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Last Man on Earth -- The Appeal

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Marian Powell
Posted on Tuesday, January 08, 2008 - 06:04 am:   

Name a last man on earth story or movie and invariably it's really enthralling up to point where the other humans enter. While I'm thinking I Am Legend (see Winter Movies thread) I'm remembering The Quiet Earth, Omega Man, The World, The Flesh and the Devil and a whole bunch of others whose names escape me (Hey, it's morning and I haven't had breakfast yet). But my experience has been the same. Something about seeing someone alone in the world and surviving or not is utterly engaging and the moment the others show up it becomes ordinary. And why is it never the last woman on earth, incidentally?
Even Earth Abides has that quality. It's most interesting when Ish is wandering the country looking for survivors, although, because the novel avoids the standard cliches it almost breaks the mold.

Now here's a second part to this thought. Anyone read The Purple Cloud? Very Victorian but still the first third is beautifully written and interesting where the hero is alone in the dead world. The ending is sooo bad where of course he meets the girl. But the second third of the novel begins to become boring and the reason is that he's still the last man on earth and frankly not interesting anymore. So is there a time limit? Is the concept interesting only if it's really like an extended vacation, a camping trip?
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Erik Olson
Posted on Tuesday, January 08, 2008 - 08:34 pm:   

Empty World by John Christopher.
Anyone remember it?
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S. Hamm
Posted on Wednesday, January 09, 2008 - 03:27 pm:   

BTW, THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL is a (very loose) adaptation of THE PURPLE CLOUD.
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, January 09, 2008 - 06:16 pm:   

Until now, I have always been in awe of Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream." However, thanks to insights gleamed from this very thread, I can see that "I have No Mouth and I Must Scream" ended when it was just getting good, when there was at last just one man left on Earth. "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream." What kind of conflict is contained in that sentence? Yet rather than exploring that conflict, the story just ends when there's important questions left to be answered. For example, if you're the last man in the world and you scream in a forest yet no one hears, do you really scream? If you really have to scream and you have no mouth, might there not be other ways to expresses your feelings? Might their not even be other orifices -- I'm thinking nose here -- that might be put to effective use in a backup situation?

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