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The Last Man
by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
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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.
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.
Charles E. Robinson, University of Delaware
Anne McWhirs edition of The Last Man is first rate!
Mary Shelleys third published novel, The Last man, is a disillusioned vision of the end of civilization, set in the twenty-first century. The book offers a sweeping account of war, plague, love and desolation. It is the sort of apocalyptic vision that was widespread at the time, though Shelleys treatment of the theme goes beyond the conventional; it is extraordinarily interesting and deeply moving.
If The Last Man is in some sense a conventional text of the period, it is also intensely personal in its origin; Shelley refers in her journal to the last man as her alter ego, "the last relic of a beloved race, my companions extinct before me." The Novel thus develops out of and contributes to a network of story and idea in which fantasy, allusion, convention and autobiography are densely interwoven.
This new version of the first edition (1826) sets out to provide not only a thoroughly annotated text, but also contextual materials to help the reader acquire knowledge of the intellectual and literary milieu out of which the novel emerged. Appendices include material on the last man as early nineteenth-century hero, texts from the debate initiated by Malthus in 1798 about the adequacy of food supply to sustain human population, various accounts of outbreaks of plague, and Shelleys poems representing her feelings after the death of her husband.
The Last Man reverberates particularly strongly for the late twentieth-century reader, not only because of its millennial overtones but also because of its parallels between the plague that Shelley depicts and the AIDS epidemic of our own time. Overall, it is a novel that rival's Frankenstein in the rich profusion of ideas it gives rise to in the reader.
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