Paperback, 307 pages

English language

Published Jan. 22, 1999 by Gollancz.

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4 stars (6 reviews)

Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future is a "future history" science fiction novel written in 1930 by the British author Olaf Stapledon. A work of unprecedented scale in the genre, it describes the history of humanity from the present onwards across two billion years and eighteen distinct human species, of which our own is the first. The book employs a narrative conceit that, under subtle inspiration, the novelist has unknowingly been dictated a channelled text from the last human species. Stapledon's conception of history follows a repetitive cycle with many varied civilisations rising from and descending back into savagery over millions of years, as the later civilisations rise to far greater heights than the first. The book anticipates the science of genetic engineering, and is an early example of the fictional supermind; a consciousness composed of many telepathically linked individuals. In 1932, Stapledon followed …

2 editions

reviewed Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon (Sf Masterworks 11; SF Masterworks)

Interesting as an excercise in SciFi history, less so as a SciFi book for the modern reader

3 stars

Looking back into the past, its easy to think of technological and social development as 'obvious'. But in the same way this is just a result of our present perspective and in the same way we are unable to know future shifts in paradigms, counting the things that any author got right or wrong about the future is a futile endeavour. Stapledons book is a great read for anyone interested in the paradigms of his time, and how people imagined the far future without computers or the perspective of humanity spreading through the universe. One very interesting aspect that might not be elusive is that Stapledon very, VERY rarely explains history through the actions of individual actors. And when he does, he makes it clear that that individual is either the product of its environment or has fertile ground for changing history. Still, with no characters to follow, it can …

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  • Science Fiction
  • Fiction
  • Science Fiction - General
  • Fiction / Science Fiction / General