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The Last Man (Wordsworth Classics) New ed Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1840224030
ISBN-10: 1840224037
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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.
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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: 4.9 x 1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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