Last and First Men

Olaf Stapledon
Last and First Men Cover

A complex, creative look into what lies ahead......


I can't really think of any book i've read, by choice, that doesn't actually have characters. Not to overlook the content of the book, which I will discuss in a moment, the most unique aspect of Last and First Men is how the story (if you can call it that) is presented. It is an essay. You travel through hundreds of millions of years and learn of the fate of "man" yet.....not of any one single person. It becomes a bit odd....or it did for all of many kind, in his various stages, becomes the characters. "Fourth Men," for instance, all of them...not one of them...all of them...becomes the character. It's a different reading experience to relate to, or at least it was for me.

As for the content....I found it facinating. Stapledon's analysis of each stage of man throughout his evolution is extremely deep. It's not purely a physical or mental description, the reader is made to understand, in great detail, so many complex characteristics of each culture. Then, those characteristics are further broken down and we come to understand their effects on the history of the particular man we are studying. As a result it's a slow read, and I found myself reading sentences, paragraphs and whole chapters twice or even three times to be certian I was digesting all that was being offered.

As I look back at the book I'm impressed with Stapledon's creativity. His writing is heavy and the subject matter is quite deep yet he is able to sprinkle in enough original, imaginative concepts that you never get bored. You never really feel like you're reading an "essay" per feel like you are being told a fantastical story. That is hard to pull off. Parts of the book detail such complex concepts that I felt a bit out of my league and often found myself nose deep in a dictionary. Yet regardless of those strugles I was so drawn to finding out what happens next that I never considered giving into my frustrations.

I highly reccomend this book. Again, it's a slow read, but so very much worth the time. You will put it down thinking on a much larger scale then when you picked it up. Your mind will thank you for it...