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The Last Man

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  4,203 ratings  ·  580 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 September 10th 1998 by Oxford University Press (first published 1826)
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Kristy I'm still working my way through this, but yeah. It is kind of surreal. Obviously, this is more exaggerated since people don't just drop dead of the '…moreI'm still working my way through this, but yeah. It is kind of surreal. Obviously, this is more exaggerated since people don't just drop dead of the 'Rona on the spot, but still... giving off very similar vibes. Unfortunately, I don't think we'll see the winter relief they get here in this book.(less)

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Average rating 3.35  · 
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Sean Barrs
Revisiting this during a global pandemic seems rather unnerving because this is a book in which the entirety of humanity dies after succumbing to plague.

And the more I read it the more I take from it. This is my third time round. The first was for enjoyment and the second two were for research purposes. I'm currently writing a PhD chapter on this along with Frankenstein and Matilda.

What draws me to this literary era, beyond that of any other, are the depictions of nature. The natural world is
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
Henry Avila
Aug 28, 2015 rated it liked it
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 collapsed buried un ...more
Amalia Gkavea
‘’A solitary being is by instinct a wanderer, and that I would become. A hope of amelioration always attends on change of place, which would even lighten the burthen of my life... Tiber, the road which is spread by nature’s own hand, threading her continent, was at my feet, and many a boat was tethered to the banks. I would with a few books, provisions and my dog embark in one of these and float down the current of the stream into the sea; and then, keeping near land. I would coast the beaute ...more
Jun 16, 2011 added it
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
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(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 west
Andrew Breslin
May 18, 2011 rated it did not like it
I desperately tried to convince myself that I didn’t loathe this, but I’m just not that good a liar.

Frankenstein, arguably my favorite book of all time, is so staggeringly good that I physically tremble when I read it, and I have read it over and over. So yes, I went into this with high expectations. I did not expect it to be as good as Frankenstein. I did expect it to be marginally more entertaining than reading a telephone book, but I was disappointed.

Granted: there are beautifully written pa
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 effec
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 theory so ...more
Althea Ann
Nov 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christopher Conlon
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: prose, 1800-s
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
T.D. Whittle
Gorgeous. I liked this one even more than Frankenstein, which is one of my favourite books. It's strange that this book is so often referred to as science fiction. The only scifi aspect is that it takes place in the future—fortunately for us because, as the title portends, the human species is wiped out at the end of the twenty-first century when a plague devastates our planet.

The Last Man was published in 1856 and it reads as if it is taking place in 1800s. That gets a bit confusing at times,
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
Nicole Hogan
Feb 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oleksandr Zholud
Apr 22, 2020 rated it liked it
This is one of the earliest examples of apoc/post-apoc SF from the author of . I read is as a part of monthly reading for April 2020 at The Evolution of Science Fiction group.

This long novel is a mix of a Victorian/romantic novel, disguised autobiography and proto-SF. The author assumedly finds the manuscript in the Sibyl's cave near Naples and translates it into English. The book has three volumes, each roughly a third of the story.

The first volume presents our narrator and protagonist, Lionel
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
Apr 20, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: female-author
Review originally posted in full at

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 Pe
Meghal Bhatt
Feb 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Bewitched. Enchanted. Enthralled. Smitten. Raptured. These are the words I am thinking to express my delight upon reading this book.
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
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
Genia Lukin
Nov 28, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Catherine Siemann
Jan 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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
What are we, the inhabitants of this globe, least among the many that people infinite space? Our minds embrace infinity; the visible mechanism of our being is subject to merest accident. Day by day we are forced to believe this. He whom a scratch has disorganized, he who disappears from apparent life under the influence of the hostile agency at work around us, had the same powers as I—I am also subject to the same laws. In the face of all this we call ourselves lords of creation, wielder
Hannah Mumm
Oct 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Well that sure was an alarming book to read in the middle of the pandemmie
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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 Wollstonecraf ...more

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