I’ll note briefly the Penguin Classics reissuing of MP Sheil’s The Purple Cloud, his “last man standing” novel. Shiel was one of the early Yellow Peril writers first publishing books and stories with Asian villains in the late 1890s that inspired the likes of Sax Rohmer and his Fu-Manchu, though The Purple Cloud is now his best remembered work and considered an early sci-fi genre piece. There are several scenes in China in the book, including a description of the docks at Tientsin.
Dark, desolate and fantastical, The Purple Cloud was a pioneer in the genre of apocalyptic novels, and the first great science fiction work of the twentieth century. It inspired authors such as H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King.
The Purple Cloud tells the grandly bleak story of Adam Jeffson: the first man to reach the North Pole and the last man left alive on earth. A sweet-smelling, deadly cloud of poisonous gas has devastated the world, and as Jeffson travels the stricken globe in search of human life, he slowly succumbs to madness, and unleashes fire and destruction on his planet.
John Sutherland’s introduction discusses M. P. Shiel’s dissolute life, the originality of his book and its place within the context of ‘last man’ novels. This edition also includes a chronology, notes and further reading.