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The Last Man (Wordsworth Classics) [Paperback]

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 5, 2004 1840224037 978-1840224030 New ed
With an Introduction and Notes by Dr Pamela Bickley, The Godolphin and Latymer School, formerly of Royal Holloway, University of London 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 nature. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) was the only daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, author of Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and the radical philosopher William Godwin. Her mother died ten days after her birth and the young child was educated through contact with her father's intellectual circle and her own reading. She met Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1812; they eloped in July 1814. In the summer of 1816 she began her first and most famous novel, Frankenstein. Three of her children died in early infancy and in 1822 her husband was drowned. Mary returned to England with her surviving son and wrote novels, short stories and accounts of her travels; she was the first editor of P.B.Shelley's poetry and verse.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in an apocalyptic future ending in the year 2100, Shelley's 1826 novel concerns a plague that destroys almost all of humankind.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Thanks to yet another film incarnation, 1818's Frankenstein is again a hot property and may even make the best sellers lists. These two editions mark both ends of the publishing spectrum, with Signet offering the inexpensive movie tie-in version complete with photos from the film and an afterword by Howard Bloom. The California version is the Pennroyal edition, featuring gorgeous illustrations by Barry Moser and an afterword by Joyce Carol Oates. Published in 1826 after the death of her husband and three children, The Last Man is Shelley's dark look at an apocalyptic future.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Wordsworth Classics
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd; New ed edition (November 5, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840224037
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840224030
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 4.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
101 of 107 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'All The World Has The Plague!' November 19, 2000
By mp
Format:Paperback
Mary Shelley's novel, 'The Last Man' is a work which is slowly gaining the critical attention it richly deserves. Fans of 'Frankenstein' will be astounded at how much deeper Mary Shelley's indictment of 'masculine' visionary Romanticism, technology, and the faults of humanity go in 'The Last Man'. At the same time, the novel is fraught with problems and contradictions which give an already paranoid work a whirling sense of internal dementia.
The action of 'The Last Man' takes place between 2073 and 2100 AD. England is ripe for change as the last King of England abdicates his throne in response to public outcry for a more democratic form of government. Lionel Verney, a shepherd, is drawn out of a life of wildness and crime by Adrian, the former crown prince of England. The charismatic Lord Raymond enters the story as the lover of Lionel's sister, Perdita, and the newly-elected Lord Protector of England. Torn between his love of power and his affections for his wife and a persistent attachment to Evadne, a Greek woman, Raymond renounces his political position and flees to Greece. There, he leads a military campaign to establish Greek independence and bring about the end of the Turkish empire.
Then, the Plague takes over. The nondescript malady has wiped out the population of Constantinople just as Raymond conquers it, making his victory meaningless. Word of the plague's virulence comes in from Asia and America, and from the southern, eastern, and western corners of the world, the plague begins to encroach inward towards Europe and England. The remainder of the novel tracks Lionel and Adrian's attempts to save the human race from utter annihilation.
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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Beginning of the End October 26, 2003
Format:Paperback
In "The Last Man" (1826) Mary Shelley conceived a plot device that would eventually be used by a string of writers: an apocalyptic plague that virtually wipes out the human race. From "The Last Man" would come books like "The Scarlet Plague" (1912), "Earth Abides (1949) and "The Stand" (1978), each work taking something from its predecessor, each work written in a separate, distinctive era. The passage of time would allow writers to be more graphic in terms of aftermath, as readers became more sophisticated and less disturbed by what earlier generations would consider "horrifying".
"The Last Man" takes place in the late 21st century: a future without telephones, cars, television or computers. In fact life in the 2090s is not that different to the 1820s, apart from a few political changes (Britain is now a republic). Readers who criticized "Earth Abides" for being dated would have even more to complain about here. Shelley could not possibly have guessed the advances, social and technological, that would take place since 1824. Therefore it's helpful for the modern reader to pretend the story is happening in an alternate 21st century, along the lines of "Pavane".
The narrator Lionel Verney spends the first third of the book describing his early life, telling us how an altruistic young man of noble stock (Adrian) took him under his wing, effectively saving him from a life of penury. Lionel and his younger sister now mix in the highest circles, the cultured world of art, literature and music (things which the working class had nothing to do with in the 1820s).
Mary Shelley's prose is formal to say the least. Containing echoes of Byron and Wordsworth, it is rich, stylish and philosophical.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley published "The Last Man" in 1826, eight years after her classic "Frankenstein" and four years after her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley died. Of all of her other novels, "The Last Man" is clearly the one that is of more than passing interest. In her Journal in May of 1824 Shelley wrote: "The last man! Yes, I may well describe that solitary being's feelings, feeling myself as the last relic of a beloved race, my companions extinct before me." The result was one of the first novels to tell a story in which the human race is destroyed by pestilence, which we have seen in novels from Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" and Stephen King's "The Stand," and films such as the recent "28 Days Later..." However, "The Last Man" is also an early example of a dystopian novel set in the 21st century when England is a republic being governed by a ruling elite. Adrian, Earl of Windsor (and a representation of Shelley's late husband) introduces the narrator of the tale, Lionel Verney, who is the required outsider to describe and comment upon the world of the future.
Shelley's vision of the future is essentially a reaction against Romanticism and the failure of the movement to solve the problems of the world with art and imagination. This would stand in contrast to earlier English utopian works such as Francis Bacon's "The New Atlantis," which reflected the Age of Reason's belief that science would solve any and all problems. Shelley begins the story as a romance, with Lord Raymond (presumed to be modeled on Lord Byron) winning the hand of the lovely Perdita and being elected Protector. In contrast to the dire predictions of Thomas Malthus regarding unchecked population growth resulting in mass starvation, an ideal world seems to have been created.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars I should be the last man that ever reads this book.
Let me start by saying that I forced myself to finish this book. Others have written as to why they liked or disliked this work, let me do more to help the next potential reader. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Shawn D. Balls
4.0 out of 5 stars I surprisingly liked it
I had to read this book for an english class and when I first found out I had to read it I was kind of disappointed, because these types of books are the kind I typically have... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Kevin Wheat
2.0 out of 5 stars Waaaaaay too long.
Just too freaking long! Needed a good edit. I didn't mind the first half, but about that point it started too feel like it was never going to end.
Published 16 months ago by Jaxta
1.0 out of 5 stars Defective- Amazon, please note!
I ordered this book because my husband was reading it on his Kindle and thought I might enjoy it. Unfortunately I ordered the wrong one! Read more
Published 16 months ago by anita4409
2.0 out of 5 stars Excruciating detail
First the good things: The book size sold to me is perfect. It fits your hand and the pages turn easily. That's not a small thing when you read a lot of novels. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Laurence
1.0 out of 5 stars Did Not Like
Considering just how much I enjoy her "Frankenstein", this work was a serious letdown. Another one I did not bother to finish.
Published 19 months ago by Spaniardx
1.0 out of 5 stars I volunteer for the plague!
If it is a choice between plague and re-reading this book. The premise of course is stated in the title, which takes some of the suspense out of it and adds endless depths of... Read more
Published on July 11, 2012 by Artemis825
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time like I did.
I started reading post-apocalyptic novels a couple years ago. I've read probably 20 or so of the most popular books in this genre and I'm always on the look-out for more. Read more
Published on February 1, 2012 by Zia
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly Precise for a 19th century book
Read this a while back. What I found noteworthy about this End of the World story is that it isn't so outlandish. Read more
Published on January 30, 2012 by Tenchi in DC
5.0 out of 5 stars My Review
I was very satisfied not only with the story, but with the quality of the text itself. It stayed very true to the more archaic spellings and grammar in the original, which is... Read more
Published on March 7, 2011 by Amy Chasek
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