Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Recommended Read - Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon

I'll confess that I discovered Olaf Stapledon relatively recently, but what a discovery he was! A common theme in these recommended reads is the concept of science fiction tackling big ideas and the premise for this book is pretty big - although it pales in comparison to Star Maker which will be a future recommended read.

It's an unusual story in that it doesn't have a cast of individual characters as it tells the tale of humanity itself. That in itself makes this an unusual read as it doesn't tie you in with the usual emotion of the individual. Yet while the glimpses of individuals' lives are scant, there is great drama here, but on a planetary scale.

The scope is staggering as it covers billions of years of human evolution and civilisations rising and falling. Impressive as the scope is, it's the imagination which really sets this book apart. It explores a diverse range of possibilities for how our species evolves and establishes its existence on our home planet and beyond.

If it has a downside then the story suffers from a common issue with old science fiction and that is the science. This is most noticeable in the early part of the story, and this is compounded by the early events not fitting with the actual events from our timeline for the beginning. However this becomes less of a problem as the story progresses and the imagination and exploration of possibilities comes to the fore.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

"No book before or since has ever had such an impact upon my imagination," declared Arthur C. Clarke of Last and First Men. This masterpiece of science fiction by British philosopher and writer Olaf Stapledon (1886–1950) is an imaginative, ambitious history of humanity's future that spans billions of years. Together with its follow-up, Star Maker, it is regarded as the standard by which all earlier and later future histories are measured.

The protagonist of this compelling novel is humanity itself, stripped down to sheer intelligence. It evolves through the ages: rising to pinnacles of civilization, teetering on the brink of extinction, surviving onslaughts from other planets and a decline in solar energy, and constantly developing new forms, new senses, and new intellectual abilities. From the present to five billion years into the future, this romance of humanity abounds in profound and imaginative thought.

Click here to buy Last and First Men from Amazon

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