end of an epochTHE END OF AN EPOCH (1901) – Written by A. Lincoln Green, this novel about a world-threatening disease presented the tale of brilliant young Adam Godwin, a recent Oxford graduate who pursues his interest in microbiology. During the course of his research into antitoxins, Adam becomes aware of the controversial Dr. Azrael Falk.

Falk is in India, experimenting on human test subjects with his hybrids of assorted bacteria and other microorganisms. Godwin becomes so fascinated with Dr. Falk’s heinous yet productive work that it strains his relationship with his fiancee Evelyn Morpeth, daughter of the wealthy Sir John Morpeth.

masc graveyard smallerUltimately, Adam starts neglecting Evelyn to the point that she lays down an ultimatum: Godwin must choose between her and his research. Adam chooses his research, so the engagement is ended, and the willful Evelyn joins her father’s expedition to the North Pole.

Dr. Falk relocates to London and hires Adam Godwin as his assistant. Adam’s admiration for the man’s scientific genius increases even as his personal dislike for Falk’s selfish nature threatens to overwhelm that admiration. When Azrael sufficiently trusts Adam, he reveals to him that he has developed a combination of dengue, tetanus, influenza, sleeping sickness, bubonic plague and meningitis.

The doctor names his creation “bacillus paradoxus”, and informs Godwin that it has an incubation period of roughly six days and then the victim becomes comatose or insane. This is followed by death. The elderly are not affected by bacillus paradoxus.

Falk is working on an antitoxin for his dangerous creation, and when he has it he intends to auction off both the disease and the vaccine to the highest bidder. Adam Godwin is alarmed because whatever nation or private party obtains both will literally have the world at their mercy.

Eventually, Falk develops the means of immunizing people against bacillus paradoxus and injects himself and Godwin to keep them safe no matter who winds up buying the bio-agent and its cure. Through sheer chance, Dr. Falk falls victim to a physical attack by street toughs and the attack breaks open a few bottles of the deadly bacillus.

In the aftermath, Adam pieces together what happened and tries to warn the public about the potential plague that has been unleashed but is ignored as a hysteric. After six days, people begin dying in great numbers.

As time rolls along, the disease spreads around the world, leaving the immunized Adam and the elderly as the only survivors in Great Britain. With chaos everywhere, Adam organizes the older people into a crude settlement.

Wild dogs are among the menaces he leads them against while simultaneously trying in vain to find any notes left over from the late Dr. Falk regarding a cure for the global plague. Ultimately, our hero leads his elderly wards north, because cold temperatures apparently kill off bacillus paradoxus, given how communities near the Arctic remain mostly free of the disease.

Further research on Godwin’s part enables him to replicate Dr. Falk’s antitoxin, which was made via the elderly and their natural immunity to bacillus paradoxus. He also learns that the disease cannot function below 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

All of this has transpired over the course of months, and at length the Arctic expedition which included Evelyn Morpeth and her father returns, stunned at the large-scale death. The mobile Adam is on hand to greet them but is able to innoculate Evelyn alone because the other returnees distrust him and quickly fall victim to the disease.

As the story ends, Adam and Evelyn are the only young survivors left in Europe. They set off to live in the far north with the Inuit and other peoples who thrive there. Life on Earth will need to start over from the comparatively few survivors of the plague.

The End of an Epoch is well written and came eleven years before Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, reviewed previously here at Balladeer’s Blog. Overall, the story is handled impressively, with the only real eye-rolling bits being the cutesy names of the central trio of characters: Adam & Evelyn, and Dr. Falk, first name AZRAEL. 

FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here:   https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/ 




Filed under Ancient Science Fiction


  1. What a story. I drew a few comparisons.

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  3. I’ve not heard the term “street toughs.” There are so many synonyms for this!!
    This seems very interesting.
    Not sure, but I’m thinking Mini-Slash’s top hat his getting taller.

    • Thanks, yes the book is interesting. I’ve mostly heard the expression “street toughs” in British movies now that I think about it. Maybe Mini-Slash’s hat is having a late life growth spurt.

  4. Hmmph, I reckon (solely American word?) that I’ve not seen many or any British movies. I’ve watched some British comedies since… nevermind about that.

    Ha. It happens

  5. I read this book when it came out in 1901 and it was one of the first science fiction books I ever read. It’s a great, fast-paced story with a good plot. I was wondering, what did the author think of scientific discovery in 1901?

  6. Bravo, I really enjoyed this review and the story sounds superb. I have to say, I was quite surprised by the ending though. It’s quite worrying what diseases can be produced in a lab these days. Great read, as always.

  7. This novel is a great read! It’s interesting to see the development of Adam Godwin, as he gets closer and closer to learning the truth about Falk. I’m interested to see how things play out in the end.

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