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Last and First Men and Star Maker : Two Science Fiction Novels Paperback – June 1, 1968

4.2 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 438 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (June 1, 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486219623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486219622
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #699,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stefan Jones on April 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
LAST & FIRST MEN
This extremely strange book, published by an philisophically minded englishman around 1932, doesn't really qualify as a novel. There are only a few lines of dialogue, and most characters stick around for maybe a paragraph or two. Last and First Men is best thought of as a future history. Not the history of America or Western Civilization, but of the human species. Two billion years of it.
Fair Warning: Stapledon, an intellectural pacifist and survivor of the hideous spectacle of World War One, lets his prejudices and peculiarities show in the first five or so chapters of the book. He predicts a second (and further) world wars, but gets the details spectacularly wrong. America gets its knocks, but for reasons that are entirely unfair; Stapledon's beliefs about american society are bizarre and off-base. He later apologized and admitted that these early chapters were rather weak. So . . . if you get this book, you won't hurt your enjoyment of the story if you skip to the section entitled "The Americanized World" and go from there. Now that that's out of the way . . .
Last and First Men is written about the big picture. It follows Western civilization until it succumbs to an energy crisis and intellectual stagnation. A successor culture based in Patagonia arises, but an experiment with atomic power blasts it, and much of the land mass of the Earth, into oblivion. A few arctic explorers survive, but by the time humanity regains a technological civilization it has evolved into a sturdier, larger species . . . the "second men." These potentially superior creatures find themselves threatened by an invasion from Mars . . . and such martians they are!
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Format: Paperback
I have never read a writer who was able to convey the
vastness of the universe and the infinitely complex
possibilities of sentient life forms over evolutionary
stretches of time. The first of the two novels in this
publication, Last and First Men, Olaf Stapledon describes
the spiritual, intellectual and biological evolution of the
human species from our modern era to its last residence on
Neptune. The slowly changing forces of our planets and the
sun force humans to adapt and change, and Olaf Stapledon
documents these adaptations and the adaptations humans
impose on their environments. Illustrating the
unimaginably long time required for this evolution is
Stapledon's unique talent. The theme of the story is
human's destiny - to achieve a collective conciousness.
It is a fitting introduction for the next novel in this
collection - Star Maker.

In his novel Star Maker Olaf Stapledon builds a pyramid
based on intricate descriptions of the galaxy's sentient
beings and illustrates the spiritual journey of all sentient
beings toward a unification into a galactic consciousness,
with the ultimate goal of meeting the creator of the
universe. He applies his clear knowledge of modern
biological and cultural evolution and their interactions
with their environments to illustrate this journey of
countless species, societies and individuals toward this
galactic destiny. Along the way are a few twists, which are
too exciting in their intricacy to give away here! The end
finds our universal being finally able to glimpse its
creator.
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Format: Library Binding
Plot
----------------------
A being of the distant future, a descendent of human beings, travels back in time to communicate with our current age (well, Olaf Stapledon's age - 1930). He wishes to tell the story of humanity from our age until his own. In the tale we learn of man's physical, spiritual, and philosophical alterations over literally billions of years to the age of the future communicator, who is one of the species that will constitute the final development and existence of mankind - the "Last Men."
Pros
----------------------
One of the most imaginative tales in all of science fiction - or any fiction. Full of deep questions and fantastic events over a time scale that gives great meaning to the story of evolution and consciousness, touching questions of religion, science, and philosophy. It challenges the reader to view our species in a cosmic perspective, understanding both its insignificance and great significance.
Cons
----------------------
Not a really novel. More like a history book. Because of the tremendous time scales covered, there are not lasting characters, and thus no character development. Instead, entire species become "characters" which are indeed developed, but through the format of discussion, not action or speech. This may be too much for some readers. The beginning is too focused on the final chapters of our own civilization, and here the author's close ties to it in fact bind him too much to his own prejudices and culture, making it the least believable and weakest portion, and most clearly the product of his own time (don't worry, it picks up after that).
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