The Purple Cloud

Alone on Earth following the release of a deadly cloud of cyanide, you find everyone you ever knew or loved gone. Everywhere you look lie cadavers; victims of a poisonous cloud wasting away in the poses they died in. A grim notion by anyone’s standards – thank god it’ll never happen. Right?

Serving as the protagonist for M.P. Shiel’s Last Man narrative, Adam Jefferson seems perfectly suited for survival in the aftermath of a worldwide apocalypse. Such a shame that he turned out to be one of the most unlikable characters I’ve ever read. Weak-willed and slightly tipped from the beginning, the way he places himself in the new world order (as its ruling party under God), and his subsequent descent into madness, only aided his fall into most hated-protagonist territory.

Not suitable for those without a month purple cloud coveror two to kill, The Purple Cloud nevertheless is beautifully written. A time-consuming novel, to be studied carefully or else be easily lost along the precipitous inclines of Shiel’s towering account. Translation: the long paragraphs of in-depth imagery may often cause you to lose your place, resulting in multiple reads of the same passage. I started reading this at the beginning of February, and have chipped away at it ever since, but the length of descriptions alone mean I’ve still only just finished.

So why did I pick up The Purple Cloud? It’s an oldie, certainly not what anyone would put in the light perusal pile; how then did it end up here? I may have mentioned in a previous post about how my New Year’s reading list came into Being, and my only thought as books were flying onto the stack, was whether I’d read them or not. As true as this statement had been at the time, there was also the matter of this book being among those recommended by C, along with I Am Legend and World War Z (to come later).

While I don’t regret picking this up in the first place, I’ve thought of a reason for my otherwise inexplicable aversion to it throughout the reading. Perhaps it stems from the fact that it shares strong similarities with the books we were required to read in university; where reading for pleasure just wasn’t a thing anymore. This coupled with the fact that I forced myself to finish it, brought back the not-fun feeling of having to read something whether I wanted to or not. With this in mind, perhaps I’ll pick the next one more carefully.


Hopefully you found this up to scratch – you can probably tell from how long it took me to write, my heart just wasn’t in it this time. I’ve got more interesting picks for the coming months, which I’ll attempt to get back on track with right away. Thanks for reading, and Happy Mid-April!

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