OLAF STAPLEDON STILL ROCKS

My friend Juan had pulled some strings with NASA so that I could take a quick trip to Mars but, at the last minute there was some kind of trouble with a lift-off thing-a=magig.  My son reminded me of a book I’d read eons ago (published in London in 1931) Last and First Men.

It covers the evolution of man billions of years in the future.  Today’s rapidly changing (I hesitate to use the word “declining”) evolution  could make those billions change to hundreds of years.  It’s a telepathic revelation of man’s chaotic future through space and time.

With a 1930’s perspective, peace is present until an “airship” crashes into London releasing toxic warfare gas.  England retaliates against Western Europe and a state of almost total extinction occurs.  The US and China become the super powers and agree to a peaceful solution.  Shortages of oil, metal and food follow, but an “inexhaustible” energy source is found and “we” cook the planet.  The last bit of life exists on the tip of an island close to the North Pole.  Darwinism takes over as man continues resulting in a stronger man who regains dominence over earth.  He decides to build a genetically perfect brain that will warn of impending doom.

“Brain” feels unfulfilled, replicates itself into a higher state.  Man’s prime urge shines through.  The brain designs Adam and Eve to experience emotions who eventually destroy the brain through their descendants.  A dark cloud appears above a  mountaintop and covers the terrain in a “green mist” which is a conglomerate of Martians which act together as the Borg.  After the mist consumes crops and people men once again surge forward and send the “mist” back to Mars.

Humans battle the remaining Martians and flourish, after which point the moon falls out of orbit.  They are down to a pitiful group, but somehow escape to Venus.  On arrival they find Venus almost covered by water.  A few islands exist, and there they survive.  Vesuvians live in the sea as swardfish creatures who dislike Earthlings.  When Venus becomes too hot for them, the humans move to Neptune.  The sun is dying.  Throughout the book there are flying humans, fish-like humanoids and a  “Planet of the Apes” evolution at the end (we make it through).

Yes, it’s Sci-Fi 101, but there were parts of the book that came almost too close for comfort.  I’m glad I’m not living in the “Green Mist” period.  And, yet, looking out the window…OH, NO……..