his was a crazy little book pushed out in 1889, evidently hardcover (from the Gutenberg pictures), the cover bright yellow fabric, Middle-eastern stylized with patterns and a side view of a sailing cog, yet braced with the curious title The Last American). It’s short, a lunchtime read (I can attest to that – that’s when I read it). And it’s a lot of fun.
It’s the year 2951, and off a wildly wooded coast a Persian vessel staggers towards shore, jubilant (and who wouldn’t be, facing starvation as they were) by land-ho! So the next day, they sail into the broad harbor at daybreak to find a massive statue and a vast ruined city. Scouting parties find names still faintly chiseled into buildings – NEW YORK STOCK EXC…– and the like. Why, it’s the lost city of Nhu-Yok! One of the primary cities of the deceased race of the Mehrikans!
The Persians discuss things as they scout the city. The Mehrikans, it seems, died out because of unexpected climate changes (well, it is very hot there, and these are Persians!) and also their personal failings. Mehrikans, it is noted, were greedy short-sighted people, ones who worshiped wealth to the point where it defined their neo-aristocracy. “They were so considered,” said Nōfūhl; “their commercial honor was a jest. They were sharper than the Turks. Prosperity was their god, with cunning and invention for his prophets.” Various elements of these ancient lives are examined, certainly critical of the way we were in 1889 and still are (sadly) in 2016. If patriotism is your thing and lampoonery is not, you probably won’t like this book. Me, I loved it. Especially the one Persian who comes across a black and white “kitten” which sprays him with a smell so repugnant he’s forced to sleep on the beach and eat alone. That was a nice bit – well done!
Of course, eventually the Persians find their way to DC where they do actually find the last living Mehrikan. I don’t want to spoil it, save that it runs the range of emotions; pity, humor, and tragedy, even a bit supernatural. Touching, yes, but nice.
If you download this, make sure you pull down the full HTML version if possible. Throughout the book are illustrations from a number of artists, ranging from stylistic line drawings to full-fledged paintings. In ways, the art really makes the story, adding to it, giving it wings. I actually went back to look at some of them, they were so gorgeous.
Anyway, a great book from two centuries past, back before there was not much science to make up science fiction. And you don’t have to go looking through used book stores for this one, it’s right HERE! And it’s not long, a quick read. What other reason can you give for not running this one down? So enjoy!