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The Last Man Paperback – November 1, 2013

3.1 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Morton D. Paley is Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. He is co-editor of Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1466336579
  • ISBN-13: 978-1466336575
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,686,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I'll admit that as a fan of post-apocalyptic novels, I went into this book with certain expectations since I knew that it was about the last man alive on earth. Instead, I encountered a book which is mostly a debate about the purpose of man, love, art, and other "big ideas."

Most modern books of this sort spend 10 pages on life "before" and the remainder of the book on adjusting to life "after." Shelley uses the opposite approach in The Last Man, and the majority of the book takes place before a mysterious plague begins to destroy the fabric of civilization. Shelley's writing is beautiful and intelligent, and her characters are highly idealized - but no more so than you would expect in a book that is presented as the memoirs of the last man alive on earth.

I think the best way for the modern reader to approach this book is with an open mind. At the beginning, I was constantly looking for clues and signs of some impending doom, and Shelley does nearly everything possible to prevent the reader from foreseeing when and how things will begin to come apart. I would recommend trusting in her ability as an author and just giving yourself over to this book. That's what I did after a few chapters, and I was pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns. Shelley focuses entirely on the human drama with little attention to the science behind the plague. She herself was the lone survivor of her group of friends and she outlived most of her children, and I think you can feel her pain and loneliness in the narrator, Verney.

This book is beautifully written and the characters debate some of the major philosophical issues of the time (of all times, perhaps). While the subject itself is melancholy, Shelley is protective of her readers and spares us most of the grim details.
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Format: Kindle Edition
“The last day passed thus: each moment contained eternity; although when hour after hour had gone by, I wondered at the quick flight of time. Yet even now I had not drunk the bitter potion to the dregs; I was not yet persuaded of my loss; I did not yet feel in every pulsation in every nerve , in every thought that I remained alone of my race, — that I was the LAST MAN.”

Verney tells the story of his life. Through mistakes of his father, he and his sister, Perdita, are cast out of a happy life into one of poor lonely orphans. He forms a plan of vengeance against the people who brought this ruin. The main culprit was the king, who is dead. When the king’s son, Adrian, comes to Verney’s town he sets his plan in motion. However, Adrian turns out to be a great supporter of Verney’s late father. Verney rises from his life of despair and longing with the help of Adrian, who becomes his lifelong best friend. This circle of six friends: Verney, Perdita, Adrian a poet and intellectual , Raymond a hero nobleman (who marries Perdita) , Adrian’s sister, Idris (who marries Verney) and Evadne, a Greek princess, have many ups and downs in their lives . Eventually, most end up married with children and quite happy and settled. But Perdita’s husband, Raymond, cheats on her with Evadne. So Perdita leaves Raymond. A war between the Greeks and the Turks break out and Raymond fights in it as does Evadne. She dies on the battlefield and Verney finds her body and buries her. As Raymond is on his death bed form mortal war wounds, Perdita goes to him and forgives him. When he dies, she kills herself.

Soon after this an epidemic begins. It’s unknown what causes it or how it spreads. It goes from country to country. England is still untouched by it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A very talented writer, but this isn't nearly as good as Frankenstein-- but it's still far better then Twilight :) Shelley focuses on the character and the emotion, very philosophical , the language is the flowery speech of the era, and creates a humanist drama while you wait for the shoe to fall.
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Mary Shelley’s "Frankenstein" has long been a favorite of mine, and every time I read it I experience a thrill at the sublime, the weighty prose that makes white caps and glaciers stand full size in my mind. Shelley’s ability to embody the male voice and lay it out with unabashed sentimentality, perhaps a feature of her romantic spirit, is enviable. She is a poet who writes her verse in prose, while indulging in a story that keeps her reader riveted.

I did not expect any less from "The Last Man," though I was surprised at its wandering and staid narrative. It is an apocalyptic novel unlike those written today, for Mary Shelley does not envision a hellish doom brought about by zombies or artificial intelligence or totalitarian regimes or climatic revelations. The end of humanity is frightening enough, especially if a single person is left all alone. Shelley quietly and ever so slowly lures her reader down a road that follows her hero from love and abundance to a forlorn state of social destitution and emptiness.

I cannot begin to give a summary of Lionel Verney’s story since it unravels in an unnecessarily belabored manner, the reason for which seems obvious only when one reaches the story’s conclusion. The labor involved in reading this kind of novel cannot be measured in hours, but must be measured in personal transformation. One becomes someone else by finishing a novel so utterly lacking in story development but rich in philosophy. My heart was lightened, and my labor softened, only in the last two chapters when Verney becomes that which Shelley has promised the reader all along.
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