Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Man, oh man. It’s been a long time since I had to renew a library book because I wasn’t done reading it. I have to admit, this was a slog. Olaf Stapledon has an incredible imagination. His works inspired many of the great names and most enduring concepts in SF (Dyson spheres and racial overminds, for example). He’s an unending font of insightful observation, interesting speculation, and far flung extrapolation.
He is not, however, a masterful writer. His prose soars at times, and I found myself jotting down notes for things I wanted to refer back to, because they sparked my imagination or offered unique and unapologetic insight into human nature. But in between these lofty peaks are long, dry valleys where I had to force myself to continue.
Some day, perhaps, I will read the sequel, Last Men in London. I think, nay, I hope, it is told on a more personal scope, and may therefore be a bit more approachable. But for now, I think, Mr. Stapledon and I will be taking a vacation from one another. At least for a while.