This review is based on the regular Kindle version of the text - not the illustrated version.
I have mixed feelings about the book. On the positive side, it was enormous in scope, covering the 2 billion year history of mankind from us (the first men) through a total of 18 permutations of the species. Humanity has quite a journey including fighting a war with Martians, escaping a dying Earth, and living for a while on Venus before finally ending up on (and ending on) Neptune. I thought it almost unique that the author didn’t presume FTL travel, and indeed had even the last men getting sick in the vastness of space. I also liked that each successive species was not necessarily an improvement over the one before and that civilizations arose and collapsed continuously over the eons, with dark ages and golden ages.
On the downside, the writing is rather dry and reads a bit like an encyclopedia, as opposed to an actual story. There are no characters to get attached to, as the book is entirely about history and philosophy. What made me crazy was that throughout the book, (particularly in the last third) when things got interesting, Stapledon would say things along the lines of, “I can’t pause to describe what happened” or, “It is impossible for me to give any idea of the…experience” or, “Whose nature it is impossible for me to describe” or, “Of this obviously, I can tell you nothing.” If the author can’t be bothered to do this, why tell the story in the first place?