Last and First Men

Olaf Stapledon
Last and First Men Cover

Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future

Deven Science

This is a very different novel. It's hard to imagine what it took to even get it published, as there is no story line, no characters, no emotional ride, just a sort of brain exercise.

The book presents itself as a modern man taking dictation from a man in the future of an oral history of mankind. This future man is in fact, from billions of years in the future. This oral history starts at roughly the beginning of history, and gives a thumbnail sketch of mans doings, right until his end, many eons from now. Several times man is almost wiped out, then recovers, only to have the process repeated. Man also evolves, so that the man giving the history bares very little resemblance to the man of today.

I'm not sure I can say that I liked the novel, but I can say that I respect it. Olaf Stapledon does not talk down to the reader. The prose is eloquent, high brow, and often so complex, as to seem like one is reading math formulas, and not a book. I had trouble getting through it, both for the weight of the words, and the often slow story that was being dictated. Still, I applaud the author for reaching for the stars (literally), and for his silver tongue, so that his odd novel seemed almost at times to be poetry.

A hard one to rate for certain, but I gave it three out of five stars, because I feel like I cannot in good conscience give such a monumental attempt to do something different a failing score.