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The Last Man

3.33  ·  Rating Details ·  2,131 Ratings  ·  261 Reviews
The Last Man is Mary Shelley's apocalyptic fantasy of the end of human civilisation. Set in the late twenty-first century, the novel unfolds a sombre and pessimistic vision of mankind confronting inevitable destruction. Interwoven with her futuristic theme, Mary Shelley incorporates idealised portraits of Shelley and Byron, yet rejects Romanticism and its faith in art and ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published November 5th 2004 by Wordsworth Editions Ltd (first published 1826)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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J.G. Keely
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
Henry Avila
You are the last person on the face of the Earth, every desire can be easily obtained, the best of the best, shelter, food , clothes, toys, transportation, an endless vacation, go anywhere , do anything , nobody can stop it, the enormous world is all yours...Only one little problem, the animals have inherited the planet, a lonely, solitary man, no humans to speak to, he is just temporarily standing, for a short while, and will soon be gone too ( and welcomes this fact), civilization has collapse ...more
David Sarkies
Oct 02, 2015 David Sarkies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Science-Fiction Lovers
Recommended to David by: Wikipedia
Shelves: sci-fi
Shelley's apocalypse
13 December 2013

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 effec
...more
Jan-Maat
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
...more
Adam
Aug 21, 2013 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1800-s, prose
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
Andrew Breslin
May 29, 2011 Andrew Breslin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
...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
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 snuffs out humanity, the story subtly inc
...more
Vane J.
The Last Man is, as its name says, the story of the last man (Lionel Verney) living on the surface of Earth. During the course of his story, a deadly plague that killed most of mankind started to spread. He told everything he witnessed since his childhood till his experiences in the plague.

The book starts really slow. As I said, this is about Lionel's life, so he tells his story from the beginning. The plague we are promised does not appear until half the book. Based solely on the first half of
...more
Knjigoholičarka
Jun 23, 2015 Knjigoholičarka marked it as odustajem  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Maro, sestro, daviš dok ti čitalac ne poplavi kao Štrumpf. A i nešto nemam sažaljenja prema sirotoj, maloj, engleskoj aristokratiji, makar i crkavala od distopijske kuge. Vidimo se mi na čitanju Frankenštajna, ostaj mi zdravo.
Sheila
Oh Mary Shelley, really...is 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
Michael
Nov 04, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, review
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
Ebba
So I'm finally done with this beast of a book. I read this one of school and I have pretty mixed feelings about it. Overall, the themes and the plot that Mary Shelley presents are really interesting and I loved the concept of the novel. The first part is really just talk about how diffrent people in our main character's life behave and then the second part is when the plague hits the world and things starts to be a bit complicated.

I really liked the first part, even though nothing important rea
...more
Tony
Nov 29, 2012 Tony rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Anna
Jun 22, 2014 Anna rated it liked it
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
Steve Gordon
Feb 22, 2012 Steve Gordon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Krazykiwi

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

...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
Jason
Jan 02, 2015 Jason rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Genia Lukin
Mar 31, 2014 Genia Lukin rated it did not like it
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
Mike
Sep 27, 2011 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Gentleman-and-scholar
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
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
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
Gavin
Aug 08, 2012 Gavin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Margaret
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
Emily
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
Apr 09, 2011 Dara Salley rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nancy Dunbar
I thought this book would be the perfect transition from the Gothic novels I read in 2014 to the post-apocalyptic novels I am reading in 2015. Turns out that even though Mary Shelley was way ahead of her time with a plague that ends humanity, it just took TOO LONG to get to the point. I skimmed much of this and never really felt all that invested in the characters.
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  • Mary and Maria by Mary Wollstonecraft & Matilda by Mary Shelley (Penguin Classics)
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  • Level 7
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11139
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.” 20 likes
“I spread the whole earth out as a map before me. On no one spot of its surface could I put my finger and say, here is safety.” 11 likes
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