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4.0 out of 5 stars Tough times
This is a long and sometimes difficult book to get through but the journey and arrival at its conclusion make well worth it. It tells the story of the isolated American mill town of Commonwealth and its struggles against the epidemic Spanish flu and the tragic ramifications of its self-imposed quarantine.

Set during the Great War, Commonwealth was a new mill...
Published on 14 Feb 2009 by tallpete33

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing tale of a little known time.
I started out thinking this would be fascinating telling of the almost forgotten 1918 influenza. It set off at a good pace with some key action early on but then somehow the emphasis of the story went in another direction. This story of a north west US town that isolates itself to try and prevent being infected by the rampant virus turns into a bit of political ramble...
Published on 8 Mar 2009 by Claptonite


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing tale of a little known time., 8 Mar 2009
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This review is from: The Last Town on Earth (Paperback)
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I started out thinking this would be fascinating telling of the almost forgotten 1918 influenza. It set off at a good pace with some key action early on but then somehow the emphasis of the story went in another direction. This story of a north west US town that isolates itself to try and prevent being infected by the rampant virus turns into a bit of political ramble about the burgeoning American trade union and pacifist movements rather than a sociological insight into the effects this terrible epidemic had on the times.

It is a powerful story for all that and Thomas Mullen is an author of promise. I was disappointed by the ending which seemed to be a bit of action to bring everything to a climax. Some parts of the narrative were rather drawn out and repetitive but I have to admit that I enjoyed the reading of it overall. Possibly Mullen could have benefited from some for tighter editing to make this a really well crafted book. It misses the mark but not by much.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good, 5 Mar 2009
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Johnnybluetime - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Town on Earth (Paperback)
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I confess this tale of an isolated town in the American Northwest during the influenza pandemic of 1918 took me a while to read, but overall I found it an interesting book without being compelling. The story is a good one of a liberal timber mill owner and his workers, many of them socialists and misfits, who quarentine their town from the ravages of the flu which is decimating the whole country and indeed, the world. As the author says, this is not an episode in history that is particularly well known and is largely overshadowed by the events of the First World War, and yet it killed many millions more than those who died in the war.

The characters are well drawn and believable from Philip, the mill owner's adopted son, to JB Merriweather, a banker from the neighbouring town. The plot involves young Philip allowing a deserter into the town and what happens thereafter to him and his friend and idol, Graham, and the rest of the inhabitants. Despite a canvas that encompasses many different characters, Mullen holds it all together very well, and succeed in creating a believable and interesting story.There are obvious parallels to the events of the last few years, specifically Bush's War on Terror, but the author never overdoes it and he largely leaves it to the reader to make the connections.

Why only three stars then? Well, firstly it lacks a fiery sense of passion at the injustices suffered by the characters. It is at times a little too polite and the writing is rather dry. Secondly, as others have mentioned, there are some anomolies, and thirdly the ending feels unresolved and makes the book a less satisfying read because of it. Nevertheless, I would still recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a bitter book, 29 Jan 2009
By 
Mrs. J. Jones "janejones" (Chester) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Town on Earth (Paperback)
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When Spanish flu reaches the area where the town of Commonwealth is situated - 50 miles northeast of Seattle - in 1918, the community responds by shutting itself off from the outside world in the hopes of escaping this deadly virus. Two strangers approach the town to be met with a hostile reception from Graham, a former drifter whose newly settled life is threatened and Philip, a disabled 16 year old boy who has discovered a family life he had never known before.

As the story unfolds, the peace and tranquility of Commonwealth, a sort of alternative community run on socialist lines, is shattered. Not only do they not escape the flu but smalltown American politics, with its jealousies and narrow mindedness, catches up with them in the form of the American Protective League. These are legalised vigilantes, barely operating within the law, who roam the country looking for draft dodgers to send to the battlefields of World War I.

Violence and pestilence combine to produce a story full of bitterness and suffering, without much redemption. The hopes and dreams of the community seem to have been based on a false premise - the innate goodness of humanity. The ending is sad and contains little to suggest that things will get any better. I was left feeling rather depressed by Mullen's picture of the world and his clumsy expositional prose did little for me. A bit grim in fact.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good idea but very depressing and an incomplete ending, 21 May 2009
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S. Diment "sue_diment" (Wolverhampton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Town on Earth (Paperback)
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"The Last Town on Earth" is set in the USA, at the start of the 1918 infuenza epidemic that spread across the globe, brought back to the USA by soldiers from WW1.

It's topical, given the recent "swine flu" scare (which may yet cause more problems during the winter), but it's not light reading. The town in question is a lumber town for workers who are unionised, and object to the poor conditions at the main lumber mills. Hence they are already somewhat detached from other towns, and can impose a quarantine when the flu outbreak begins.

It's a realistic, well-researched story, with a strong historical element (that seemed fairly accurate to me, albeit with my limited knowledge of this period of US history). But it's a depressing read, as there are a lot of deaths, and the story proves how little control we have over our own destinies when a crisis such as this strikes.

The ending seemed a bit weak - the central characters, suffering great tragedy, simply move on, without much in the way of positive new experiences. Many of the minor characters, and the town as a whole are barely mentioned - did it survive, or fail?

It's well written and researched, but just didn't have any extra spark for me. I admit I prefer a book with some positive aspects (even if the ending is tragic) but this was unremittingly depressing. Perhaps just one character who made a change for the better in his/her life as a result of the flu, would have made the book more readable - surely such an event could have inspired someone to make the most of what they had left?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Tough times, 14 Feb 2009
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tallpete33 (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Town on Earth (Paperback)
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This is a long and sometimes difficult book to get through but the journey and arrival at its conclusion make well worth it. It tells the story of the isolated American mill town of Commonwealth and its struggles against the epidemic Spanish flu and the tragic ramifications of its self-imposed quarantine.

Set during the Great War, Commonwealth was a new mill town, started by Charles Worthy, part businessman and part philanthropist. Built on supposedly unworkable land, it attracted its workers with good wages and housing, those who had been used to suffering at the hands of unscrupulous mill bosses, their strikes ruthlessly broken down.

When the deadly flu virus strikes nearby towns, Worthy and town leaders decide to lock the town down to prevent infection. When a soldier inexplicably turns up at their makeshift border, bloody and coughing, his fate is sealed. When another healthy looking soldier turns up, his story not quite fitting, things take a more sinister turn.

Almost inevitably, the town becomes victim to the disease, and as supplies dwindle, food is stolen and the question of the quarantine is raised. We travel with the doctor door to door, sharing his pain as the killer bug decimates families. The town is in chaos and suspicions of their motives are raised in neighbouring towns with the paranoia of spies and draught dodging rife.

As I said, this can be hard work and it has a sluggish start but it is a very well written book that develops towards a dramatic climax. These are tough times for tough people but the author really describes the emotions well, particularly the trauma of Graham who fired the first shot. Unused to shooting anything but animals, he is almost a broken man. You really feel the claustrophobia and are shocked at the horrors occurring in the small town, defenseless against an invisible killer.

Set against a backdrop of the Great War and the paranoia it brought, it is desolate, often desperate but very very good.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Much promise but stumbles at the last hurdle, 8 April 2009
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Lilyfae (West Oxfordshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Last Town on Earth (Paperback)
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This book sets out with such potential. A gripping moral dilemma, well-formed characters with background stories that you can care about, and a detailed inspection of a human crisis in 20th century history that has so far been brushed under the carpet for more exciting matters.
As I began to read about the town, its hardships and social history, I was drawn into the sheer shock, horror and fear that permeated the world in 1918. Surely they must have felt the world was coming to an end with the War in Europe, Famine for many in Europe suffering through the war the two leading thousands to Death and now Pestilence in the form of the Great Influenza stalking the world taking millions.
I couldn't put the book down, wanting to find out who survives, who dies and what happens, and then when the book is just reaching its climax of hysteria, pestilence and desperation, it just stops.
I was devastated at the half-hearted, and quite pathetic ending this immense story has, and presumes that it is the result of writers block at the eleventh hour. The writing style and poise falls apart in the last section as if to say 'I've told the story, now I can't be bothered to tie it up'.

Very disappointing, but still worth a read for the building of tension and the historical perspective that is good craftsmanship. Just don't expect it to end as well crafted.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A moral dilemma - what would YOU do?, 9 Mar 2009
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laineyf "widnes" (warwickshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Town on Earth (Paperback)
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This is such a good read. It tells of Commonwealth, a small, man-made American town, during the influenza epidemic of 1918, which killed millions. In an attempt to prevent the virus infecting the town, guards stand watch 24/7, preventing any strangers spreading the flu. However, human nature being what it is, hysteria and rumour take over, and an innocent encounter with a stranger becomes an attempt at infiltration by a German spy!! The townsfolk are desperate, as the quarantine, while seeming to be a good idea, proves to be anything but, leading to starvation, rioting, and the gradual breakdown of civilisation. Philip, the adopted son of Charles and Rebecca Worthy, the founders of the town, finds himself caught up in the worst dilemma imaginable - to kill, or to aid a stranger, possibly allowing the virus into his town, resulting in the deaths of many? This book shows how easy it is for people to succumb to bloodlust, and how one act can lead to total devastation. It has echoes of 'Lord of the Flies' showing as it does how humans can degenerate so quickly into savages. It's an excellent book, well written, and giving the reader lots to think about. Thoroughly recommended.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!, 6 July 2006
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kehs (Hertfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Town on Earth (Paperback)
I was lucky enough to be sent a proof copy of this book and I am very happy to be able to recommend it as an outstanding read. It's set in WW1 and is about a small town that puts itself under quarantine in order to keep out a plague virus that is sweeping the world and killing large amounts of people. Guards are posted on lookout duty to ensure that no-one leaves or enters the town - until one day a soldier appears, begging for help. He is hungry, cold and tired. He begs for help - what would you do? We learn about the course of action that the young guard takes, the outcome it has on his family, and the chain of events that causes fear, distrust and ugly rumours to almost destroy the community. This is a true page turner which sweeps the reader along with the mounting panic as fear sets into the town. Gripping stuff...I loved every page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pulls one forward... left me wanting, 12 April 2012
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This review is from: The Last Town on Earth (Paperback)
I sometimes wonder if the reviewers who write the reviews which appear on the covers of books have actually read the book at all. For example, on this book the New York Times Reviewer has written "Mullen's suspenseful storytelling pulls us forward. Time and again his imagery is devastatingly right"; and although, I agree, that the first 100 pages or so is undoubtedly very readable and the story starts off very nicely and quite promising, the next 283 meander along, never really getting to the point of anything and ending in a disappointing and, to my mind, what seemed a hurried fashion, as if the author had got as sick of his tale as I had by the end of it and just wanted to be done with it. (Perhaps the reviewer only read the first 100 pages?)

I also agree that some of the imagery and, in particular, the language used in the book is a real strength. However, overall, the characters were lacklustre, the story was at times confusing and my general impression was that it could just have been so much better if it had been more tightly crafted and edited to a higher standard. In the end, I came to the conclusion, that the author wasn't really sure what type of book it was that he was writing. Is it a historical novel? Because a gripping story about the flu epidemic of 1918 would have made for a great read. Or is it a political diatribe? I'd prefer the former over the latter; but this seemed to be a bit of both.

Even the cover of the book didn't make that much sense to me after reading the novel. The wording is "As a deadly epidemic threatens their town, two men must decide its fate." And that's the way it seems to be when the first soldier arrives to intrude upon the town's self-imposed quarantine. But then another soldier turns up and another man intervenes. So it's, "As a deadly epidemic threatens their town, THREE men must decide its fate." But then if you consider that around seven men end up breaking the quarantine which brings the flu into town in the first place, then it's "SEVEN* (*approx) men must decide its fate" And if you consider that the entire town is involved in the decision making process to close off the town, it just becomes a nonsense, as then it's TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY men must decide its fate."

My verdict: I was disappointed. I had been prepared for a real chiller of a historical novel but sadly, I was left wanting.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Promising but ultimately disappointing, 16 Jun 2009
By 
Brian Hamilton "brianhamilton14" (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Town on Earth (Paperback)
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This book sounds like it will deliver but unfortunately just doesn't quite make it. The author has done his homework and wrings a lot from the setting.

However, the book reads more like a history book. As a previous reviewer mentioned, and a point I completely agree with, the characters are difficult to empathise with or care about. They have te obligatory murky and hidden pasts but again the individual tragedies they suffer fail to strike a chord.

This is really standard book club fare, promising much but delivering little beyond clever settings and attention to period. The characterisation suffers.

I know when a book has left me feeling let down and thats when I have to force myself to book it up to finish it off. This book did just that. I am an avid reader and some books have been literally glued to my hands as I have raced through them. This book, simply, is not one of them.
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The Last Town on Earth
The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen (Paperback - 4 Jun 2007)
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