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The Last Man

3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  1,535 ratings  ·  188 reviews
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (nee Godwin) (1797-1851) was an English romantic gothic novelist. She received an excellent education, which was unusual for girls at the time. She never went to school, but she was taught to read and write by Louisa Jones, and then educated in a broad range of subjects by her father, who gave her free access to his extensive library. In particu ...more
Paperback, 472 pages
Published January 23rd 2009 by Dodo 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
Jan 24, 2015 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. This story is set in the future, Shelley's vision of which includes airships as an important means of transport.

For added interest she revisits and re-imagines the interrelationships of herself (view spoil
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
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
Althea Ann
I'm glad I read this book.
As a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, I felt like it was a must. Shelley didn't originate the concepts found here, but this is still arguably, the first actual post-apocalyptic novel, as such.

It was quite fascinating to see how many of the common tropes we find in so much of today's post-apocalyptic fiction are also found in this book: the urge to travel, even in the absence of a clear goal. Scavenging and exploring abandoned places. Hordes of those willing to victi
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
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
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
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
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.

My fortunes have been, from the beginning, an exemplification of the power that mutability may possess over the varied tenor of man's life

tl;dr version: More interesting as an artefact of early post-apocalyptic literature, and perhaps for the lightly hidden portraits of Shelley and Byron by someone who knew them very well. Hard going as a leisure read, but definitely interesting.

This is no doubt, one of the earliest of the post-apocalyptic novels (although the post-apocalyptic tradition its

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
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
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
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
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
Jason Katz
Oy, did I really want to like this one. I really wanted to be that guy who had read the OTHER book by Mary Shelley and could proclaim, "Hey, guess what else she wrote that's awesome?" But I can't. I just can't. I have read and taught Frankenstein numerous times, and I was so certain The Last Man was going to be one of those gems by a favourite author you sometimes unearth that no one else knows about. But alas - it was not to be. It is not awesome. And, for the last half at least, it is barely r ...more
Catherine Siemann
So not only did Mary Shelley invent modern science fiction with Frankenstein, but she seems also to have invented post-apocalyptic fiction AND semi-gender-swapped Real Person Fanfiction with The Last Man. While the pacing is not that of a modern novel, the reimagining of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Claire Clairmont and Mary herself (as well as several of their children) into fictional characters is delightful for anyone who's a fan of Romantic poets and a reader of their biographies. Shelley's ch ...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
David Sarkies
Dec 13, 2013 David Sarkies rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Science-Fiction Lovers
Recommended to David by: Wikipedia
Shelves: sci-fi
Being a lover of older books and science-fiction when I discover a book that is in effect both I become really interested, so when I discovered that Mary Shelley (of Frankenstein fame) wrote a book about the last man left alive on Earth (or as she puts it in her book the LAST MAN), I was immediately interested, so instead of attempting to troll through the chain store bookstores here in Australia (which generally consists of Dymoks, now that Borders has effectively gone, and all of the other bo ...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
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
Jen Thomas
I'd heard that this was early apocalyptic science fiction, and that M. Shelley had spoken of it as one of her favorite pieces. So, I was curious.

It is set in the future, and I think what I like best about this book is that there is nothing, nothing, nothing at all technological about the future. So many futuristic novels lean on a good gimmick or marvelous spark-spraying gadget, and this does not-- and clearly not from lack of imagination. Future is indicated mostly through upturned politics (En
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
You know you're not enjoying a book when you think 'They're all dead now, it must be nearly finished'. Sure, there were some wonderful, poignant and tragic passages, but overall the book just dragged, and Shelley's vision for the future was not only unimaginative technologically (I wasn't looking for accuracy, but even the thought of faster transport would have been nice) but also socially. She gave us a nominal republic, but post-apocalypse, when humanities numbers had been decimated, she still ...more
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  • After London: or, Wild England
  • The Purple Cloud (Frontiers of Imagination)
  • The Scarlet Plague
  • The Blazing World and Other Writings
  • The Long Tomorrow
  • Ice
  • The Night Land
  • The Drought
  • When Worlds Collide (When Worlds Collide, #1)
  • The Lost World & Other Stories
  • The Death of Grass
  • Greybeard
  • Zofloya
  • Zastrozzi
  • A Gift Upon the Shore
  • The Bride of Lammermoor
  • Level 7
  • Beyond Armageddon
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
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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.” 17 likes
“It is a strange fact, but incontestable, that the philanthropist, who ardent in his desire to do good, who patient, reasonable and gentle, yet disdains to use other argument than truth, has less influence over men's minds than he who, grasping and selfish, refuses not to adopt any means, nor awaken any passion, nor diffuse any falsehood, for the advancement of his cause.” 3 likes
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