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The Last Town on Earth

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3.61  ·  Rating details ·  5,443 ratings  ·  886 reviews
Set against the backdrop of one of the most virulent epidemics that America ever experienced-the 1918 flu epidemic-Thomas Mullen's powerful, sweeping first novel is a tale of morality in a time of upheaval.
Deep in the mist-shrouded forests of the Pacific Northwest is a small mill town called Commonwealth, conceived as a haven for workers weary of exploitation. For Philip
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Hardcover, 387 pages
Published August 29th 2006 by Random House (NY) (first published January 1st 2006)
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Kemper
Apr 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Working in a cube farm, I dread the cold & flu season because you’re surrounded by hacking, sneezing, phlegm-filled germ factories who insist on coming to work and spreading their misery because they don’t want to burn their sick days on ‘just a cold’. I’ve often thought that we should set up some kind of quarantine zone in the building and make any of the infected go there and work so that the rest of us may be spared. After reading The Last Town on Earth, I’m torn between thinking that it’ ...more
Lawyer
Jan 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
After reading Mullen's second book, "The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers" for review and finding it less than notable I thought I should read Mullen's debut novel which received such favorable reviews. It far surpasses his second effort. The characters are finely drawn, the setting superbly described, and a number of social issues aptly addressed with a clear application of good historical research.

Mullen deftly weaves the strands of World War One, the Spanish Influenza epidemic, ahd the Ame
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Hank
Aug 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Debbie Zapata
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saturdaymx
This book is intense. The story deals with a mill town in Washington state during WWI. Charles Worthy created the town and hopes to run it and his lumber mill in a utopian way, with better working conditions for the men and better living conditions for their families. It is a social experiment and a dream for everyone, and seems to be working.

Until the Spanish flu pandemic arrives in the nearby town of Timber Falls. What will Charles do to protect his dream from the deadly flu? How will the deci
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Elizabeth  Fuller
Feb 16, 2008 rated it liked it
This book has a lot going for it - a very dramatic time (the influenza epidemic of 1918), a very dramatic premise (a town that tries to fend off sickness by isolating itself), and - if possible - even more dramatic situations as the story progresses (what happens when two different strangers try to enter the self-quarantined town). So I should have loved it. And I really wanted to. But somehow, I didn't, and it was kind of an effort to finish. But it was our book group's selection last month, so ...more
Chris Dietzel
I was very interested in this historical fiction with an apocalyptic premise. The story presented a small town worried about big world issues. Two things irked me about it though. The first was the cover to cover loading of praise from national publications saying how great the book was. Very few books can live up to unanimous industry praise and this was one that could not. There is nothing wrong with the story or the writing but there is nothing spectacular about it either. That makes me give ...more
Heidi
Nov 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: historical fiction readers
Shelves: fiction, read2007
This was suggested for our library book groups by the County Health Department. If a book group chose to read this, the department would contribute the books, and send a pandemic health department expert to the group. We chose this for our November read.

Jessica, our pandemic expert, was excited about this opportunity to work with the library, and the greater visibility the department could gain by partnering with the library. She'd heard the author on NPR, and started planning from there.

We re
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Kristen
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
Historically, this was a very interesting book. A fictional milling town in Washington State quarantines itself in an attempt to keep out the influenza of 1918. After the first few chapters, however, I did wonder whether the book was worth my time because of the poor writing. The author often stopped the action to describe (in detail) the physical appearance of every single insignificant character. There were too many characters, by the way, that were introduced for no apparent reason. The autho ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Oct 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jeanette by: Julie
This story takes place during a grim and volatile period in U.S. history, when many factors could turn neighbor against neighbor. While some were losing their sons in WWI, there was a large anti-war movement and many men refused to enlist. There was also great worker unrest and violence involving the "Wobblies" (I.W.W.) who were seeking better working conditions and higher wages. Women were agitating for the right to vote. Then along came the Influenza Pandemic of 1918, causing people to fear th ...more
John Wiltshire
Dec 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I do love apocalyptic novels and this one is based around a real apocalyptic scenario--the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak at the end of the First World War.
A small, remote logging town decides to quarantine themselves, setting up a roadblock with armed guards.
As with all plans, the weakest link is always the human beings themselves. Too many humans are inherently weak and liberal kind and thoughtful when the realities of life are anything but.
And how interesting the premise of this book is when th
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Amy
Apr 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book... It wasn't super riveting but I thought the character development was very good. It was like a socialogical (is that a word?) study on the ways fear/war/illness can affect an entire community and the ways the ugly parts of people (and some good parts too) can be brought to the surface.
Bobbie
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Totally enthralling from start to finish. Although it was fiction, it actually was modeled on real stories that occurred during the 1918 Spanish flu. Given our current risk of another global pandemic, it was also quite thought provoking causing me to wonder what I and others would do if faced with such circumstances. Beautifully written, well researched.
Kathleen
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am blown away that this was a debut novel for this author. My favorite books are adult coming of age books. This is that and so much more. It is historical fiction—well researched and you will learn so much about WWI, the Spanish influenza, and the labor movement. But for me, it was also a book about morality and how your ideals can slip so easily based on circumstance. It is beautifully written with unforgettable characters. It will stay with me for a long time. I probably should rate this fo ...more
David
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wobblies, doughboys, and Conscientious Objectors
A very nicely written historical novel set in the American northwest during the 1918 flu epidemic. The town of Commonwealth is a small, backwoods mill town, founded by an idealistic mill owner and settled by a variety of workers, mostly fleeing from union strife and harder conditions in other mill towns. Their pleasant, egalitarian little town lives in peaceful isolation except for the lumber they send downriver, until the coming of World War I and the draft, and then the influenza.

Thomas Mullen
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Ben
Nov 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I liked this book. It is Mullen's debut and I have to admit that a few times, I thought the writing was just a little clumsy. Several of the characters had trouble in their pasts and Mullen would mention it a few times before actually describing the past trouble. The main character, Philip had lost part of his foot due to an accident. Mullens mentioned Philip limping and had mentioned the accident without telling us what it was several times before going into detail. I almost would've prefered i ...more
Gilda Felt
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
I’d never heard about the towns that quarantined themselves during the Spanish Flu epidemic, so that immediately drew my interest. The story is very well told, with each person’s story slowly brought to light. And, given the very nature of the town, many are not as they seem.

Philip Worthy is not just worthy in name. He’s the central focus of the story, yet is an excellent conduit for the reader to learn about the other characters. His empathy softens what could be very unpleasant natures in othe
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Sterlingcindysu
Mullen did a lot of research for this book--resistance to WWI, the Spanish influenza, logging and lumber mills and logger's rights/unions. He puts all that research in this one book, and I think he could have fleshed the story out more and made an epic tale to make use of all his research, and added it in small bites vs. dumps of several pages.

Or conversely, he could have written 2-3 books with all the research and made this one smaller.

The story was okay. I kept expecting parts introduced ear
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Erin
Dec 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
In The Last Town on Earth, Mullen does a wonderful job of weaving the three archetypal conflicts: man vs. man, man vs. the machine (society), and man vs. nature. He does so in an unexpected way, with a wide cast of well-developed characters. The story initially revolves around Philip, the adopted son on the mill's owner, but it becomes quickly apparent that while he continues as the main protagonist, this is not just his story; the town is really the main character, and all the people that play ...more
Stephanie
Oct 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
When I was a child, my father used to tell me about this outbreak of the 'flu during WWI that "killed more people than the war, that year." The fact that Dad was born 15 years after the war ended but talked about it like he was there was a testimony to the fact the impact of the outbreak was significant in our small, Western town.

This book fictionalizes the 1919 Spanish 'flu epidemic in an intriguing way: what if (like Gunnison, Colorado) a town cut themselves off in order to avoid infection? W
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Emily
May 26, 2009 added it
Shelves: audiobooks, 2015
Grim and a little long. Too many characters. But there were many good things about this book - the antiwar sentiments, the socialism, the quiet feminism. I never quite believed the main character was 16. And when they talked about the "other" town, I zoned out. Cool stuff about contagion. I must say I appreciated the book a lot more when I heard the author's notes about his research and inspiration. The subject matter is fascinating and I'm glad this book was written. I just wish he'd cleaned it ...more
Megan
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Last Town on Earth is a wonderfully written book that pits extreme opposites against one another during the tumultuous period of WWI and the disastrous Spanish Flu epidemic. Patriotic duty verses conscientious objectors, capitalism versus socialism and government authority versus anti-authority rebellion square off with earth shattering consequences for the small American town of Commonwealth. This novel will leave you deep in thought, no matter what your political views, long after you have ...more
Renee
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a good novel about the spanish flu in a fictional mill town in the Northeastern US in 1918. I had no idea how badly it affected its victims. I learned a lot while reading this book including the political pro-war climate of the time. Made me thankful once again that I live in a time that I can express dissent and opposition to popular opinion without being labeled a traitor.
Jennifer
Nov 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: generalfiction
This book started out horrifying and then got worse. Not that the book was bad, just that the situations of the major characters and the town went from bad to worse. There were times in this book I could sense what was coming and had to put the book down. The novel was interesting and set in an unusual place and time.
Caleb Hettinga
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Caleb Hettinga
10/15/13
Mrs. Johnson-Per.1
Book Review #1-Grading Period #1

1.) Introduction: The title of this novel is “The Last Town on Earth”, written by Thomas Mullen. This book was published in Great Britain in 2006 by Fourth Estate. It was printed in Australia by Griffin Press. This book is a suspense-filled thriller that is about the will to survive. Along with the background information, I would also like to tell you about the story in this book.

2.) Brief Summary: The world has been hit by
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Melodie
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
This book was mentioned in a local news show here in the Denver area at the height of the recent flu season. It sounded quite interesting, and, on the whole, it was. Mr. Mullen did some research and this deals not only with the 1918 flu epidemic, but also WWI and the labor movement at the time. Commonwealth is a "company" town in Washington state. It's a logging community, founded by a man who grew tired of seeing his family take advantage of workers in the family logging business. He decides to ...more
Amanda
Oct 17, 2007 rated it liked it
I read _The Last Town on Earth_ for the BGSU Common Reading Experience Book Selection Committee. Well, actually I read it twice: first, a very quick skim and hated, then again very closely and realized it actually could be a pretty good CRE choice.

In terms of exploring values, this book is perfect. Virtually all the main characters and some of the secondary characters are confronted by values choices at some point in this book, and the author writes the book in a clear enough way that even reade
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Graceann
Dec 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical Fiction Fans
Recommended to Graceann by: Books on the Nightstand
During the waning days of World War I, a strange flu is spreading throughout the country, and the town of Commonwealth decides to close its borders. Nobody can get in and nobody can leave, until the contagion has passed. Then a starving soldier stumbles up to the border and begs for food and shelter, forcing the sentries to make decisions that will cause unforeseen tremors.

At the centre of this maelstrom is Philip Worthy, who has an interesting backstory of his own, but is now working at the ti
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Lynne
Jan 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Set amongst the 1918 flu pandemic, the trail end of the first world war, and the violence of the emerging labor movement, this book tells the tale of the fictional Northwestern town of Commonwealth which attempts to keep itself healthy by creating a reverse quarantine meant to keep out people with the deadly flu and protect the town. This is an intriguing story with interesting themes and definitely a page-turner at the end.

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy Thomas Mullen's writing style. He should
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Djrmel
Feb 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
A very good historical fiction that includes the 1918 Influenza epidemic, World War I disenters, and the tie between Socialism and unionization in the early 20th century. The story takes place in a logging town established on the principle that sharing the profits with everyone makes everyone profitable. When the "Spanish" flu breaks out in near by towns, the inhabitants agree that they will quarantine themselves until it passes by. Phillip, the adopted son of the owner of the mill is on guard w ...more
Mary
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
All I can say is, "Wow." Not only was this book amazingly well written, concsious of human depth, and amazing in breadth and scope, it was a good read. THe thing I found most interesting about it was the question of how far both you the reader, and the characters within the book are willing to go to save your own life, and the lives of those around you. (At this point continue only if you have already read the book or are not planning on reading it. SPOILER ALERT!) When the town first quarantine ...more
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Thomas Mullen is the author of Darktown, an NPR Best Book of the Year, which has been shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Southern Book Prize, the Indies Choice Book Award, has been nominated for two Crime Writers Assocation Dagger Awards, and is being developed for television by Sony Pictures with executive producer Jamie Foxx; The Last Town on Earth, which was named Best Debut ...more
“Another time he felt himself reenacting a conversation with father, a long talk about duty and honor and all the reasons why enlisting was the right thing to do. It was a talk they'd had several months ago, and Frank had agreed with everything his father had said, only this time Frank found himself taking a contrary opinion. What the hell's so honorable about it? Duty to whom? To myself, or the guys who would be fighting without me, or to the people here at home afraid of the Hun? Or duty to President Wilson, or to Carnegie, or to God, or to all the fallen soldiers before me, to Great-grandad Emmett and his bleached bones down at Antietam?” 1 likes
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