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October/November 2002
 
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The End of an Epoch by A. Lincoln Green (1901)

In the twilight years of Victoria's reign sf authors in Britain looked to the new century with foreboding. Robert Cromie wrote of the threat of nuclear weapons in The Crack of Doom (1895), Thomas Mullett Ellis foresaw the use of anthrax in warfare in Zalma (1895), and Matthew Phipps Shiel described the destruction of life on earth following a volcanic eruption in The Purlple Cloud (1901). Writing in a similar vein the probably pseudonymous writer A. Lincoln Green was particularly memorable. In The End of an Epoch (1901) Adam Godwin, lone survivor after all human life has been destroyed by a man-made bacteria, recounts his survival in a Britain reverting back to nature.

The novel begins some years after the event with Adam musing over the mess his manuscript is in after a moose has entered his cabin (during the "insane" stage of the illness a zoo worker had evidently liberated the animals in his charge). Adam recounts his travels in search of other survivors and his arrival in the ruins of London. There he lives on tinned foods, has an encounter with a big cat in St. Paul's Cathedral, and daily lives in fear of the marauding packs of wild dogs that live in Buckingham Palace. Humanity is saved when an expedition to the North Pole, where the bacteria was unable to survive, returns to London. Despite the ending, in which Adam pairs off with a female scientist named Eve, the book is a "forgotten classic". Find it if you can.

—John Eggeling

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