Mary Shelley

The Last Man

The Last Man


Written while Mary Shelley was in a self-imposed lockdown after the loss of her husband and children, and in the wake of intersecting crises including the climate-changing Mount Tambora eruption and a raging cholera outbreak, The Last Man (1826) is an early work of climate fiction and a prophetic depiction of environmental change.

Set in the late twenty-first century, a deadly pandemic leaves a lone survivor, and follows his journey through a post-apocalyptic world, devoid of humanity and reclaimed by nature. Rather than
give in to despair, Shelley imagines a new world where freshly-formed communities and alternative ways of being stand in for self-important politicians serving corrupt institutions, and where nature reigns mightily over humanity.

Brimming with political intrigue, The Last Man broaches partisan dysfunction, imperial warfare, refugee crises, and economic collapse—and brings the legacy of her radically progressive parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, to bear on present-day questions about making a better world less centred around “man".

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