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The Last Town on Earth: A Novel Hardcover – August 29, 2006
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Although this is Mullen's first published work, there are none of the usual verbal pyrotechnics or high-wire "look how well I can write" balancing acts one sees with beginning authors. How refreshing to read a younger author who has already progressed beyond his ego and knows that it's all about story, story, story. Mullen tells his tale cleanly, simply and plainly--making the ironies and allegories all the more potent. I knew almost nothing of the flu epidemic of 1918 and even less about the political climate in the US during WW1. These are not subjects I would go out of my way to read about, but Mullen has made them compelling and interesting. In fact, the author's voice has the same level of confidence and maturity that one only finds in writers with decades more experience (I kept thinking of Wallace Stegner and Alice Munro while I was reading)--authors who earn your trust and confidence so early and easily that you completely relax into the writing and the voice. It's already on my Ten Best List; I can't imagine I'll read ten better books this year. It's easily the most impressive and heartfelt book I've read in a long while. --Terry Goodman
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
And there is a great deal about the time in which this novel is set (the fall of 1918) that is not ordinary. The First World War is raging and people are dropping like flies from a viscous influenza that nothing seems to stop or cure. The worst part is the randomness of who gets infected and, once infected, who lives or dies. Young children and the elderly are often spared, while healthy young adults in the prime of life fall ill and die. The characters in this novel are very well drawn and through them author Thomas Mullen shows the many ways that fear leeches away their humanity, making them suspicious even of old friends and loved ones.
A very interesting facet of the plot is that Commonwealth was founded by unionists and socialists as a utopian village where work and wages are shared far more fairly than was the case in most of the Northwest lumber towns. Those who are the informal leaders of the town seem to view themselves as a cut above those who live in neighboring villages, specifically Timber Falls, which is a short distance down the road.Read more ›
Within the first ten or so pages of chapter one, I was hooked. After I was hooked, the novel hauled me into the boat and beat me with the oar - I was completely under its power. It's the kind of book that makes you forget that you're reading a book. I ripped through it in about three days, and then I went back to re-read it a week later. Ridiculously engaging.
The characters, far from being the usual caricatures you see in so many books, all behave in very real, very believeable ways. Mullen does an incredible job of subtly putting the reader in each character's mind, and you realize that they are all making very honest, difficult decisions about severely morally challenging issues. He ends up, through his characters, indirectly asking the reader, "What would YOU do in this situation?" The characters all behave and make choices, surprisingly, like honest, real people, and not like characters in a novel. This is the sort of thing that is infinitely rewarding about this book, and really places it above and beyond anything else I've read lately. The author has some serious talent, and the world should experience it.
I eagerly await Mullen's next work, and I hope to be reading him for decades to come. You are depriving yourself if you do not read this book. In a word, stellar.
I found Mullen's tale more 'highly readable' than page-turning. His prose strains to acheive a literary quality, often feeling overly self-conscious with obscure word choices. The novel constantly switches character points-of-view, which is the most difficult structure to pull off and this results in occassional awkwardness. Oddly, while first filling us in on the backstories of numerous more minor characters, Mullen only teases with hints on how his central character, a 16-year-old orphan named Phillip came to live with his adoptive family. Phillip is a cripple, who is missing one of his feet -- a trait Mullen strangely ignores when it doesn't suit his purpose, at one point Phillip is described getting out of bed without having to secure the boot he needs to walk!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I absolutely loved the book.
Fascinating novel regarding human nature in reaction to a deadly disease.
Thomas Mullen’s powerful historical novel, The Last Town on Earth, is a moving debut from a talented Canadian writer. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Marmalade
Mullen chose the period around 1918, during World War I and the terrible flu epidemic. This provided a backdrop for an interesting exploration of human nature. Well written. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Simplicity Seeker
Had to read it for a class and loved it. Hooks into history if you like History. I never read books and I read this one to the very end.Published 7 months ago by Hailie Chandler
This was an interesting time in history. With today's communication I wonder if things would have gotten out of hand.Published 9 months ago by W. Baker
Dash it all!
When I first read of this book, I could not wait to get it and read it. I imagined myself spellbound, held captive by this fascinating period in American... Read more