happens after the apocalypse.
Of course, one of the big draws for a book like this is seeing how the author was seeing his projected future. London miss-projected on flight and filled the air with dirigibles rather than airplanes. But he got wireless communication even if he did also keep newspapers. I suppose the downfall of physical print media would have been unfathomable during it's rise at the beginning of the 20th century. Amazingly, he also pegged the world population.
There's a section where Smith is trying to explain diseases and germs to his grandchildren. That bit is particularly interesting in light of the current controversy over vaccines. I'm going to hazard a guess and say that London would have been pro-vaccine.
It's a fairly short read, so, in that, it's certainly worth it. It took me less than two hours. And you can get it free for the Kindle, so it's hard to lose there, too. Seriously, it's more than worth it just to see the perspective of someone writing about now from 100 years ago. It's not the greatest thing ever, not even great by London standards, but it's good. And better than a lot of drivel coming out today.