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The Last Man

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  3,201 ratings  ·  397 reviews
A futuristic story of tragic love and of the gradual extermination of the human race by plague, The Last Man is Mary Shelley's most important novel after Frankenstein. With intriguing portraits of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, the novel offers a vision of the future that expresses a reaction against Romanticism, and demonstrates the failure of the imagination and of ...more
Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, 479 pages
Published October 15th 2008 by Oxford University Press (first published 1826)
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Average rating 3.34  · 
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Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
Mary Shelley loved her husband; she adored his poetical voice and he admired her intellect: theirs was a marriage of minds. So it’s not overly surprising that in her later work she spent a good part of it paying homage to her late partner.

The novel begins with a wretched youth, Lionel, utterly distraught at the injustice that is his life. He is poor, uneducated and desperate. Lionel wants revenge on what he perceives as the cause of his problems; however, when the said problem appears his life
...more
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
...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 ...more
7jane
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
(NOTE: Oxford Classics' introduction-part can be spoilery.)
Mary Shelley wrote more than Frankenstein (still need to read that one). This book was written 8 years after that book, after returning from Italy back to England, and after losing her husband to death. This and the loss of most of her children with him no doubt inspired the mood and the losses happening in this book, a book about gradual dwindling of people on earth due to a plague (which started in Egypt, then spread eastwards and
...more
Jan-Maat
Jun 16, 2011 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. Indeed the first time I read it, I took a break of over a year in the middle of the book - it was not exactly compelling, read through the night material.

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
...more
David Sarkies
Mar 11, 2013 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
...more
Andrew Breslin
May 18, 2011 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
Jim
That was long! Good in places, boring in others, it wasn't really what I expected. From the author of Frankenstein: The 1818 Text & set in the end of the 21st century, I expected some SF elements, but there were none. The war is one that could have taken place any time in the prior centuries & was taking place then. While there is some travel by balloon, most is by horse. Ships still rely on sails save for a few steam powered ones. Being published in 1826, there is no knowledge of germ ...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
...more
Adam
Nov 27, 2011 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
...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
...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
...more
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
...more
Michael
Aug 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review, fiction
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
Vanessa 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
Nathan
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: x04-april-2017
I thought this was a fairly difficult read and not one everyone would enjoy, but I really liked it. Basically, if you like early 19th century British novels AND post-apocalyptic fiction, you should check this out.
Amy
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: female-author
Review originally posted in full at warmdayswillnevercease.wordpress.com.

Rating: 4.5 stars

The start of this book is incredibly slow and you definitely have to work through the first few chapters (possibly even the first volume depending on how you feel about autobiographical stories) before the pace of the story picks up. That can be off-putting so I took off half a star in my rating. Okay, on to the good stuff.

I love the autobiographical elements of this book. It’s definitely centred around
...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
...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
...more
Michele
Patience will be rewarded. Unlike, say, The Stand which opens with the apocalypse and kills off humanity at a brisk pace, or Lucifer's Hammer wherein the apocalypse is quite literally looming over the characters from the beginning even if it takes a while to hit, here the apocalypse doesn't even poke its snout above the water until maybe halfway through. But if you can stick it out until that point, it's pretty good.

There is one scene where, if you are like me and if you have read an apocalypse
...more
Sam
I'll be honest, I didn't know much alright anything about this book until it came up on my kindle recommendations and since I loved Frankenstein I just had to give it ago, particularly once I read the synopsis for it. And while I really did enjoy Shelley's writing, it didn't feel like a post apocalyptic novel to me at all. Instead it felt more like an old fashioned adventure where rich aristocrates travel the world getting themselves into trouble, pulling along the odd 'outsider' for a bit of a ...more
Peter
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: libby-yp
This is one of the toughest books I've ever read. Nothing much wrong with the story or the writing itself, there's just too much of it.

I imagined the author thumbing through a thesaurus as she wrote, looking for another way to say the same thing again with different words, but it appears Roget's wasn't published till after this was written. I'm curious to know what she used instead, she must have had something.

I found it interesting that the world she wrote about seemed technologically
...more
Anna
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 ...more
Gavin
Jul 30, 2012 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
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 ...more
Steve Gordon
Feb 15, 2012 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
Brian Willis
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
After a decade of wandering Europe with her husband Percy, her half sister Claire, and their children, 3 of whom died in that span, alongside the always chaotic interactions with Lord Byron, Mary Shelley returned home to England divested of all of those ties. One son was left, Percy had drowned, and Byron had died in Greece. Her literary circle broken, Shelley followed up the eternal success of Frankenstein with this effort.

Without too many spoilers, Shelley sets the story in late 21st century
...more
Lena B
Nov 16, 2019 added it
wild that Mary Shelley wrote fanfiction about herself! just sad that it's not good fanfiction :(
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

...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
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Mary Shelley (née Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, often known as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley) was an English 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 ...more
“Her countenance was all expression; her eyes were not dark but impenetrably deep; you seemed to discover space after space in their intellectual glance.” 25 likes
“What is there in our nature that is for ever urging us on towards pain and misery?” 15 likes
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