2007: 152. The Children of Men

“Early this morning, 1 January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being to be born on this earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenos Aires, aged twenty-five years, two months and twelve days.”

The Children of Men, PD James

My famous disdain for post-apocalyptic fiction kept me from reading this for a long time, even though I have read all of James’ mystery fiction (numerous times!)*  However, the choices for commuting book on the “J” shelf came down to this, James Joyce (and we are talking Ulysses, here), and a couple of huge hardcovers that would throw out my shoulder if I was lugging them in my bag, so Children of Men it was.**  And, surprise, surprise (see footnote below), I found it to be pretty good.

First of all, the premise is really interesting.  Human beings have become infertile, and the last generation of babies is in their mid-twenties.  How the world deals, knowing that extinction is around the corner, is an interesting question, and James’ world seems pretty plausible.  Fascism in England (fascism is de rigeur for post-apocalyptic fiction) under a outwardly benevolent Warden, and the remaining adults clinging onto the comforts of life in the face of human doom.  Our narrator is the Warden’s cousin and an English Don, teaching the remaining adults who have an interest in continuing education, and reminiscing about his past.  Then a group of revolutionaries comes and involves him in a quest that might just lead to the saving of the human race...  Pretty good stuff.  Plus, I like the way James writes, most of the time, and unlike some of her later mysteries, this book doesn’t seem to have an old fashioned view of human sexuality (i.e. I am not called upon to think that moderately regular activities are oh! so! shocking! and will lead to murder).

A couple of nitpicks.  The ending is too quick and thus not credible - it happy(ish) which is nice, but because of that is not so believable.  Also, the book goes back and forth between the first and third person.  Not sure I see the point of that particular device.  Overall, though, a nice middlebrow enjoyable read.

Recommended for:  People who like James’ mystery fiction; people who like brainy sci-fi.

*A person might reasonably ask why, if I am so down on this kind of fiction, do I have so many books like this at home? The answer, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in my husband who loves this kind of book as much as I hate ‘em.   Though hate might be a bit strong, since I keep coming to the conclusion of “I generally don’t like the genre, but this one isn’t too bad...”

** I KNOW. I am in denial about next time around, hardcore.

Date/Place Completed:  9/25/07; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction; Commuting Book; PD James Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017