George R. Stewart’s novel Earth Abides grapples with the question of what shape society will take after a deadly pandemic kills off most of the earth’s population.
“I venture to predict the following improvements: Improvements which time may verify when the hand that now writes them, has long mouldered in the clammy soil.”
Presented here is an abridged version of Mary Shelley’s post-apocalyptic pandemic novel “The Last Man” (1826). The plague makes its way across the world killing all in its path and eventually arrives in England. Many of the motifs we find in modern-day apocalypse movies can be found in Shelley’s novel: lawlessness and rioting, the rise of religious madmen, the hoarding of food, and scenes of desolate towns and cities. The extract presented here is a highly abridged one which provides an overview of how Shelley imagined the end of the world as ushered in by a pandemic.