The Last Man
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The Last Man

3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  1,322 ratings  ·  176 reviews
A novel, first published in 1826, set in the 21st century, when England is a republic governed by a ruling elite. The narrator, an outsider introduced to the circle, tells a story of tragic, complicated love, and of the gradual extermination of the human race by plague.
Paperback, 425 pages
Published September 11th 1996 by Broadview Press (first published 1826)
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I don't really like reading, which must strain credulity, since I devote so much of my time and energy to doing it. But reading, for me, is never an easy thing. Only rarely do I get caught up and find myself turning pages heedlessly, plunging into the text. More often, I am well aware of what page I'm on and how many pages until this chapter ends.

The reading itself is slow and ponderous, winding a sinuous path through the book, and this leisurely pace always sets my mind to wandering, looking fo...more
Andrew Breslin
I desperately tried to convince myself that I didn’t loathe this, but I’m just not that good a liar. I saw right through my shameless chicanery. It was so obvious. Remind me never to play poker with myself.

With all due respect, I firmly believe that all the people who gave this book rave reviews could take themselves to the cleaners at Texas Hold-Em. Really, they could win the shirt off their own backs, they are just so good at self-deception. I envy them.

Frankenstein, arguably my favorite book...more
A profoundly sad reaction to Romanticism, initially vilified, mocked, and essentially blacklisted, before being recovered and championed in the 1960s.

It's overlong, the language is annoyingly exalted, most of the characters are flat, and there's a lot of rubbish. Sounds tedious? It sort of is. This is definitely one of the few examples I've encountered of an excellent literary work that for much of its padded length feels somewhat interminable, but that emerges as a remarkable, deeply interesti...more
Nicole Hogan
Oh, The Last Man! One of the (many)books perpetually on my re-read list.

This later work from Shelly shows her talent as a mature innovative writer and secures a literary legacy outside of her husband's shadow. Written four years after Percy's death and some ten years after the publication of Frankenstein, Shelly weaves a fantastic version of the end of the world in the year 2100. Told from the perspective of the only survivor of a devastating plague that sniffs out humanity, the story subtly inc...more
Christopher Conlon
Every once in a while in my reading life I’ve come across a book that has taken me completely by surprise—one that forces me to inhale deeply at the end and then, exhaling, utter an overwhelmed “Wow.”

“The Last Man” is such a book for me.

Despite my love of Mary Shelley’s great “Frankenstein,” I went into “The Last Man” without much hope, based on its relative obscurity as well as some of the slams it has received right here on Goodreads. Yet I was awed by the power of this story. It’s true that i...more
THE LAST MAN. (1826; this ed. 2012). Mary Shelley. **.
Most of us have read Frankenstein by Shelley (born Mary Wolstoncraft Godwin, 1797-1851), but most of us haven’t come across her other best seller of the time, “The Last Man.” This novel is an early rendition of ‘an end of the world scenario’ and would be followed by many more like it. It was originally issued as a three-volume novel, but, in today’s world even a mediocre editor would have cut it down to one volume. It is set in the 21st cent...more
Dec 23, 2011 Jan-Maat added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hard line fans of Mary Shelley & gluttons for early science fiction
Mary Shelley did not stop writing after Frankenstein and I was excited to come across her last novel "The Last Man" unfortunately I found it a difficult book to read and I came close to giving up on it all together.

The idea is that a plague wipes out humanity leaving one man alone to survive. The story is set in the future and scenes set in England feature airships as an important means of transport.

For added interest she revisits and reimagines the interrelationships of herself, her husband P.B...more
It took me some while to get into ‘The Last Man’, both because of its slow start and my present preoccupation with moving house. The style throughout is extremely florid and capital-R Romantic, as you would expect from Mary Shelley. To set the scene prior to the apocalypse, however, the narrator describes in minute detail how noble, beautiful, and wonderful his friends, wife, and children are. This dominates the first 70 or so pages. There follows a war between the Greeks and Turks, concurrent w...more
Genia Lukin
Really, what happened to Mary Shelley, the amazing Sheley of frankenstein? Honestly, this book was dull as paint.

What is even more horrifying, perhaps, is the immense social conservatism and lack of inventiveness we are seeing in this bok. It's science-fiction, for heaven's sake! Shelley dealt so beautifully with the struggle of science and the scientist versus the places where one should not tamper, and the limitations of science it seems almost a godsend for a book about a plague that (spoiler...more
I wanted to read this as I really like dystopic novels and thought that I could try one of the very first of it's kind.

The problem with this book is that it focuses too much into... nothing. The prose -it's only strong point- as interesting as it is initially becomes tiresome after a while, even more as the story seems not to go anywhere interesting for the first two volumes. By the time the final volume (which is the most interesting) starts I had lost interest both in the characters (a bunch o...more
Oh Mary Shelley, this the best you could do? Honestly, it should probably get a 1-star because I had to force myself to finish it. I continued with this torture because was hoping you would redeem yourself and make this book become at least remotely interesting in the end. But you didn't. You failed.

This is a novel of "the last man", who becomes the only survivor of a future plague. The story actually starts with an introduction by you, Mary Shelley, stating that you found a collect...more
Review from Badelynge
It seems like I've been reading Mary Shelley's The Last Man all year. I'm not the fastest of readers but whenever I read poetry I read even slower. The Last Man isn't poetry but it is written using poetic prose, which keeps tricking me into thinking I'm reading an epic poem. The primary characters are based on Shelley's recently deceased husband poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and herself (although personified by the eponymous male character). The woman can write some....more
Estrella Gamio
Mucho más de un siglo ha transcurrido hasta que por fin a Mary Shelley se la ha empezado a conocer no sólo como la autora de Frankenstein, o la esposa de Percival Shelley o la hija de María Wollstonecraft y William Godwin, ahora también se la está descubriendo como una sobrecogedora profetisa que sin abandonar esa licencia que otorga la ciencia-ficción, se permitió en su momento, no sé si porque quiso escribir una novela más que le permitiese subvenir a sus necesidades económicas, hablarnos del...more
Well, where do I start?

This book is not an enjoyable read. I found it very hard to finish and genuinely felt like it was written in the wrong form. The narrative is prose poetry; yes, that’s correct, a five hundred plus page novel in nineteenth century prose poetry. To make this even worse, the character plots were as far as I can see non-existent. The only real story that is told is that which the synopsis explains.

The story bumbled along with heavy and suffocating narrative and left me numb to...more
Pro - the final volume. It's amazing. Alone, it would get at least one more star. The mood reminded me a lot of the short story, I am Legend, and it handled the apocalypse in a way that seemed so contemporary. This isn't always a plus for me, but I really enjoyed it here.

Pro - the notes, appendices, etc. As usual, Broadview Press put together an incredible edition. Alone, this part would get five stars.

Con - the first two volumes. I like romances, especially ones in this psuedo-17th-century sty...more
Dara Salley
This book was absolutely terrible. I got a quarter of the way through and gave up on it. It's by Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein, and it's a science fiction novel set in the year 2085. I think the main issue is the main characters, a group of five friends. They are all very boring and two dimensional. I really couldn't care less what happened to any of them. I also hated Mary Shelley's writing style. I skipped over entire passages of annoying philosophy and random quotations but I still cou...more
Jan 31, 2012 X rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who is feeling too happy
First of all, I loved the language and the large, obscure words. The idyllic beginning contrasted very starkly with the bleakness of the latter half of the book, but unfortunately the story dragged, and I never felt very connected with the characters (considering the ending, this was probably a good thing). I expected something better.
This was the free Kindle edition and the terrible editing did not help my opinion of the book. I expect (or at least hope!) the print version is much better in...more
One of the nuttiest books I have ever read. Shelley's novel (written 8 years after "Frankenstein") takes place in the years 2073 to 2100. Shelley doesn't really envision any technological changes (most of the characters are farmers or shepherds, and everyone still gets around by horse). The first third of the book is something of a romance, concerning the narrator, the son of the abdicated king, and the Byronic warrior-hero, Lord Raymond. A third of the way through, though, reports of plague bre...more
Esteban Gordon
A very, very tricky book to review this. The first half or so is so utterly dreadful that a thousand times I had to resist tossing it in the nearest garbage can. And yet, after finishing it, I was ready to cry to Mont Blanc that it was a masterpiece. I would contend that it is NOT science fiction as Shelley shows, or shews, no desire to imagine a futuristic world but merely changes the date a few hundred years in the future with no technological or political advancement whatsoever. The novel, in...more
Though I have a penchant for non-canonical books of canonical authors, Shelley's The Last Man is much more laborious than say Frankenstein. It's nearyly 500 pages long and my edition is roughly 8 point font, so I found myself walking around in a blurred stupor the remainder of any day I read. Still, the book is written almost entirely in poetic verse, so while the reader wonders when the 18% of the novel that actually makes up the plot (and rest assured, I'm not a plot driven writer/reader) will...more
Simon Dicky
"A post-apocalyptic novel written by the author of 'Frankenstein'? Sign me up!"

Or so I thought as I dove into the book Shelley referred to as the one she most enjoyed writing. It didn't take long, however, for me to realize that this was going to be a far cry from the hyper-realistic, detail-driven catastrophes that have sprouted in modern literature like weeds. Indeed, Shelley appears to have put virtually no thought into the workings of a plague-ridden world set at the end of the century we're...more
In the 21st century, the British monarchy has given up the throne, and the country is a republic. When Lionel Verney comes to be involved with the ruling elite, he is first swept up in romantic and political intrigues and finally swept out of England altogether when an apocalyptic kills nearly everyone. Eventually, everyone but Lionel does die, and he writes his memoirs, in the form of The Last Man. (I would apologize for the spoiler there, but even the title of the book makes it clear what's go...more
Chris LaHatte
This was an unusual book. Although it fits into the f/sf category-its an end of the world by plague story, it is set in the 21st and 22nd century, but without any substantial advances-the most sophisticated transport is by balloon and they still use steam and sail. And there are no medical scientists trying to avert the plague. The characters are all of noble birth and therefore all heroes, even where they are abandoned as children but subsequently discovered to be from aristocrat families. Engl...more
If you are into reading a 500-page elegy to the Shelley-Byron circle, great news! This is the book for you! If not, you may wish to give this one a pass.

I have been having a difficult time sorting out what made me love this as much as I did: it is often slow and frustrating (and it took me over a month to read it, although I blame that on life rather than the novel), doesn't follow many narrative conventions, and certainly doesn't classify as science fiction in the sense that one expects—but as...more
Thom Swennes
Published in 1826 The Last Man by Mary Shelley was acclaimed as her second masterpiece behind Frankenstein. I think this is a lofty and supercilious premise as I found it too dark and depressing to rate more than two stars. War, plague, starvation and death by drowning are served up in flowing prose but this doesn’t move it out of the crypt of melancholy and despair. I generally read books for two reasons. 1.) to learn something new and 2.) for entertainment. The Last Man doesn’t meet any of the...more
Greg Brown
Wow! There was a lot of... um... description and atmosphere in this book. At multiple points I wanted to build a time machine, travel back to 1820 or whenever, and ask her to kindly get to the point. I know it is a Romantic novel (the style, not the theme), but the atmosphere should add to the story, not BE the story. At one point I counted 3 different similes describing the same thing. Whew.

That being said, the story itself was very good. The characters were very well described. I probably woul...more
Despite contemporary critics saying that it sprung from a diseased mind, I really like this book, as it has so many layers, autobiographical as well as critical towards contemporary writers including her family. And I just presented a paper on 'Global Warming, Natural Catastrophes and Apocalypse in Mary Shelley's the Last Man' at a conference in Edinburgh, I am also completing a chapter on it for my PhD thesis. My supervisors say that I have to finish it quickly, but I don't really want to. Obvi...more
“The last day passed thus: each moment contained eternity; although when hour after hour had gone by, I wondered at the quick flight of time. Yet even now I had not drunk the bitter potion to the dregs; I was not yet persuaded of my loss; I did not yet feel in every pulsation in every nerve , in every thought that I remained alone of my race, — that I was the LAST MAN.”

Verney tells the story of his life. Through mistakes of his father, he and his sister, Perdita, are cast out of a happy life int...more
Was a bit of a chore to read. Like many books of that era, so many words! But am glad I got through it. This may sound sexist but I'm impressed that a young woman of that time had the imagination to write books like this and Frankenstein. Found another favorite line - this one I believe can apply to our current president: "Whoever labors for man must often find ingratitude, watered by vice and folly, spring from the grain which he has sown."
This ponderous tome spends as much time addressing its premise as an elephant does in a hot air balloon. It's basically just "fictional 22nd century versions of the Shelleys and Byron have conversations for 500 pages, and at the end every single person on Earth dies of the plague after Byron becomes the Lord Protector of England and saves Constantinople from the Turks."

It was as lovely as a dropped pie.
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Mary Shelley (née Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, often known as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley) was a British novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, travel writer, and editor of the works of her husband, Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley. She was the daughter of the political philosopher William Godwin and the writer, philosopher, and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft...more
More about Mary Shelley...
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“Her countenance was all expression; her eyes were not dark but impenetrably deep; you seemed to discover space after space in their intellectual glance.” 16 likes
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