Last and First Men

  • by Olaf Stapledon
  • Narrated by Stephen Greif
  • 14 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

One of the most extraordinary, imaginative and ambitious novels of the century: a history of the evolution of humankind over the next 2 billion years. Among all science fiction writers Olaf Stapledon stands alone for the sheer scope and ambition of his work. First published in 1930, Last and First Men is full of pioneering speculations about evolution, terraforming, genetic engineering and many other subjects.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Starts slow, but give it time; mind-blowing

What did you like best about this story?

The vast scope of time.

Any additional comments?

In the forward, [whoever wrote that] said they recommend skipping the first 3 chapters because they are tedious, and obviously, are now past future-history, which makes the predictions a little laughable in their falseness.
I didn't skip the first 3 chapters and almost gave the book up at around the 2 hour mark, and am so happy I didn't. It grows exponentially more amazing and interesting all the way to the end. Unlike anything I've read before. Truly mind-expanding.

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- Isaac Sharp

Quite impressive for 1930

Stapledon attempts to convey the evolution of humans over a 2 billion year epoch. The breadth and scope of concepts are extensive and even somewhat surprising given the extent of scientific thinking at that time. Interestingly, he also nails some geopolitical evolution in his near term in that the US and China end up vying for global supremacy as well as identifying Germany dominating Europe economically (interestingly due to their pacifist nature following their WWI defeat). What follows is a natural progression of stages with current day being the "first" men and ending with the last, or eighteenth iteration of "humans". The story is conveyed as a message from the last to first when the last anticipate their eventual destruction.

The sci-fi elements are varied and Stapledon covers the gamut (only missing computers). He brings in biological warfare and anticipates genetic manipulation, first on microorganisms and finally animals, plants and even humans (some of which serve to demarcate the 1 - 18 progression). He envisions nuclear fission (annihilation of matter which leads to disaster), loss of fossil fuels, geothermal and wind power, space exploration (etherships instead of spaceships), Martian and Venusian lifeforms, alien invasion of Earth, planet wide terraforming, contact with the past and much more.

One particular note - this is not a story with characters and a plot. The tale unfolds more along the lines of a history professor's class lectures with emphasis on the dominate themes driving each version of man along with the forces shaping their evolution and transitions. The narration is excellent and makes up for what would otherwise be a pedantic soliloquy.
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- Michael G Kurilla

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-10-2012
  • Publisher: Audible Studios