The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The story is discovered, in 1818, in fragments buried in an ancient cave, rumored to be the cave of the Sybils. The writings contain the recollections of a “past” history occurring well into the future. The writings have been left for future generations as a record of the devastating plague of the late twenty-first century. The narrator is Lionel Verney, age thirty-seven, who is, to his knowledge, the last surviving human on Earth. He has left this record in the year 2100, before setting out to sea.

Lionel describes his childhood, as the son of a charming, irresponsible father who was a loved confidante of the English king but resented by the queen. After the king’s death, Lionel Verney and his younger sister Perdita, now orphaned, are forced out of noble circles and plunged into a meager, self-sufficient existence in a small forest cottage near Windsor. Lionel is a rebellious and lawless youth who roams the woods to poach animals for sustenance. He is consumed by bitterness toward the queen. His anger dissipates, however, when he meets the king’s son, Adrian. Lionel, Perdita, and Adrian form a lifelong bond. Adrian, who is wise, poetic, generous, and compassionate, becomes the guiding force in shaping Lionel.

Adrian becomes beloved as an inspiring leader, with Lionel as his devoted supporter. Perdita falls in love with Raymond, a proud, passionate soldier. Lionel loves and marries Idris, Adrian’s sister. The three young men go off...

(The entire section is 533 words.)