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The Purple Cloud

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  477 ratings  ·  73 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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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
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.
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
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
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
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
Jul 17, 2010 Terence rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
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!!
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
Chris Laskey
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
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
D.M. Dutcher
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
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
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
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?
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
È un libro prolisso e pieno di orpelli, con un fine abbastanza preciso, e con certe incongruenze ed ingenuità volte a far funzionare le cose in certo modo. In alcuni punti mi ha persino esasperata per la noia, e la sovrabbondanza di dettagli: tutte le descrizioni dei movimenti del protagonista, degli ambienti, della profusione di morti che incontra. Ma non posso dire che non mi sia piaciuto: mi ha colpita molto, e anzi, l'ho assai apprezzato. Ha lasciato un'impronta vivida nella mia memoria.
Ho a
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
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
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
Matthew Tree
This the first of the Last Man plots, set in 1902, long before Charlton Heston became the Omega Man or a young Charles Bronson stalked a pulverised New York in en episode of The Twilight Zone. A volcanic eruption sends a huge cloud, as poisonous as it is purple, around the world, killing everyone except the narrator, who is stuck in the North Pole. He eventually finds his way south and discovers that the world is full of corpses, be they on the ships he runs into, the cities he explores, or the ...more
Joe Stamber
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
The Purple Cloud chronicles the trials and tribulations of a man who, on returning from an expedition to the North Pole, finds earth's entire population dead from the passage of a mysterious purple cloud. His name is Adam, and yes, this is a hint as to Shiel's purpose in telling the story. The bulk of the novel is amazingly compelling; so much so, that I became depressed from its vivid depiction of a world not only without people, but seemingly without God. For to Adam it does seem as if it was ...more
Roddy Williams
‘The Purple Cloud is widely hailed as a masterpiece of science fiction and one of the best ‘last man’ novels ever written. A deadly purple vapour (sic) passes over the world and annihilates all living creatures except one man, Adam Jeffson. He embarks on an epic journey across a silent and devastated planet, an apocalyptic Robinson Crusoe putting together the semblance of a normal life from the flotsam and jetsam of his former existence. As he descends into madness over the years, he becomes inc ...more
The Purple Cloud was written in 1902 by M.P. Shiel and is an early example of post-apocalyptic science fiction. This time, the entire world is engulfed by a mysterious “purple cloud” from the north pole. This cloud kills humans, dogs and horses, except for our narrator, whose name I can’t remember.

The problem with old-fashioned science fiction is that the fantastical, mind-blowing ideas of yore have either become commonplace or have been imitated too often or have become stock situations, or cli
I first finished this in September 2013. This most recent read was a review. I have a lot of new thoughts but I'm not going to edit my review from's probably better to just go straight to writing the conference paper!

Here's the original:

_The Picture of Dorian Gray_ meets _I Am Legend_...and it is really rather absurdly good. The middle of the book drags a bit, but the impressive catalogues and ornate descriptions, along with borderline insane observations about the state of humanity, s
This book could have been so good. The concept was great and i appreciate the time period that it was written in but geeze its boring at times. It took a month, yes a whole month to read this book, if it took out half of the the repetitive words and sentences it would have been half the length!

I know repetition is good for emphasis but this was over board. I found i was getting to a few really good pages then to be met by 20 odd boring ones which i couldnt of cared less about and it added nothi
After having read an epic novel two thousand pages long and featuring hundreds of characters, I went the exact opposite direction and read this forgotten gem about the life of a man who upon returning home from a journey to the North Pole finds out that everyone else on Earth has died.

Fortunately for readers, the author's strong point is interior monologues and eerie descriptions of desolate landscapes. In the beginning of the novel when there is more one human being on Earth, the conversation
I've seen this book mentioned repeatedly as influential, ground-breaking, etc., and having been published in 1901 I'm sure it caused quite a stir in its day, but I'm pretty sure I only finished it because I ABSOLUTELY HATE to put down a book. Plodding, wordy, derivative, and often boring, I would have given it one star but for its place in literary history. Give me Lovecraft or Poe any day when it comes to old school weird fiction.
I respect this book for being one of, if not the, first examples of post-apocalyptic fiction, but it was not a very enjoyable read. If nothing else, this book serves as a testament to how much the English language has changed over the last hundred years, as there were several words on each page that have long since passed from everyday use. ***SPOILERS AHEAD***

(view spoiler)
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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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