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The Purple Cloud

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  671 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
Matthew Phipps Shiel (1865-1947), was a prolific British writer of fantastic fiction, remembered mostly for supernatural and scientific romances, published as novels, short stories and as serials. He wrote under the pen name Gordon Holmes. After working as a teacher and translator he broke into the fiction market with a series of short stories published in The Strand and o ...more
Paperback, Abridged, 272 pages
Published February 8th 2008 by Dodo Press (first published 1901)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Bill  Kerwin

A very strange book combining an accomplished fin-de-siecle prose style with the cosmic horror of Poe, it possesses an apocalyptic savagery and fierce isolation all its own.
Althea Ann
May 05, 2016 Althea Ann rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Stories from this time period love having some sort of introductory framing device. This one has to be the most convoluted I've encountered: the author tells us that he has received a letter from a dying friend, a hypnotist. Accompanying the letter was a notebook, which the hypnotist says contains a transcription of the trances of one of his patients. While in trance, the patient psychically travels in time, but rather than directly observing events, reads manuscripts. This story is a manuscript ...more
Oscar
H.P. Lovecraft lo tenía claro: ”La mejor novela de ciencia ficción escrita hasta la fecha.”

Siempre me han fascinado las historias que tratan sobre “el último hombre sobre la tierra”. ‘La nube púrpura’ (The Purple Cloud, 1901) ha entrado por méritos propios en mi olimpo personal sobre este particular subgénero de la ciencia ficción, junto a otros grandes clásicos: ‘La Tierra permanece’ (1949), de George R. Stewart, ‘Soy leyenda’ (1954), de Richard Matheson, y ‘El muro’ (1968), de Marlen Haushofer
...more
Kay
This is a strange and unsettling novel, quite original. It chronicles one man's discovery that he is the last man on earth. The central character, Adam, returns from an Arctic expedition to find that a purple cloud has passed over the surface of the earth, killing everything. The main plot of the novel concerns the mental instability this causes in Adam, who spirals down into feeling that perhaps mankind deserved this end. He also goes through exhilarative feelings of absolute dominion over the ...more
Alfred Searls
May 23, 2012 Alfred Searls rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Creepy, influential and accomplished… what else is there to say about Matthew Phipps Shiel’s 1901 landmark “last man on Earth” novel - ‘The Purple Cloud’?

Well, quite a bit really, if like me you want to exorcise its somewhat baleful shadow from your mind. Don’t get me wrong, this is a remarkable work and one which I have no hesitation in recommending; it’s just that it’s one of the most disquieting books I’ve ever come across.

The story begins with a gloriously atmospheric account of an expeditio
...more
Paolo Gianoglio
Nov 24, 2015 Paolo Gianoglio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ho riletto per la seconda volta “La nube purpurea” a distanza di decenni, e ancora una volta mi ha avvinto come un bambino. Tanti e compositi gli elementi di fascinazione, e forse il principale è la difficoltà di incasellare questo libro in una qualche classificazione. Una trama fantastica, che non per forza dovremmo definire fantascientifica. La difficoltà di collocare la storia nel tempo (in tutto il libro non viene citato un anno, sebbene il libro sia denso di date, e la storia abbia una dura ...more
Lorenzo Berardi
This book is amazingly entertaining and, by coincidence, extremely topical. I wonder why it never became that popular worldwide. Perhaps it will soon.

Just think about the trouble we're currently having with that Icelandic vulcano, the tongue-twister Eyjafjallajokull.
What if those spiteful ashes were deadly poisonous?
Well, in "The Purple Cloud" they are.

M.P Shiel was not able to foresee the future (and had no intention to do it), but definitely was some steps forward. He surely had a sort of feti
...more
Doug
Nov 11, 2012 Doug rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that has a great premise (post-apocalypse, last man alive), but is ponderous to read. I'm glad I tackled it, though, if only for foundational literacy in the genre. It's one of the first of its type, if not the first. The Purple Cloud is written in a prose style clearly indicating its 100+ year age, and I found it bloated, or maybe "florid" to be nicer. Almost better than M.P. Shiel's book is John Sutherland's intro placing it in the stream of other last-man novels, hi ...more
Roviragrao
Pese a contar con un buen punto de partida, esta novela me ha ido creando un problema tras otro, hasta el punto que estaba deseando terminarla y pasar a otra cosa.

De entrada no tengo nada en contra del narrador en primera persona, pero aquí creo que no está bien aprovechado. Es un recurso que suele servir para que te identifiques más con el protagonista, pero me ha provocado el efecto contrario.

Los brincos espacio-temporales, el abuso de las enumeraciones y las descripciones recargadas, la escas
...more
Tomas Conde
Jan 31, 2016 Tomas Conde rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Este es uno de los pocos libros que me ha hecho parar bruscamente su lectura, tomar aire y recuperar el aliento. Cuando la simple realidad se va al traste, y lo único que quedan son las páginas, los minutos y los segundos, uno se da cuenta que a la final son los años que pasaste en el planeta solo, detrás de una nube de color purpura. Agradezco a este libro, y espero que quienes lo lean, logren como yo desdoblar sus cuerpos, encarnar la única vida que queda sobre la faz de la tierra, y sentir qu ...more
Terence
Jul 12, 2010 Terence rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Apocalypse/post-apocalypse fans
Recommended to Terence by: Downloaded from the Gutenberg Project
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Immediately upon finishing The Purple Cloud I had to reread H.P. Lovecraft's novella "At the Mountains of Madness." Both stories deal with forbidden polar expeditions and world-shattering revelations. Where Lovecraft's story revealed a past and a cosmos where humans hardly signified, Shiel's is a retelling of the Biblical Flood myth and an OT God's disgust with His Creation (at least the human part of it). It's that latter theme - a psychopathic deity that must be worshipped and loved, "Though H ...more
Diletta
Feb 24, 2017 Diletta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
La nube purpurea è alla sorgente della narrativa fantastica, c'è poco da aggiungere.
O meglio sì, c'è da dire che dietro una storia agghiacciante e crudele, dietro un misticismo folle, c'è anche un orgasmo visivo. Immaginare la nube purpurea è sentire l'odore di pesco che invade l'aria, è vedere un lago con una creatura dai mille occhi, è rimanere abbagliati dai ghiacci per poi scoprire quanto sia imperfetto l'uomo.
Bev
M. P. Shiel's The Purple Cloud tells the story Adam Jeffson, the last survivor of a doomed Polar expedition and, ultimately, the last man on Earth. For some inexplicable reason, the North Pole, which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Garden of Eden in the Bible, has become associated with that place and the idea behind The Purple Cloud is that if anyone every reaches the Pole and enters the forbidden territory once again, then all of mankind will be wiped out. Many expeditions are mounted b ...more
Stewart
Jan 17, 2011 Stewart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A the time, I was exploring this genre as a complete novice...I bought this book at a truck stop in Missouri in 1978 and had to pull over and read - I was so absorbed! Bleak; captivating, intriguing...

Comparable to H.G. Wells in vision

A very good read!!
Chris Laskey
CONTAINS SPOILERS:
As an historical amusement certainly one has to give Shiel credit for producing, at times, a hypnotic and uneasy novel about the last man on earth, yet one can't help but be dismayed that his writing indulges and tends to meander to the point of exhaustion. Prior to our modern era of Science Fiction there were a mere handful of novels about the Last Man so one can't dismiss his work. Mary Shelley's novel "The Last Man" barely registers any chill as she really uses that novel as
...more
Elidor
Mar 27, 2013 Elidor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I foolishly sold my copy of this marvelous book years ago and wish I had it back.

With prose as purple as the cloud which destroys mankind, Matthew Phipps Shiel vividly brings to life the mind of the last madman let loose upon the too-quiet earth. Crushing guilt and bitter anger fuel his increasingly dangerous and quixotic symphonies of destruction as he familiarizes himself with fuses and explosives and surrenders himself to towering, psychotic rages. There is a euphoric sense of utter freedom m
...more
Derek Davis
Nov 21, 2015 Derek Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written as an intermittent diary, this is one of the first and perhaps the finest of "last man" novels. While on a trek to claim the North Pole (this was published in 1901), Adam Jefferson's partners die one by one (including at Adam's hand), leaving him sole survivor and victor. But when he returns, by luck, determination and aching misadventure, he slowly comes to realize that all of humanity – indeed, nearly all land life – has been exterminated by a cyanide cloud from massive eruptions in th ...more
D.M. Dutcher
Apr 13, 2013 D.M. Dutcher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a different "last man on earth" book, which focuses on a man who is going insane from the lack of people, and suspects he may be manipulated by one of two powers. It's compelling because there is no "stiff upper lip" here-the main character is tormented and even diabolical.

Jeffson is a doctor who wishes he could go on a North Pole expedition. His wife poisons one of the members, enabling him to go and win glory for her, and it goes downhill from there. Through no little tragedy, Jeffson win
...more
Aaron Meyer
The beginning of this book began fairly well with an expedition to the North Pole. Only after reaching the North Pole did everything change. On the way back Adam finds that everybody is dead, no matter where he goes in the whole world, he is the last man alive. Then begins the middle part of the story. Honestly this is the most tedious and patience trying portion of the book. His going about the towns looking for survivors or naming all the type of ships he comes across on the ocean, is stifling ...more
Mike
Sep 06, 2013 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I have the edition of The Purple Cloud recently published by Penguin Classics and annotated by John Sutherland. Among other things, Sutherland's notes focus on the differences between this and other versions. The notes are helpful, and explain quite a bit about Shiel himself, as well as his writing and research.

Many hail this book as a "masterpiece." It is not.

It is a "last man" novel that may well have been ground-breaking but it is not particularly well-written. As Sutherland mentions in one o
...more
Guy
Shiel has a marvelous vocabulary - his sentences are beautiful, but the plot of this story bogs down midway. The descriptions of ship after ship, city after city become tedious, and some of the action seems beyond the means of the characters described. I was reminded of "Frankenstein" and "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" in the sense that the flourishing style of the author is sometimes neglectful of the aspects of realism necessary to make fantasy believable. I think it's all well and good to des ...more
Kelly
What I learned from this book is that if you see a big purple cloud coming toward you and it smells like peach blossoms, either get yourself to the North Pole or have yourself sealed inside a wine cellar as a punishment, because that cloud is bad news.

Seriously, this is a classic "last man on earth" SF tale. Think Robinson Crusoe, if Robinson Crusoe had been sort of a psychopath to start with, and hadn't been improved by being left alone on the earth. The prose reads like a nineteenth-century tr
...more
Joe Santoro
Jan 13, 2016 Joe Santoro rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: soft_sf
Yeah, so half this book consists of the main character, the last man on Earth, wondering the wonder and blowing stuff up. If you've always wanted to read a turn of the century travelogue where the end of every trip involves leveling the city, this book is for you. Otherwise, no.

There is a bit of philposphy at the end, but nothing worth suffering though the rest of the book for. I suppose at the time perhaps the concept of being the last man on Earth and what that would do to one's mind was uniqu
...more
Manny
Jan 11, 2011 Manny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
The discussion this morning around Day of the Triffids reminded me of this obscure and extremely bizarre novel, which I must have read when I was about ten or eleven. The Wikipedia article is excellent - I had quite forgotten most of the outrageous plot, which starts when God wipes out all human beings except one man and one woman to punish us for visiting the North Pole.

I went to abebooks and immediately located copies, but sanity returned in time to save me £5. Divine intervention?
Joseph
Sep 22, 2015 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A turn of the century fable about the sins of mankind and the madness of apocalypse. Quite oddly written with lengthy and detailed descriptions of machines and exotic locations that gives the novel a large distinct lexicon. Although dated the adventure is rich and the twists and turns help maintain interest.
Ismael
Oct 02, 2015 Ismael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Precursora del género apocalíptico, interesantísima, llena de imágenes impactantes. Escrita en... ¡1901!
Chase Insteadman Mountbatten
[Testo italiano in fondo]
Published in 1901, this novel seems to anticipate something of the atmosphere of another sci-fi classic, Stanislaw Lem's Solaris; it could even be possible that Lem had read it and draw some inspiration from it.
The Purple cloud is full of visionary suggestions but it is not made of only that. I found astonishing similarities between the happenings at the end of the book and issues concerning the very recent use of social media as a substitute for vis à vis relations, alt
...more
Joe Stamber
Jan 13, 2012 Joe Stamber rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
The Purple Cloud must have been an amazing book when it was first published in 1901, when the world was such a different place with so much left to be achieved, invented and discovered. Although technically it is both Sci-Fi and Post Apocalyptic, I wouldn't really class it as such.

The titular Purple Cloud sweeps the earth while the protaganist Adam is "safely" out of its reach on an Artic expedition with a massive financial prize at stake. The expedition serves merely as an introductory means to
...more
Sean McLachlan
This 1901 novel is one of the earliest "last man on Earth" scenarios and has long been considered a classic of science fiction in general and post-apocalyptic fiction in particular. It involves a man who goes on a polar expedition and returns to find the human race wiped out by a poisonous purple vapor. He then has to reconcile himself to being the last member of the human race.

Shiel was a masterful writer and the story of the man's adventures and his psychological breakdown are richly told. So
...more
Andy Phillips
This is a classic book in apocalyptic fiction genre that you'll find in a lot of lists set up by fans on various web sites. It was written at the very beginning of the 20th century but the version I have was published in 1930 after some rewriting. Although most people rave over this book, although it was original at the time, it's nothing special now in my opinion as a lot of similar books have been written since.

The story features a man who goes on a voyage to the North Pole in order to fulfil
...more
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4991672
Matthew Phipps Shiel was a prolific British writer of West Indian descent. His legal surname remained "Shiell" though he adopted the shorter version as a de facto pen name.

He is remembered mostly for supernatural and scientific romances. His work was published as serials, novels, and as short stories. The Purple Cloud (1901; 1929) remains his most famous and often reprinted novel.
More about M.P. Shiel...

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“...the special quality of works of Art being to produce the momentary conviction that anything else whatever could not possibly be so good.” 4 likes
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