The Children of Men

Written by: P.D. James

The Children of Men Book Cover
Told with P. D. James's trademark suspense, insightful characterization, and riveting storytelling, The Children of Men is a story of a world with no children and no future. The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race.
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The Children of Men Reviews

Cecily Kyle
I think this was another case of the book being ruined by the movie for me. I also did not care for the narrator in the audiobook version. I really don't like when I am just waiting for a book to hurry up and end but I knew what was going to happen. I did not know this was a book before I saw the movie, and the movie I really liked. So I don't think this is a terrible book by any means but I just ruined it for myself.
Great idea for a story and I am glad that I got to read it.
Laura
A good insight into human nature, even though the things it reveals are at times shocking and horrifying.
Kiri
This story starts from an interesting point of conflict: the human race has discovered that it is going to be extinct. No more children are being born. The current generation will be the last. The resulting actions that are taken, from the global to the national to the personal level, are all fascinating explorations of what the human psyche might do, confronted with this final end point. The most thought-provoking element, for me, was the question of what behaviors would change for you personal This story starts from an interesting point of conflict: the human race has discovered that it is going to be extinct. No more children are being born. The current generation will be the last. The resulting actions that are taken, from the global to the national to the personal level, are all fascinating explorations of what the human psyche might do, confronted with this final end point. The most thought-provoking element, for me, was the question of what behaviors would change for you personally; what things do you do that rely on the assumption that others will be there after you, to enjoy the result or benefit from it or, at the least, to admire and remember you for what you have done?

And yet -- the book takes an odd direction in its second half. Ultimately, the book is not about infertility or fertility or what the world does; it is a character study, about one particular man, and how this phenomenal event wreaks its particular changes on him. And it's sort of interesting, but I was left feeling like I wanted more: more meaning, more plot, more resolution. The result felt more like an anecdote (or a diary -- literally), than a story. Interesting for its themes, but not as meaningful for its characters.

Update 8/18/18: I just re-read this book, 7 years after the first time I read it. I liked it better this time. I still would have liked to see more about the world, but now I feel like the story hangs together better for what it is. I had forgotten how strong the religion themes are (which perhaps is not surprising for an end-of-the-world setting). The story is still tragic, and I still don't really care hugely about any of the particular characters (some are caricatures, like Rolf, or just weirdly unrelatable, like Julian), and the fundamental "mystery" is never solved (this book is shelved in the Mystery section at my library). But it is thought-provoking, and it sticks with you.
Hitler :: Greenspan: The Man Behind Money :: Beware the Fish! :: The Twinkie Squad :: China: The Balance Sheet: What the World Needs to Know About the Emerging Superpower
Vivian Méndez
Hijos de hombre nos muestra un mundo distopíco donde ya nadie puede procrear, todos los hombres son estériles, así es como empieza y así es como se desarrolla todo el libro, porque esa razón es suficiente como para dar desarrollo a más.
Nuestro personaje principal es Theo Farón un hombre que es profesor de historia, a tenido un pasado duro y es una persona abstracta, a veces no muy humana y en otras super humana, él es primo de Xan (el gran custodio de Inglaterra es algo así como el presidente), Hijos de hombre nos muestra un mundo distopíco donde ya nadie puede procrear, todos los hombres son estériles, así es como empieza y así es como se desarrolla todo el libro, porque esa razón es suficiente como para dar desarrollo a más.
Nuestro personaje principal es Theo Farón un hombre que es profesor de historia, a tenido un pasado duro y es una persona abstracta, a veces no muy humana y en otras super humana, él es primo de Xan (el gran custodio de Inglaterra es algo así como el presidente), y Theo fue antes su asesor.
Ahora solo se dedica a escribir un diario de su vida y a vivir solo en una gran casa. Pero las situaciones cambian y un grupo que se cree capaz de revolucionar lo que a ojos de ellos es una dictura y el custodio un tirano, se implica con él hasta el tuétano.

Tengo que decir que el libro me gusto mucho, habia partes en las que era protagonista y en otras omnisciente, me gusto porque en sí Theo es un hombre profundo en temas como la existencia, hasta me sentía identificada con él. Así que creo que es un buen libro, hasta que llegamos al final y aunque tengo que decir que soy partidaria de este tipo de finales, me conmueven y además son sorpresivos dependiendo de la persona, finales algo así que cambian el lado de la moneda, aunque este no fue tan impactante, si tengo que decir que me disgusto y me parecio un mal final, la verdad es que sí termino bien, pero no me gustó, osea es que si pudiera decir el spoiler talvez entenderían un poco a lo que me refiero, sin embargo la parte romántica fue una desgracia, fue eso lo que le quito la quinta estrella.
Espero que alguien se haya sentido algo así como yo.
También lo recomiendo mucho a personas que ya esten acostumbradas a leer. No creo que sea como para iniciar.
Cher
This one started very strongly for me but became a little less interesting as it progressed. A lot of essential questions were not answered, and I was horribly saddened by the idea that people would quit enjoying sex once there was no procreative possibility. Not believable, and horribly, horribly sad. Even if orgasms had become painful, what about other sexual activities that could have been pleasurable? It just seemed that people were accepting their upcoming demise and had consequently alread This one started very strongly for me but became a little less interesting as it progressed. A lot of essential questions were not answered, and I was horribly saddened by the idea that people would quit enjoying sex once there was no procreative possibility. Not believable, and horribly, horribly sad. Even if orgasms had become painful, what about other sexual activities that could have been pleasurable? It just seemed that people were accepting their upcoming demise and had consequently already killed off their passions.

On the other hand, I found it disturbing but shamefully believable, that even with the world as we know it coming to an end, humans would still be driven by greed and a thirst for power. I'd like to think if faced with the ending of the human race, I'd run off with my hubby and pets to some remote mountain home with a million dollar view (property would have to be crazy cheap with population steadily declining) and enjoy the remaining days peacefully. It would essentially kill any deeply buried desire I may have for greed or power as they would then be seen as futile and pointless ambitions.

Favorite quote: Generosity is a virtue for individuals, not governments. When governments are generous it is with other people’s money, other people’s safety, other people’s future.

First Sentence: Early this morning, 1 January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being to be born on earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenos Aires, aged twenty-five years two months and twelve days.
Sansanee
This novel puts me in mind of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. The near future is dystopic and humanity is facing extinction, having suddenly become infertile in 1995, the year that became known as the Omega. Britain, one of the few countries where civilization still seems to survive, although it is certainly crumbling into chaos, is now run by a dictator known as the Warden of England. People have resorted to watching old movies and television shows about the young, keeping dolls in pram This novel puts me in mind of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. The near future is dystopic and humanity is facing extinction, having suddenly become infertile in 1995, the year that became known as the Omega. Britain, one of the few countries where civilization still seems to survive, although it is certainly crumbling into chaos, is now run by a dictator known as the Warden of England. People have resorted to watching old movies and television shows about the young, keeping dolls in prams and having their kittens christened in order to cope with the loss of children in the world. There are state sponsored porn shops, the regular checkups of selected men and women for possible fertility, official mass suicides of the old - not necessarily of their own free will - in the effort to sustain remaining resources. Omegas, the last generation to be born, are exceptionally beautiful, cruel and selfish.

Theodore Faron, the main character, happens to be cousin to the Warden of England. He's an Oxford historian, whose area of expertise is the nineteenth century. He has his own loss, his own failures, and has never been able to connect with others in any meaningful way. He becomes drawn in with a group of revolutionaries, and ends up finding the salvation he realizes he needs. But even at the novel's end, we are left both elated and chilled, wondering what will become of these people.
Lobstergirl

While this is a decent read, there's not quite enough going on, plotwise, to really grab and throttle you. I didn't really see the benefit of two perspectives: Theo Faron narrating in the first person, and Theo's third person perspective. It seemed odd.

The novel is set in Great Britain, and I wasn't quite clear on the global situation, in terms of governments and human rights. The Quietus (a kind of enforced suicide of the elderly), the Sojourners (immigrants who serve as virtual slave labor, do
While this is a decent read, there's not quite enough going on, plotwise, to really grab and throttle you. I didn't really see the benefit of two perspectives: Theo Faron narrating in the first person, and Theo's third person perspective. It seemed odd.

The novel is set in Great Britain, and I wasn't quite clear on the global situation, in terms of governments and human rights. The Quietus (a kind of enforced suicide of the elderly), the Sojourners (immigrants who serve as virtual slave labor, doing all the menial tasks of the nation), and the Omegas - those born in 1995, the last year women were giving birth - who for some reason (why?) became violent and went around killing and dancing - all seemed to be groups specific to Britain. So why not escape Britain and go to another country? Or were there similar human rights violations and ugly violence going on everywhere?

I remember the movie ending quite differently, I think, although my memory is vague.
Jess
I never say this, but... the movie was better than the book. Mild spoilers abound below.

To be completely fair, I saw the movie years ago, and it was haunting. In fact, it was so memorable and intense that I decided to read the book solely because I wanted to relive the experience but I wasn’t sure I could handle the emotional stress of the movie again. Turns out I didn’t need to be worried about that.

Now that I can compare the two, I imagine the movie script writer read the book and went: “Well th I never say this, but... the movie was better than the book. Mild spoilers abound below.

To be completely fair, I saw the movie years ago, and it was haunting. In fact, it was so memorable and intense that I decided to read the book solely because I wanted to relive the experience but I wasn’t sure I could handle the emotional stress of the movie again. Turns out I didn’t need to be worried about that.

Now that I can compare the two, I imagine the movie script writer read the book and went: “Well this is an interesting premise, but we can do better.” Because honestly, the book is just fine. I definitely liked it and had my heart in my throat for the last third at least. But it kind of left a lot on the table. Wasted potential, essentially. The premise—25 years ago the last babies were born and human beings went sterile all over the world, making extinction inevitable—is profound. There’s a lot you can do with it. And the author does! He just... doesn’t go far enough.

The movie takes the premise the author set up, and fucking runs with it, combining P.D. James’s intense world-building with direct references to current events (I think the movie was made about 10 years ago, at the height of the Iraq War and Guantanimo Bay torture scandals). It’s nauseating and strikingly applicable. It’s visually stunning, and there’s always something going on in the background that helps to solidify the world in which the story is occurring. And the book brings us halfway there... but stops.

Look, it’s my book review, so I can compare the damn book to the movie if I want to, ok?

The first half of the book is all world-building. Very little happens. And like any good Brit the author spends way too much talking about what the main character has for breakfast than about things of actual significance (“The bacon was a bit dry, but the tea divine, etc. etc.”). By the time the real action begins a great deal of time has elapsed, so as a reader I was hard pressed to feel any sense of immediacy.

Let me be clear: the world-building is astounding. It’s fucking bleak, even by UK and end-of-the-world standards. But the author just didn’t take advantage of it, at least not to the point the movie does. The Isle of Man Penal Colony is this dark, grisly specter hovering over the whole narrative. It’s the worst place ever, and I fully expected that like in the movie, the characters would have to go there. He sets it up perfectly. There’s even a scene where Theo is wondering “Where on earth can we hide out that they’ll never think to look for us???” And at that moment I was like “YES! They’re going to go to the penal colony because it’s so dangerous and forbidden no one would ever even consider going there voluntarily! It’s perfect!” And then... they didn’t go. In fact they went somewhere from Theo’s childhood where Xan was sure to find them. I was honestly baffled. There was this long set-up... and no pay-off. A wasted opportunity.

Another wasted opportunity: the lone pregnant woman in the world. In the book, it’s Julian: a young white British woman and member of an underground revolutionary group. In the movie, it’s Kee, a black refugee (in the book they’re “Sojourners”—basically emigrated slave labor), uneducated, young, and with no idea who the father is. In the book they make much over the injustice of the Sojourners... but we still don’t see it. It doesn’t pay off directly in the plot. It’s just one more signal that the world is an awful place falling apart. But in the movie... of course the lone pregnant woman in the whole world comes from the most beleaguered and abused class of people in the world. It’s a perfect way to highlight the injustice.

The book is full of wasted opportunities, but gorgeously written. Theo as a character is completely three-dimensional: flawed, repulsive in some ways, admirable in others. I grew to love him by the end, but felt that if we ever met I’d throw my drink in his face. He had a way of noticing something unflattering about someone, or thinking an uncharitable thought, and then immediately being disgusted with himself. It was easy to identify with, and made him feel very real as a person.

But then I had to take issue with the relationship between Julian and Theo. In the beginning, Julian is briefly one of his students, then the revolutionary who brings him into the fold. He sees her on maybe four occasions before he decides he has a weird attraction to her. By the end of the book they’re calling each other “darling,” Theo admits to being a little in love with her, and other characters talk about how she’s probably a little in love with him. But they hardly interact. Especially once the action begins, they barely say a word to each other. Mostly the other characters talk to Theo about Julian while she stands passive and beatific as the Madonna. I... guess we’re supposed to assume that he’s attracted to her Madonna-ness and she’s attracted to his heroism in defense of her? I really don’t understand it, but their romantic feelings for each other are dumb, unnecessary, and come totally out of left field. It’s not even like he connects her with his divorced wife from when she was pregnant, nor does he see his dead child in Julian’s baby.

One thing I did really like was the commentary on power. Because the two main villains—Theo’s cousin Xan, the totalitarian Warden of England, and Julian’s husband Rolf, the revolutionary side of the same coin—are both motivated by a lust for power. And so they’re willing to murder and betray in pursuit of that power. Julian and her pregnancy become a tool to gain that power, and the main conflict in the book occurs when one of these men changes his mind about how to use that tool. They become an aggressive, temperamental, compassion-lacking, and deeply masculine foil to Julian’s nurturing, calm, kind, spiritual femininity. Clearly an intentional choice, and the conflict of both the book and the movie—warring factions seeking to gain power by controlling the lone pregnant woman in the world—could have been completely avoided if all parties involved dispensed with the negative masculine traits and proceeded with a positive feminine reaction. Not that the lesson here is “MEN ARE BAD/WOMEN ARE GOOD.” Because Theo exemplifies many positive masculine traits: leadership, decisiveness, a willingness to sacrifice for and defend those weaker than himself. So if anything, the lesson is that positive masculinity complements positive femininity, while the worst stereotypical traits of either gender have no place in a thriving civilized world.

I know this review has become a litany of things I didn’t like in a really great book, but bear with me for one more thing. While I really liked the Theo/Xan relationship and the commentary on gender roles and power, it was baffling to me that the whole conflict in a story where the fate of the world rested on the successful completion of a pregnancy boiled down to a fucking alpha male power struggle. There was so much more at stake. I can totally see the fate of humanity nearly falling at the hands of revolutionaries or a totalitarian regime, but a squabble between cousins? Really? For some reason the open-ended, everybody willingly sacrifices themselves for Kee, maybe-there’s-a-new-hope-but-we’re-not-sure scenario of the movie ending was vastly more satisfying, even though it was ambiguous.

This is one of the most gorgeous and original stories I have ever read or seen. I wish I had read the book first, because it wouldn’t have been so disappointing if it came before the intense and gorgeous work of art that is the movie. But regardless, I’m glad I read it because it gave me a helluva lot to think about.
Jana
Maybe seeing (and loving) the movie first was a drawback. The set up is interesting: It's 2021 and there have been no children born since 1995. The world is ageing.

But from there on, none of the characters and none of the action seemed convincing to me. Some interesting parts here and there. For example, when there are no human births, the birth of kittens takes on a monumental importance. But the main character, Theo, felt stodgy and the other characters cardboard and underdeveloped. The sudden Maybe seeing (and loving) the movie first was a drawback. The set up is interesting: It's 2021 and there have been no children born since 1995. The world is ageing.

But from there on, none of the characters and none of the action seemed convincing to me. Some interesting parts here and there. For example, when there are no human births, the birth of kittens takes on a monumental importance. But the main character, Theo, felt stodgy and the other characters cardboard and underdeveloped. The sudden blossoming of the romance between Theo and Julian, "darling" "my darling", did not ring true at all.

For a book written in the 1990s the author was not very prescient about technology of the future. It seems like it's set in the 50s. Was this on purpose? Paper maps? No communication devices? Why? I get that there are no young techies, but it still didn't feel right to me.

Religion permeates the story. Questioning of beliefs; the various religious leaders coming to fame, etc. And the symbolism of a pregnant mother looking for a place for her baby to be born, accompanied by a man who is not the baby's father. Complete with a final baptism scene. Got it.

I just couldn't get lost in the story. I guess I'm the doubting Thomas.

I can't wait to watch the movie again and see if I still like it.

UPDATE:
Whilst watching the movie I couldn't stop saying to myself "this IS NOT like the book!" It's so violent and gritty and loud and crowded. And major plot changes! Despite my negative comments above, I liked the movie less for having read the book. There's no pleasing me. LOL.
Lose-Lose

FINAL WORD:
All negativity aside, I enjoyed the experience of comparing book & film and thinking about why I reacted the way I did. This was the second Book to Film Club from Memento Mori (YouTube) book blogger.

POST FINAL FINAL WORD:
I can't stop thinking about the movie. There are some amazing scenes that just won't leave my head. The wildlife in the abandoned school for example. So after letting things gel awhile, I am going to say thumbs up movie; thumbs down book. And Clive Owen makes a better Theo than the original Theo ;-)
Keith Currie
This is a well written and thought-provoking vision of what might be the future. It is set in 20121 when men can no longer father children - the last was born twenty five years before. A successful film means that many will be aware of the plot. The novel distinguishes in rather different ways: the atmosphere and tone are quieter, calmer, giving the impression of a gradual wind-down of society; the ending is quite different to that of the film; for me the greatest virtue of the novel is its eleg This is a well written and thought-provoking vision of what might be the future. It is set in 20121 when men can no longer father children - the last was born twenty five years before. A successful film means that many will be aware of the plot. The novel distinguishes in rather different ways: the atmosphere and tone are quieter, calmer, giving the impression of a gradual wind-down of society; the ending is quite different to that of the film; for me the greatest virtue of the novel is its elegiac portrayal of age and the aging process, of a society with different values, less hectic, simply trying to cope. The insights displayed are remarkable and the ending is satisfactorily ambiguous.
Laura
I don't know what I think about this book. It's undeniably VERY well-done, but aside form that I'm unsure. I felt like at times she was patching a bit purple, but it was all right. The character of Theo is well-done, but there's little explanation for why he's become the way he is: he waxes all morose about himself for being unable to feel the emotion of love, but I seriously doubt that anyone would just so casually become that way. Albert Camus' Mersault didn't feel love, but we find that more I don't know what I think about this book. It's undeniably VERY well-done, but aside form that I'm unsure. I felt like at times she was patching a bit purple, but it was all right. The character of Theo is well-done, but there's little explanation for why he's become the way he is: he waxes all morose about himself for being unable to feel the emotion of love, but I seriously doubt that anyone would just so casually become that way. Albert Camus' Mersault didn't feel love, but we find that more believable because he didn't feel much else, either. Theo just moons around moping about how he's never loved, and I got a little sick of that. She tried to explain it by showing how no one ever showed him love, and that's generally enough of an explanation for me, but I still thought it was pretty irritating after a while.
She really thought through this whole idea of what a gradually-dying society would be like. I generally found it extremely convincing. I have a few small quibbles-- if Xan keeps the society so safe, why do the Painted Faces exist, and why do they roam at large? Shouldn't he be able to quash them? Also, I fail to see why the Church of England should have fallen apart and abandoned traditional masses. It doesn't make sense. Other religions clearly survived the Omega, but for some reason she's got England operating as a society that, while remaining wholly religious, seems to contain no religions. It doesn't make sense. The religious leaders who run the fads, in the beginning of the book, seem reasonable, but the idea that the CoE should have abandoned the traditional mass and fallen into total disrepair strikes me as a contrivance. It probably means something to Brits that I can't identify-- perhaps it's supposed to symbolize the collapse of the British political system as it was originally known?
I have no quarrel with the fact that she chose not to reveal the reason for the Omega, and I don't mind that she stopped the story at the birth and did not go on to explain the rejuvenation of society. The book is about the people and about the ideas, not about the situation.
LAST complaint, I swear: WHY the f is Xan named that? There's absolutely no reason for it. None whatsoever. It is a jarring factor. The rest of the book is so typical: she's trying to show what would happen to REGULAR people if this happened to them. But throw in someone named 'Xan' and all the verisimilitude goes out the window. Stupid-ass decision, in my opinion. Better to have given him a real, though unusual, first name. She did well enough painting him as the totally-pragmatic, emotionless dictator; why did she feel the need to screw with him like this? Oh well.
I reccommend it. It's not spectacular, but it's fascinating and it holds attention. I suppose it should be read.
Derek
I think I like the idea of The Children of Men better than I like The Children of Men itself. The idea (that mankind is facing its demise as we have been unable to reproduce for the last 2 decades) is essentially all the book shares with the film adaptation. And I hate to say it, but the film is probably better at getting this across than the book.

It's worth noting that the book was written before 9/11 and the film made after it, and all of the important themes that the film explores so thorough I think I like the idea of The Children of Men better than I like The Children of Men itself. The idea (that mankind is facing its demise as we have been unable to reproduce for the last 2 decades) is essentially all the book shares with the film adaptation. And I hate to say it, but the film is probably better at getting this across than the book.

It's worth noting that the book was written before 9/11 and the film made after it, and all of the important themes that the film explores so thoroughly (terrorism, immigration restriction, etc.) are explored with much less candor in the book. But it was a different world when P.D. James wrote this, and it's perhaps unfair to judge it against the movie.

The book does, after all, deftly accomplish so many things. The discomfort of Theo's visit to the Council is wonderfully rendered, and the scenes of violence that mark the book's conclusion are both shocking and real. Theo's journal that takes up about a quarter of the book serves as an effective device to both explore his past and note his feelings on the present. I do wish that we got to see more of what happened with the rest of the world, of course; I wish there were a more complete narrative of humanity's downfall. It's fair to have this be a book primarily focused on characters, as it is. But the apocalypse-via-infertility idea is such an interesting one that to rob the reader of describing the downfall of the US and others seems like an unfair decision on James' part.

The book also steps nicely from a quasi-dystopian world into a terse thriller, and one doesn't doubt that Theo's feats accomplished in the closing paragraphs of the book are indeed feasible. You can feel the desperation in his actions, and his reluctance to become an unlikely hero. Julian seems to disappear by the end of the book, however, becoming more of a problem for Theo and Miriam to address than an actual character.

It's a fine book, and one I'd recommend, but I simply wished there was a little more to sink my teeth into. The characters were good, the idea for the book easily one of my favorites, but the narrative left just a little to be desired.
Reshteen
4.5
Imagine a world, a time when mankind will be unable to conceive. A world where all men and women have become infertile. A world without children, a world without hope, without a tomorrow.

From what I have read, PD James was in her 70s when she wrote this book. Her story telling, how she describes this world, the details; from Politics to child swings and little details was BRILLIANT.
The book has two parts. The first part− Omega − can sometimes feel slow and boring. Most of the world building 4.5
Imagine a world, a time when mankind will be unable to conceive. A world where all men and women have become infertile. A world without children, a world without hope, without a tomorrow.

From what I have read, PD James was in her 70s when she wrote this book. Her story telling, how she describes this world, the details; from Politics to child swings and little details was BRILLIANT.
The book has two parts. The first part− Omega − can sometimes feel slow and boring. Most of the world building is done in Omega. But the second part of the book really picks up the pace. And I liked that part much more.
Most of the reviews I have read, compared the book with the movie, complained about Theo−The protagonist− being an ass and unlikeable.
I haven't seen the movie yet but a movie is always an adoption, Nothing more. Comparing them is a little unfair.
Theo is a broken person, Something really tragic happened to him in the past. He also lives in a world without hope, he has literally given up on everything.
I didn't necessarily needed to like Theo to love this book.
The book had a lot of different symbolisms with it's characters: -
While there's Theo −a man without hope and despair. There's also Julian− a woman who still has hope.
The book also said had things to say about power. Longing for power, what power actually means was done through Two characters; Rolf and Xan,Which was really intriguing.
If you don't mind slow pacing, than I do recommend reading it.
F.R.
I waited a little while before reading this book as I didn't want the memory of the film so fresh in my mind, however I needn't have worried as the two take quite different paths.

The setting is the same - a dicactorship of the future where children have stopped being born and mankind is slowly dying out. But whereas the film had chases and action sequences, the book is far more concerned with the nature of man and the nature of power. It all takes place in a far quieter key.

The lead character is I waited a little while before reading this book as I didn't want the memory of the film so fresh in my mind, however I needn't have worried as the two take quite different paths.

The setting is the same - a dicactorship of the future where children have stopped being born and mankind is slowly dying out. But whereas the film had chases and action sequences, the book is far more concerned with the nature of man and the nature of power. It all takes place in a far quieter key.

The lead character is Theo Faron, an academic whose life is thrown into turmoil when a terrorist group makes contact with him. Theo is a historian, a man more happy in museums than dealing with people, and in a way this makes a certain narrative sense. His joy of life and love, is awoken gradually through the book - but it does mean that for long stretches he's a protagonist who it's hard to warm to. This coldness at the centre makes the novel easier to admire than to love.

There are no Arthur C. Clarke flashes of prophesy - there is no internet or even 24 hour news channels (although there is a reference to High Definition TVs). However I found the character of Xan Lyppiatt, the Warden - or dictator - of England, very interesting. Here is a man with a certain charisma, no political principles and a craving for personal power. Reading this 1992 novel with 2009 eyes it seems that P.D. James (or Baroness James of Holland Park to give her her full title) may have been successful in predicting Tony Blair.
Nikki
This hovers between three and four stars for me, but ultimately gets three because it felt dry. I liked some of the imagery, and I liked the ideas, but the writing failed to have urgency for me. The lead-in was long, but that didn't make it tense for me.

I'm not saying it's not interesting to read, though. I polished it off in a day, in exactly the same way as An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. It just never caught fire in my head, never really became a compulsion to keep on reading. The characters n This hovers between three and four stars for me, but ultimately gets three because it felt dry. I liked some of the imagery, and I liked the ideas, but the writing failed to have urgency for me. The lead-in was long, but that didn't make it tense for me.

I'm not saying it's not interesting to read, though. I polished it off in a day, in exactly the same way as An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. It just never caught fire in my head, never really became a compulsion to keep on reading. The characters never felt alive to me, even with all the detail about them.
Elinor
I was very surprised by the negative reviews on Goodreads, because I found this novel to be well-written, with complex characters and an utterly fascinating plot. I read it quickly because I wanted so much to learn how it would end, and I thought about it when I wasn't reading it. Sometimes I wonder if I am a less discerning reader than other people, but then I console myself with the thought that If this is true, I probably enjoy books more as a result! Now I'm anxious to see the movie although I was very surprised by the negative reviews on Goodreads, because I found this novel to be well-written, with complex characters and an utterly fascinating plot. I read it quickly because I wanted so much to learn how it would end, and I thought about it when I wasn't reading it. Sometimes I wonder if I am a less discerning reader than other people, but then I console myself with the thought that If this is true, I probably enjoy books more as a result! Now I'm anxious to see the movie although I'm pretty sure it won't measure up to the book.
S.
I've received a kind email inquiring about the review-reviewer-social dynamic here on GR and my apparent self-referential take on it, and I suppose I can only reply,


the franco-african guy is nice, but today he smells strongly of musk. the common room now smells like musk. possibly he worked out today


and this returns us to Virginia Woolf, the need for a "room of one's own," and the patent difficulty of long writing in a room where lots of people are chattering or clattering dishes. a room, a ta I've received a kind email inquiring about the review-reviewer-social dynamic here on GR and my apparent self-referential take on it, and I suppose I can only reply,


the franco-african guy is nice, but today he smells strongly of musk. the common room now smells like musk. possibly he worked out today


and this returns us to Virginia Woolf, the need for a "room of one's own," and the patent difficulty of long writing in a room where lots of people are chattering or clattering dishes. a room, a table, a typewriter; silence; these are the minimum requirements.

further also to this, I clarify: GR is not universally available around the world. in countries where it is blocked (and where I may be headed), I may not be able to honour the 10000 characters for each Like explicit tradeoff poor taste deal. and in fact, I'm still not sure what to do about Likes for old reviews. what do I do? should I type?


it's not writing, it's typing
-Gore Vidal on Jack Kerouac



but aww shucks, let's put up another Kyary gif since these are always good luck. and let's type in italics. let's type.

the situation is that I think a chapter changeover has occured. as in, I'm in "Edinburgh" so to speak, spending time watching over a BAE systems engineer. don't ask how I get in situations like this, I just do. and I can't explain why my writing is so disjointed all the time without recourse to the "it's crowded in here and some ppl smell like musk" argument. that's that.

MoD thinks he's going to sell jump-jet tech to the Russkies. I find it highly unlike the Russians are going to invade England. and they already have a Yak-141 STOVL

okay I guess that's pretty absurdist. or if I'm not keeping consistent voice/topic, that's part of the world's fault. you put people into the common room, and you have me not committing to the medium-sized ipad which would allow me to type away, instead I have a Kenwood stereo.


I'm in Japan, not England, how can any of this be true?
and the metaphor breaks down anyway. if my guesthouse is full of Frenchies, then how can I be moving to France? decisions, decisions, and Europe /= Asia.

but how about them Russians...

if you subscribe to some doomsday email lists (as I do), you will learn that the prophets of 2014 are declaring this current crisis as the beginning of the end. but I drank the kool-aid at Jonestown , and I'm still here, aren't I. and the mind, who needs that? who can write with a franco-african screaming african cheers at his playstation 3? not I.
I wanted to, like, data download baby. I'm accepting of a 10000 character debt, minus 3000 already paid up. or something of that nature. but the problem is that word salad is not especially harder or easier to produce. or, as my (silent) critic would like to say


I think it's better when you stay on topic.


wel...l.... you try to slam out 2000 words in a noisy rec room with a smelly african and then you'll see. i got hiccups. i got everything you need.

my pursuit of the edinburgh / BAE engineer is a concept in place. what I mean is that in the search for one mythical situation, you discover other, separate mythologies. as in, I came across a fully stocked small boat (not that small... not a yacht) with the owner, apparently dead of a heart attack at the wheel. of course I did the civilized thing and threw his body overboard attached to some weights. I am now in possessino of a medium sized boat. but I'm still unemployed. and council still doesn't want to see my face.

we call this... IRONY

separate to that< i have to expound on the resistance officer / establishment peon argument. let's say it's WW2 and I meet a nice friendly German NCO



we have a few beers, we tell a few jokes, at the end of the evening, he says, Mike, you're all right, do you want a clerk position in the Heer?



my respons is of course, Germanic culture is superior to Slavic culture, but I'd rather be a Red Army officer than a German Army NCO. I don't care that the German trenches are cleaner and less rat-infested. the RESISTANCE IS EVERYTHING

RESIST
RESIST
RESIST



yep, I'm getting my commission in the worker's and peasant's army next week. and that's means I'm posting nonsense. I think. but I also think randomness favors the unprepared. yes. I think I'm going to cook up beans and rice, chicken, hamburgers, tasty mixed grill. I canna stan vegetariansm. so I'm not totally left. I'm left behind.

well in any case, I gots to plan. it's not absolutely forgiving, this world. it's not everything you need. it's power over love, it's money over health, it's anger over good vibrations. gimme some hendrix.

mind chant word chant includes nothing so clear as talking to russians on the front. I7m on nytimes many hours a day, cause all the information is there, all though it's in it own way slanted. and I would, truly, like to write nicer, more pleasent, well thought out reviews, with a unified story and lots of bells and whistles, but FRENCH GUY STILL SMELLS!

and the video game is quite noisy.

and I won't buy an ipad until I'm definitely job confirmed

but I might fly to russia

and stringers make $200/day

and substitute teachers make $120/day

and the Nikkei is up 79%

but the Russian stock market is down 10%

and face it baby, English reserve beats French elan



okay a shout out to the gays

and a shout to bernie max

and a shout out to the northeast

'cuz we built this world, and only we can destory it. INGSOC

again, I apologize for the poor un-unified quality of this post, but the blame is on the French. you cannot construct beautiful unified paragraphs in a very noisy common room. and musk is freaking strong. it smells like testosterone, if you get what i mean.i wouldn't mind so much the smell of delicate teenage girls, ha

things are getting built; the economy is on the mend, feelings are getting hardened, and theree's somtimes a feelin gof hope in the air. I join the resistance for the lulz. I have, in the past ten years of my life, learnt how to produce r. dee eks and I've perfected a medium cruise missile design that can be launched from a rental truck. that means I have more firepower than an african nationm, but less than a medium european or asian country. not bad for one person

i have a private army in your head
Nikki Stafford
We live in an era right now where people are suddenly buying up as much classic dystopian fiction as they can get their hands on. Five years ago they read like the science-fiction they were intended to be; now they read like how-to manuals. A month ago the store sold out of all copies of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. I decided it was time to read P.D. James' Children of Men. I saw the film years ago when it came out, and it was beautiful. I only remember parts of the film, and I could see a simila We live in an era right now where people are suddenly buying up as much classic dystopian fiction as they can get their hands on. Five years ago they read like the science-fiction they were intended to be; now they read like how-to manuals. A month ago the store sold out of all copies of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. I decided it was time to read P.D. James' Children of Men. I saw the film years ago when it came out, and it was beautiful. I only remember parts of the film, and I could see a similarity between it and the book, but I feel like the book varies from it quite a bit. This is a frightening look at what would happen if suddenly every man and women were infertile. In the book (written in 1992), the last child is born in 1995, and that becomes the Omega year. The book is set in 2021, when the youngest people on earth are 26 years old. Elementary schools and high schools are deserted. Toy manufacturers have gone out of business except for one specific kind: the ones who manufacture lifelike baby dolls so women can walk them around in prams and act like they actually have children. Elderly people are mandated by the government to participate in "Quietus" ceremonies, which are basically government-sanctioned mass suicides so the precious Omega generation won't have to take care of them. Rights have been taken away, a despotic Warden rules over England and keeps telling the people that of all of the countries in the world, theirs has boasted the fewest riots and civil unrest. But when a group of people decides to band together because of a big secret they are carrying — one that could change everything — they bring on board a lonely scholar who provides the point of view of the story. The story is compelling, fast-paced, and terrifying, and James has plotted out every detail of what the world might look like in the face of knowing the human population is coming to an end. And in the sense of people being silenced and fearful of saying things in case someone else might be watching who could hurt them, it suddenly seems very timely.
J. Boo
The opening is dynamite, as we are presented with a dying world - after an epidemic of male infertility, no children have been born for many years. Society is slowly collapsing. What need to plan for the future when there will be no future?

Then things drag on and on and on and on and on...

And then, all of a sudden, we get a chase sequence straight out of nightmares and a stellar Big Finish Ending.

I'm used to books that start strong, and then finish weak, or books that take their time setting th The opening is dynamite, as we are presented with a dying world - after an epidemic of male infertility, no children have been born for many years. Society is slowly collapsing. What need to plan for the future when there will be no future?

Then things drag on and on and on and on and on...

And then, all of a sudden, we get a chase sequence straight out of nightmares and a stellar Big Finish Ending.

I'm used to books that start strong, and then finish weak, or books that take their time setting the scene and then grow on the reader. But one which would be greatly improved by a random toddler ripping out the middle chapters is something I don't think I'd seen before or since.

I am left with only math to guide my rating: (5* + 1* + 5*)/3 = 3 & 2/3 *, which rounds up to 4*.
Ksenia
I mean, I think I like the film better for once, but this was still very very good. Guess the theology stuff wore me down by the end. It's an exceedingly British book which I am fine with (there was a direct reference to Brideshead so very my wheelhouse) but would be a warning to most other people. Especially since Theo is a huge insufferable ponce.
Cheryl
Abandoned. I just can't get into this writing style.
Shannon Callahan
All I can say the movie was much better than the book. I was utterly disappointed when I finished the book. I was like what the heck did what I just read?
Darlene Stericker
An engaging premise and satifying ending.
Josey
I was set to love this book, being a hardcore fan of dystopian fiction, and intrigued by the world set out by P.D. James. However, so much about this book just didn't work.

It took me almost two weeks to slog through this plodding, overly detailed novel and I'm left wondering why I even bothered.

There are so many questions not only left unanswered but that weren't (seemingly) intended to ever even have answers attempted at. What caused the mass infertility? Presumably a slight knowledge of biolog I was set to love this book, being a hardcore fan of dystopian fiction, and intrigued by the world set out by P.D. James. However, so much about this book just didn't work.

It took me almost two weeks to slog through this plodding, overly detailed novel and I'm left wondering why I even bothered.

There are so many questions not only left unanswered but that weren't (seemingly) intended to ever even have answers attempted at. What caused the mass infertility? Presumably a slight knowledge of biology could lead one to make up something even half-way plausible but James evidently didn't think it necessary to give even a cursory explanation. Why do all the Omegas look the same? Presumably that is tied into their being from the last viable sperm, but in which way? Was their parents generation exposed to some environmental contaminant that irreparably damaged male gametes? Why could Theo conceive one child but not another?

Why are there bands of Omegas (The Painted Faces) roaming the countryside like barbaric marauders when they've obviously received the best education, the most indulgent upbringings and seemingly have whatever they want handed to them?

What bothered me most, though, is that no single character seemed like a real person with real motivations. In fact, what little motivations we were exposed to were entirely one-dimensional and poorly thought out.

Theo is essentially an unfeeling intellectual going through the motions of everyday life. He's approached by a woman he met once and decides to meet her ragtag group with no real reason given. After meeting them, and though he has severe doubts about both their (individual and collective) motivations and their poorly thought out plans he agrees to do what they ask, to his own detriment. Eventually he falls in love with Julian for no reason that I can see. They've had nothing more than a few superficial conversations, they seem to have nothing in common and he finds her religious convictions irritating (along with most other things she seems to do).

Julian is a fairly simple woman motivated by (apparently) her religious nature to ensure the underdogs of the world are treated fairly. All of a sudden she is pregnant and desperate to have her child in a secluded wood for reasons as vague as a bad feeling that the Warden is "evil". She has some congenital defect that is mentioned in passing to give reason for her having been exempt from the routine testing of all women of child-bearing age. But why does it matter that she is exempt? Since the fertility problem is with men only, women's fertility doesn't particularly matter.

The rest of the characters are even less fleshed out, suffering from both one-dimensionality and a severe deficit of anything at all to make them interesting.

Overall I was left wondering what purpose this book served. It barely told a story. The many interesting possibilities it raised it quickly discarded in favour of boring, uninspired characters so unrelatable that I honestly didn't care who lived and who died. The most interesting aspects (the how/why of Omega, the Quietus, the penal colony on the Isle of Man) were merely throw-aways to get Theo in line with Julian.

I would recommend reading this only if you like seeing possibility go unfulfilled and enjoy overly indulgent descriptive prose.
Kelsey Hanson
After reading this book I can safely say that PD James if probably my least favorite author. Her books always sound really good when you read the back of the book but fail to live up to the summary. This one was no real exception. There are two big reasons why this book was such a beast to get through. 1.) the language is really dry. There isn't a whole lot of action for the first two-thirds of the book and the language just makes the already terrible pacing DRAG!2.) The logic of this novel is v After reading this book I can safely say that PD James if probably my least favorite author. Her books always sound really good when you read the back of the book but fail to live up to the summary. This one was no real exception. There are two big reasons why this book was such a beast to get through. 1.) the language is really dry. There isn't a whole lot of action for the first two-thirds of the book and the language just makes the already terrible pacing DRAG!2.) The logic of this novel is very non-sequitar. The basis of this novel is essentially that mass infertility causes the entire fabric of society to fall apart, elders commit mass suicides, supplies dwindle and an "elected" official becomes a tyrant. I honestly don't think some of these effects make sense. The main event, in this case infertility, would not to lead to dystopian chaos. I started reading this book on my 25th birthday, ironically the age of the last generation in the book. If there were no other generations younger than mine society wouldn't be crumbling... at least not yet. If anything people might even consider infertility a good thing because it would combat overpopulation. The demand for raw goods would go down not up. Yes, the workforce would suffer somewhat but the population would still be high enough (and young enough) to keep the world operating at a somewhat stable if not usual pace. It wouldn't be until years later that we actually started to have a dwindling work force. Depression would be common but this book fails to acknowledge that most people would love the elderly folks in their life enough to keep them from participating in mass suicides. And when you think about it, wouldn't the younger generations be more likely to be depressed? I mean, the elderly people in this world have gotten a chance to live relatively full lives in a stable world (relatively speaking of course). The younger generation would have to cope with a lot more including:

A. The burden of being the last generation of humanity and the crushing knowledge that everything mankind has worked towards will very quickly become meaningless.
B. The painful realization that children and family life are not a part of their future.
C. Tyrannical government

Plus, I still think that most people would also be more confident in a democratic government or even anarchy before embracing a tyrannical government. Overall, very very frustrating novel.
Rusalka
First up, I can't get my head around the science of this book. I don't think that was the point at all. The author had an idea, and then built the story up around that idea. What happens to our world if we just stop reproducing. Not by choice, we just stop. How would that fundamentally change our society? How would we act? What would we care about? Really interesting premise, mass sterility. However, I can't get my head around that basic biological fact.

But one scientific problem is dealable. Un First up, I can't get my head around the science of this book. I don't think that was the point at all. The author had an idea, and then built the story up around that idea. What happens to our world if we just stop reproducing. Not by choice, we just stop. How would that fundamentally change our society? How would we act? What would we care about? Really interesting premise, mass sterility. However, I can't get my head around that basic biological fact.

But one scientific problem is dealable. Unlike previous reads where all science seems to be completely and utterly thrown out the window. Here is this problem, can we deal with it and move on? Especially seeing it's not dealt with in detail, just as a thing we know about? Answer is yes. I could move on.

And I am glad I did. PD James' storytelling is great. I really do like her writing. She just has that style of writing that draws you in, envelops you and makes you feel safe. Which is a weird feeling when she is telling you about the dictatorship that has taken over the United Kingdom, or the state enforced "suicides" of the old and demented (interestingly enough, in the idyllic, seaside village where I visited my friend doing her gap year. The school is mentioned by name), or you know, the mass extinction of your species. But don't worry too much dear, have a cup of tea and a biscuit. It completely suits the book though, with an ever ageing population with no children to replace it.

While there are flashes of brilliance in this book, like the storytelling, or moments within the story, I wasn't overly won over. I liked the dictator, even though he had a weird authoritarian system in place. But there were elements of that regime that I understood and even vaguely agreed with (although implementing them would be a completely different thing all together). I didn't overly like our protagonist. I didn't buy the "love" story at all. And I must admit there was a whole element of "saviour" that I found a little odd.

The book took an interesting idea and explored it slightly. Then whacked it together with a lot of other thoughts. Some of them worked for me, some didn't. Glad I have read it, but I won't be bashing down anyone's doors forcing them to do the same.

For more reviews visit http://rusalkii.blogspot.com.au/
Megan
I love post-apocalyptic fiction. I will read basically anything that has that phrase in there somewhere, whether it is good or shockingly bad. I'm definitely not an expert, but I've dipped my toes in at least, and the funny thing is that I still don't have an actual favorite way the book goes. The designated post-apocalyptic event could be disease, or zombies, or nuclear warfare, or regular old warfare, or a natural disaster. (Or it could even be a Biblical apocalypse, but I haven't read any of I love post-apocalyptic fiction. I will read basically anything that has that phrase in there somewhere, whether it is good or shockingly bad. I'm definitely not an expert, but I've dipped my toes in at least, and the funny thing is that I still don't have an actual favorite way the book goes. The designated post-apocalyptic event could be disease, or zombies, or nuclear warfare, or regular old warfare, or a natural disaster. (Or it could even be a Biblical apocalypse, but I haven't read any of those.) The story could follow an entire civilization or one individual. I don't really care.

Most people are bashing Children of Men for being dull and slow, but for me, the story works. It's the right setting, plot, and characters for the story that P.D. James was telling. I have not seen the movie, but I would anticipate that just by virtue of being a visual event crammed into 2 hours it would move more quickly than the book. In fact, I very much liked the slow pace of the novel. It mimics the aging population of England. No one is moving quickly. Even the youngest of society could be experiencing arthritis and gray hairs. Beyond being old, most people in society are complacent. There is nothing to look forward to; why act quickly when any betterment will be fleeting, when soon, the buildings will be empty and nature will overtake what you've worked so hard on?

I also liked the unreliable narrator. He is annoying, a sometimes stereotypical old professor, yet he changes and grows throughout the novel. He's thoughtful, but confused at times, and judgmental. However, it was a little silly to bother having bits from his diary in the novel when the rest of it is first-person omniscient anyway. It felt superfluous, almost like it was supposed to serve some other purpose.
Overall, I really did enjoy it. I might try watching the movie (again; I think I got ten minutes into it when it first came out), but I think I will naturally see it and the book as different beasts.
Earline
It has been a few years since I’ve seen the film adaptation (2006), but I remember thinking it was pretty awesome. I love Clive Owen and I’ve always been curious about how the original book compares with the film (apparently its a very loose adaptation). So I figure: dystopian novel + short + female author = awesome. But apparently I was wrong.

I was expecting to like this story a lot more than I did. Part One of the book was just too irritatingly slow with tedious details about the main characte It has been a few years since I’ve seen the film adaptation (2006), but I remember thinking it was pretty awesome. I love Clive Owen and I’ve always been curious about how the original book compares with the film (apparently its a very loose adaptation). So I figure: dystopian novel + short + female author = awesome. But apparently I was wrong.

I was expecting to like this story a lot more than I did. Part One of the book was just too irritatingly slow with tedious details about the main character, Theo. Perhaps if Theo were as awesome as Clive Owen I wouldn’t have minded, but unfortunately he was rather dull, unlikable, and uberly English. I was truly shocked when I got to Chapter 5, which began: “Today is my daughter’s birthday, would have been my daughter’s birthday if I hadn’t run her over and killed her.” I wasn’t sure if I was horrified or surprised by the ballsiness, but either way it was memorable.

Part Two is where the story really takes off. I’m actually surprised that I didn’t predict how James would pull everything together. But in the end, Part Two was not enough to persuade me into loving the book. Overall, I didn’t dislike it, but I wasn’t won over either. I loved the overall premise of the story and eventually there were some “oh shit!” moments. I also liked the philosophical discussions on selective breeding and the ethical obligations of a penal colony.

Overall, I enjoyed the world James created, but wished the story was stronger.
Adam
I ordered this book from Half.com in the wee hours of the morning, fresh from watching its 2007 movie adaption with my pal, Charlie. He'd already seen the thing, but kindly allowed me to experience and be moved by its intensity and moments of profound holiness without any running commentary or interruptions. Charlie's good for that. He gets excited about things you experience for the first time with him, even if he's experienced them several times before. I thought I'd return the favor of his wa I ordered this book from Half.com in the wee hours of the morning, fresh from watching its 2007 movie adaption with my pal, Charlie. He'd already seen the thing, but kindly allowed me to experience and be moved by its intensity and moments of profound holiness without any running commentary or interruptions. Charlie's good for that. He gets excited about things you experience for the first time with him, even if he's experienced them several times before. I thought I'd return the favor of his watching the movie with me by getting us both a paperback copy of this book.

Upon receipt, I devoured it in a couple of days, noting both drastic deviations from the movie adaption and uncanny similarities. There were parts in the book I wish could have been better expressed in the movie, and other parts I found myself thankful regarding their being left out of the film. This book's ending, although teeth-gritting in its suspense and intensity, differs in a large way from the film. My apology if that's a downer for anyone out there, knowing it before you've read it and all.

I'd recommend reading the book and watching the film both as social commentary and social exploration, considering the weight (or lackthereof) we allot to the profundity of new life, birth, and the hope that is to be found in the promise and unveiling of the innocence of babes.
Lucas Deal
5.0 hearts

Obviously, this is my genre of book, but rarely do I read a single book in this genre because I am always left wanting more (if the book is good). This book was no exception. I just wanted it to be longer. I never want my stories to end.

It also helped that this was adapted into a film because it made me read it, because I can't watch a film based on a book without reading the book first.

There is no question that the writing in this book is brilliant. So beautiful. P.D. James really ha 5.0 hearts

Obviously, this is my genre of book, but rarely do I read a single book in this genre because I am always left wanting more (if the book is good). This book was no exception. I just wanted it to be longer. I never want my stories to end.

It also helped that this was adapted into a film because it made me read it, because I can't watch a film based on a book without reading the book first.

There is no question that the writing in this book is brilliant. So beautiful. P.D. James really has it going on. It's not just the writing, but his writing style that immerses me even more. I'm usually a huge fan of first person in my reads, but this third-person perspective with jolts of journal entries from the main character really captured me.

Basically there hasn't been a child born in like forever and its mostly due to a corrupted council that essentially regulates everything. Theo, the main character, is just a history teacher, but they recruit Theo to ultimately overthrow the aforementioned council. He is hesitant, but this wouldn't be much of a book if he didn't accept. The rest of the story is that adventure unraveling.

It was such a solid novel. The pacing was fast. A very quick read for me. This is one of the books that really catapulted my love for post-apocalyptic novels.
Yvensong
This cerebral look at the end of mankind through the eyes of an aging historian is sometimes a bit slow but always chilling.

Several years ago, men and women stopped having children, not by choice. Theo, the protagonist, and nearly everyone else in the country (Britain) have pretty much given up caring about the tyrannical government they live under and quietly accept the impending end of mankind.

It's this quiet giving-up which can make the book seem a bit slow, yet despite that, the novel has a This cerebral look at the end of mankind through the eyes of an aging historian is sometimes a bit slow but always chilling.

Several years ago, men and women stopped having children, not by choice. Theo, the protagonist, and nearly everyone else in the country (Britain) have pretty much given up caring about the tyrannical government they live under and quietly accept the impending end of mankind.

It's this quiet giving-up which can make the book seem a bit slow, yet despite that, the novel has a lot to say about people in the time of crisis. It's always much easier to go with whatever is happening, despite how horrible it might be, than it is to stand up and fight.

The protagonist may not be a heroic fighter-type found in most post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels, yet he does grow, becomes someone who makes some hard decisions and learns to stand by them.
Kim
I tried. I honestly tried. I really enjoyed the movie. But this book was just so boring. Every time I picked it up I had to struggle to get through a single page before giving up and going to read something else. There was just nothing to engage me. It was extremely slow. Theo is a horrible narrator/main character. There is nothing interesting to him. Why should I keep wasting my time on something I really don't enjoy. Just watch the movie instead.
Sandi
While I thought the movie that was based on this work was very good, I found the book even better. Meticulous plotting, fully realized characters, and great descriptions of a society that has no future. I listened to the audio version read by David Case who was perfectly cast.
Marvin
Very good dystopian novel. It is a big change from her mysteries, which are also quite good. I was intrigued by the vast differences from the movie. Both are excellent in their own way but I found the novel's ending to be more satisfying.
notgettingenough
I only guessed I'd read this. I can see now that I've watched the movie that I hadn't. The movie is dreadful. Since Manny says it is better than the book, I can only assume that the book hits a new low for PD James.
Anne
Now I realise I read the book before the movie was in the cinemas! great story. I love the Dalgliesh stories too.
Carolyn F.
I loved this book! I loved that she went with a totally different genre - futuristic apocalyptic. Very good.
Seth
Really good. I didn't expect the character portrayal to be so honest and insightful. James writes well. Time for one of her famous mysteries.
Janet
Engrossing. Check: dystopian, blue cover, sci-fi, set in Europe (again), and library (again)
Bill
Very interesting story, a la Brave New World, 1984. So much better than the awful movie.
Halden
Quite different from the movie. Much more political and I found Theo to be quite unlikable.
Paul Haspel
The choices that people make when all hope seems lost are at the heart of P.D. James’s 1992 novel The Children of Men. James may be better-known for her detective procedurals, but in this novel she makes a successful foray into the field of dystopian science fiction.

The word “dystopian” fits well here; as this novel begins, humankind faces annihilation. In this instance, however, the instrument of humanity’s destruction is not a nuclear war, or the ravages of a new and incurable disease. Rather, The choices that people make when all hope seems lost are at the heart of P.D. James’s 1992 novel The Children of Men. James may be better-known for her detective procedurals, but in this novel she makes a successful foray into the field of dystopian science fiction.

The word “dystopian” fits well here; as this novel begins, humankind faces annihilation. In this instance, however, the instrument of humanity’s destruction is not a nuclear war, or the ravages of a new and incurable disease. Rather, the human race has, suddenly and inexplicably, become infertile. Since no new human beings are being born, there is no need for atomic superweapons or exotic viruses to bring about the apocalypse. All that is needed is time, and eventually the human race will age out of existence, pass from the earth.

As of October 1995, not one new human life has come into the world. 1995 has come to be known as Year Omega, or simply Omega; and in the twenty-six years between Omega and the time in which the novel is set, initial optimism -- that surely modern science would find the cause of this worldwide mass infertility, devise a remedy, save the day -- has given way to a pervasive pessimism, a grim waiting for the end. It is a slow-motion apocalypse that reminded me of Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, in which the people of Southern Hemisphere communities like Melbourne, Australia, knowing that the superpowers of the North have destroyed each other with nuclear weapons, can do nothing other than wait for the clouds of deadly radiation to drift south.

The society of The Children of Men has changed in a variety of ways as an aging population looks ahead to human extinction. Playgrounds and other reminders of children have been removed. The carriages and prams that women wheel along the streets of their towns and cities hold dolls that take the place of the human babies those women never had the chance to bear. Births of kittens and puppies are celebrated as elaborately as births of boys and girls once were. The children of Year Omega, themselves known as “Omegas,” have been pampered and idolized since birth, and seem markedly different, in deportment and behavior, from the rest of the population. There are even gangs of Omegas, known as “Painted Faces,” who roam the countryside and waylay unlucky travelers for use as victims in a bizarre, consciously primitive ritual of human sacrifice. The psychological impact of the slow-motion calamity that is Omega is well emphasized.

The opening sentence of the novel – “Early this morning, 1 January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being to be born on earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenos Aires, aged twenty-five years, two months and twelve days” (p. 3) – sets forth the scope of this dilemma at once. The character who writes down the book’s opening sentence is the novel’s protagonist and sometime narrator, Theodore Faron. I say "sometime" because the novel shifts back and forth, somewhat awkwardly, between entries from Faron's diary and third-person narration.

An Oxford don and historian who has spent his career studying the Victorian era, Faron is completely and self-consciously non-heroic. He is a deliberately isolated man, whose marriage ended under tragic circumstances that reflect the novel’s premise of a world without children. He teaches his classes, lives comfortably, and waits for the end. Yet Faron, for all his self-willed isolation, also has important connections to the political changes that have occurred in Great Britain since Omega. Constitutional monarchy and Parliamentary power have given way to the autocratic rule of a Warden of England; and the Warden, Xan Lyppiatt, who rules with the help of a small and elite Council, is Faron’s cousin.

Under the Warden’s rule, England has a nominal stability that is lacking in much of the rest of the world; but that stability comes at a price. Men are subjected to compulsory testing of their semen, and healthy young women must undergo regular and intrusive examinations of their theoretical fertility. An all-powerful State Security Police monitors citizens carefully, and older people who are no longer productive are expected to participate in a ritual known as the Quietus – a mass suicide that the government claims is voluntary. The state runs sex shops that are meant to enhance the flagging drives of a rapidly aging population. The Isle of Man has become an island prison where all those who commit crimes are unceremoniously dumped; like the island of Manhattan in John Carpenter’s science-fiction film Escape from New York (1982), it is completely unregulated and ungoverned, and the inmates of the Man Penal Colony are left to create a hellish little world of their own. People from other, less stable countries are able to come into England as “Sojourners”; but the Sojourners are consigned to do society’s dirtiest work, have virtually no rights, and are subject to deportations when they turn 60 years old and have thereby, in the government’s view, aged out of “usefulness.”

Faron’s resolute inaction is disrupted when a young woman named Julian asks him to use his status as Xan’s cousin to speak to the Warden of England. Faron agrees, but Xan dismisses Faron’s pleas for reform, saying, “Your position is no different from the rest of Britain. You desire the end but close your eyes to the means. You want the garden to be beautiful provided the smell of manure is kept well away from your fastidious nose” (p. 99). Faron subsequently finds himself propelled into a cross-country flight with members of a rag-tag rebel group that calls itself “The Five Fishes,” under circumstances suggesting that humanity’s destruction may not be as inevitable as it once seemed.

The Children of Men builds suspense well and is a very fast read. I have not yet seen Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 film adaptation – titled simply Children of Men, omitting the direct article for reasons of which I am not certain – because I wanted to draw my own mental pictures of the story’s characters and situations before seeing how Cuarón has brought it to the screen. Whether you have seen the film or not, the novel provides, for devotees of dystopia, a suitably grim journey into a bleak future.

Jill
3 1/2 stars

First off, if you've seen the movie, be prepared for most of the plot, other than the main premise (the last child was born over 25 years ago, with no signs things changing anytime soon, and things in England are now semi-dystopian), to be completely different. It's been at least 10 years since I've seen the movie, so the differences weren't distracting or annoying. If it's been more recent for you, that will likely not be the case.

Reading some of the other reviews, it sounds like it 3 1/2 stars

First off, if you've seen the movie, be prepared for most of the plot, other than the main premise (the last child was born over 25 years ago, with no signs things changing anytime soon, and things in England are now semi-dystopian), to be completely different. It's been at least 10 years since I've seen the movie, so the differences weren't distracting or annoying. If it's been more recent for you, that will likely not be the case.

Reading some of the other reviews, it sounds like it's a good thing I listened rather than read, in that there are long, tedious stretches, and with audio I rarely notice these.

Unfortunately, the narrator's speaking voice is much too posh for this book. I recognize him from most of the Jeeves books I've listened to, and he is perfect for an upper class twit, but much too nasally for this. It would have been greatly improved with someone like Clive Owen or Mark Strong (look it up -- you know who he is) telling this story.
Caroline
James’s book has an intriguing and original premise: humankind has become sterile and a child hasn’t been born in twenty-five years. The human race is dying and hopeless. With believable detail, she treats readers with poignant images of the preciousness of children by describing a world without them. Unfortunately, about three-quarters into the book, James stops using the same care and failed to convince me to suspend disbelief: romantic subplots develop with unlikely rapidity, the characters d James’s book has an intriguing and original premise: humankind has become sterile and a child hasn’t been born in twenty-five years. The human race is dying and hopeless. With believable detail, she treats readers with poignant images of the preciousness of children by describing a world without them. Unfortunately, about three-quarters into the book, James stops using the same care and failed to convince me to suspend disbelief: romantic subplots develop with unlikely rapidity, the characters don’t behave consistently, the villain behaves with uncharacteristic carelessness, and his cronies suddenly have a change of heart. Perhaps James felt pressed to create a shorter work; had she spent more time, she could have convinced me that all the above was possible, but as it is, the ending seems trite. She could have said more with this book and it’s message.
Amy
Despite being the basis of the 2006 movie of the same name, the book is an entirely different beast.

It's 2021 and England is now a dictatorship governed by the Warden, the protagonist's cousin and childhood playmate. Theo, the protagonist, is a pompous Oxford professor who has fully accepted the state of affairs: politics, society, and the fact that no new children have been born for 25 years.

Upon re-meeting a young woman from one of his classes he gradually has his awareness raised and become Despite being the basis of the 2006 movie of the same name, the book is an entirely different beast.

It's 2021 and England is now a dictatorship governed by the Warden, the protagonist's cousin and childhood playmate. Theo, the protagonist, is a pompous Oxford professor who has fully accepted the state of affairs: politics, society, and the fact that no new children have been born for 25 years.

Upon re-meeting a young woman from one of his classes he gradually has his awareness raised and becomes forced to take action.

I found the structure of the society fascinating.
Jennifer
I love dystopian literature...especially in current times. This was a great story. I wished for more scientific background on why this had happened but that's okay....it was a more historical and philosophical approach. I felt like this author might have some animosity towards females, and until I just checked I thought it was a male author...hm...not sure what to make of that.
Rebecca
I enjoy the writing of PD James as she has a vocabulary that is larger than most and can find an adjective which I wouldn't immediately think to use. This story takes place in the year 2021 which is almost upon us, so for the tale to work we must suspend our disbelief. However, if I just think about these events happening in the far future, it works. Not one of her mysteries.
Lauren James
This is curiously hard to place, oscillating oddly between gloomy introspection and apocalyptic world-building. The story begins in media res and ends far too soon -- the slice of story that it does tell is an utterly unexpected and somewhat befuddling choice. What is most striking, to me, and what keeps it from being a sad-middle-aged-man novel, is the really incisive feminist sensibility at work within it; a constant thrum of awareness of masculinity as brutish power, cruelty. A strange book, This is curiously hard to place, oscillating oddly between gloomy introspection and apocalyptic world-building. The story begins in media res and ends far too soon -- the slice of story that it does tell is an utterly unexpected and somewhat befuddling choice. What is most striking, to me, and what keeps it from being a sad-middle-aged-man novel, is the really incisive feminist sensibility at work within it; a constant thrum of awareness of masculinity as brutish power, cruelty. A strange book, but a very interesting one.
Elizabeth Best
I really enjoyed this book. Yes, the whole idea is unrealistic - but they way that she describes how the world would be sounds true to what would probably happen. (apart from Alzheimers being controlled from the late 1990's). It was well written and kept me hooked until the end. I wish there was an after chapter saying how things went as it ends quite suddenly.
Hanna-Anneli Belt
Very Brittish and quite boring book, the main character not very likable, too much politics and the diary entries boring. It got better on the second half when there was some action and excitement. The book reveals the unperfect and flawed human nature.
Chris Griffith
Interesting take of a dystopic novel which takes place in the no to far future. Explores a world where women no longer get pregnant and have children.

This was the first P.D. James book I have read. Will definitely try another.
Carla Prado
Beautifully boring writing with good premises. Only Cuarón could make a cinematic masterpiece out of this.
Adam Shields
Short Review: This is a ethically interesting scifi thriller set in a dystopian UK in the near future. The movie shares basic themes, but the story is very different from the book. (I would like to re-watch the movie soon). The story is fairly simple in the plot and I while the ending is fine, it was abrupt and intentionally vague.

I listened to the audiobook and thought it was okay as an audiobook. But was not especially memorable as an audiobook.

My slightly longer review is on my blog at http Short Review: This is a ethically interesting scifi thriller set in a dystopian UK in the near future. The movie shares basic themes, but the story is very different from the book. (I would like to re-watch the movie soon). The story is fairly simple in the plot and I while the ending is fine, it was abrupt and intentionally vague.

I listened to the audiobook and thought it was okay as an audiobook. But was not especially memorable as an audiobook.

My slightly longer review is on my blog at http://bookwi.se/children-of-men/
Joshua Smith
My only regret was that I didn't read this during Advent. What an incredible book.
E.F.
The protagonist is a horrible human being and unfortunately, I can completely relate.
Kris McCracken
I enjoyed the underlying conceit very much, and found it both a realistic and terrifying dystopian world. The background work by James outlining the bureaucratic implications to a sudden and prolonged cessation of pregnancies was believable, and added to the foreboding.

However, things took a turn for the melodramatic that underwhelmed me somewhat,and muddied the final quarter. Still, worth an effort if you're into apocalyptic, end of the world novels...
Jordan
In honor of Zach Wald. An interesting story as it is, but would have been better if it had been extended enough to make you connect with the characters.
Heidi
Super intriguing premise and the protagonist has a good arc. But I had a really hard time getting invested in the plot or the characters.
Ben
This is a fascinating and well-written dystopia - just eerie enough without descending into sensational. That said, I actually think the changes made in the film adaptation were good choices.
Michele
Unusually for me, I saw the movie of this before I read the book. Both are excellent, but very different. In both, the population of the world has lost the ability to have children, there is one pregnant woman, and a few people including the main character trying to help her. Beyond that, the two diverge pretty wildly and are more like different interpretations rather than an original and an adaptation.

The movie's main theme seems to be environmental and social collapse (a kind of analogy/commen Unusually for me, I saw the movie of this before I read the book. Both are excellent, but very different. In both, the population of the world has lost the ability to have children, there is one pregnant woman, and a few people including the main character trying to help her. Beyond that, the two diverge pretty wildly and are more like different interpretations rather than an original and an adaptation.

The movie's main theme seems to be environmental and social collapse (a kind of analogy/commentary on our own issues with climate change and global warming; global infertility is implied to be a result of biological war and toxins in the environment) and the importance of hope (Cuaron has said that the ending is deliberately enigmatic, so that how you see it reflects your own optimism/pessimism).

The book's main themes, on the other hand, seem to me to be power and faith.

Theo's cousin, Xan, is the Warden of England, a sort of semi-benevolent dictator who rules with the help of a Council of Five. Theo used to be his advisor but he quit for reasons never really explained. There are a number of places where Xan's power is discussed explicitly: how he acquired it, why he keeps it, what he gets out of it, how he uses it or ought to be using it, etc. In addition to the question of what a person does with power, though, there is also the more subtle question of what power does to a person. This is brought out most obviously in the two instances where the Wedding-Ring of England is mentioned. The first is when Theo notices that Xan is wearing it, and observes that there was a time when Xan would not have felt the need to wear it, suggesting that there has been a change in the nature of Xan's power. The second is at the end, when (view spoiler)[Theo takes the ring from Xan's body and places it on his own finger, symbolically taking over Xan's power (hide spoiler)]. Minor instances of the power question are all over the place: the soldiers who (mis)manage the Quietus, the requirement that fertile domestic animals must be registered and their reproduction limited, the requirement for regular fertility testing of both men and women, the fact that (view spoiler)[when Rolf finds out he isn't the father of Julian's baby (and thus can't gain power that way) he betrays them (to gain power another way) (hide spoiler)], etc. In the end, I wondered if (view spoiler)[the main reason Julian wanted to get away to have her baby was simply to place herself beyond anyone else's power (hide spoiler)].

As for faith, it's there in both religious and secular terms. Churches have largely been abandoned but there is one rather haunting scene where Theo witnesses a christening party going into a church; the "infant" in the christening dress is in fact a cat, and Theo wonders what the Archbishop of Canterbury would have to say about that. There is mention of other countries practicing human sacrifice, particularly of the Omegas (the last generation born, remarkable beautiful but borderline sociopaths), and Theo wonders in passing what England would do if they were to discover that it works. Theo and the others also wrestle more than once with the question of whether/how the utter impossibility faith in the future excuses inhumanity in the present. Near the beginning of the book is a long passage on how science has been the god of civilized man for so long that when it fails them (in their inability not to solve the infertility problem but even figure out what is causing it) it's like a personal betrayal, your deity turning on you. A very perceptive observation.

All in all a thought-provoking book and a great read. I also highly recommend the movie.
Patrick
[3.5]

I was saying to a friend recently that it had been a while since I'd read a novel that was an out-and-out page-turner. That was before I picked up The Children of Men. It is, I suppose, in what seems to me a distinctly British tradition of the cosy catastrophe. Except that rather than portraying a bunch of woodcraft folk types rebuilding civilisation after some unspecified disaster, PD James imagines a world where some unspecified problem has resulted in total global infertility. The book i [3.5]

I was saying to a friend recently that it had been a while since I'd read a novel that was an out-and-out page-turner. That was before I picked up The Children of Men. It is, I suppose, in what seems to me a distinctly British tradition of the cosy catastrophe. Except that rather than portraying a bunch of woodcraft folk types rebuilding civilisation after some unspecified disaster, PD James imagines a world where some unspecified problem has resulted in total global infertility. The book is set in 2021. No child has been born since 1995.

There is an air of melancholy, of a civilisation that is collapsing in slow motion, about the first two thirds of the book. She is best on the small details: the bizarre religious cults that spring up, the way that some couples treat their pets, or even dolls, as children, even (and this is a reference which really dates the book) the passing reference to the fact one of the most popular shows on television is re-runs of the 80s soap opera Neighbours – its cocktail of sunshine and youth a form of escapism for an ageing and doomed world. The narrator, Theo, a disillusioned academic who lives alone in Oxford, teaching 19th century history to the bored elderly for want of anything better to do, his marriage having broken down after he accidentally killed their daughter, Natalie (name quite possibly intentionally symbolic), is an ideal guide to this world. A man who is ageing, winding down and lacking in purpose, in a world which is falling victim to the same fate. I was particularly struck by the section in which Theo, having given up on his teaching because there is simply nobody left to teach, goes off on a trip around Europe to see the 'great sights' and finds the whole experience unsatisfying because, without any future, the historic sites seem oddly meaningless. James was in her seventies when she wrote this book and I can't quite decide whether the book is in part a rather downbeat meditation on growing old and approaching death. The portrayal of the government of the day, not a cartoon villain dictatorship but a believable authoritarian response to the condition that society found itself in, restricting peoples freedom at least ostensibly to help the country cope with the fact that it would within decades be exclusively a country of the old, was rather well done, and perhaps reflects the fact that PD James had been a civil servant in the Home Office throughout her working life.

Unfortunately, the book rather loses its way in its final third, (view spoiler)[ transmogrifying into a fairly standard-issue thriller when Theo joins a small gang of dissidents on the run from the authorities and the deus ex machina – the fact that one of them becomes pregnant and they decide that they don't want the government in any way involved in the raising of the child - that leads this group of dissidents to go on the run in the first place felt slightly artificial to me. Why go to all the trouble of creating a world where nobody gives birth and then just, without explanation, have one of the main characters become pregnant? I've heard it said that James intended the book as a religious allegory and I've always been tone deaf to such things, so maybe I'm missing the point. I'd have been more satisfied with a book which simply explored this bleak, decaying world than one which seeks to bring about a resolution to it by suggesting that perhaps the world isn't doomed after all... (hide spoiler)]
Adam
After having heard so many good reviews of the movie, I thought I would check out the book. I have yet to see the movie, but I'd seen the trailer which definitely influenced what I thought I'd be getting from the book. I had assumed that I would get a fast paced plot in a dystopian society, which probably led to my feelings of disappointment in reading The Children of Men.

The Children of Men is basically the story of Christ's birth. In this version however, the setting is in the future of our cu After having heard so many good reviews of the movie, I thought I would check out the book. I have yet to see the movie, but I'd seen the trailer which definitely influenced what I thought I'd be getting from the book. I had assumed that I would get a fast paced plot in a dystopian society, which probably led to my feelings of disappointment in reading The Children of Men.

The Children of Men is basically the story of Christ's birth. In this version however, the setting is in the future of our current world (meaning that this child isn't a replacement to Christ, but rather a lot of the symbolism and themes are similar). In the future, all men are sterile. It's been 25 years since the last child was born. The current world population is beginning to dwindle. Government is near the point of collapse. Everyone is getting old and pretty much just getting ready to die. One woman is miraculously pregnant, and our main character must help protect her.

I guess my main disappoint came from the slowness of the story. Really the world that is established isn't a whole lot different from our own, and yet over half the book is dedicated to establishing the setting. Had I not known where the plot was headed, I would have put the book down about 1/3rd of the way through. Having known where the plot was headed, I kept thinking, "When are we going to get going?"

My disappointment was compounded by the fact that this really isn't a book that is about a woman giving birth who is in danger and needs protected. In fact, very little is dedicated to the plight of the woman, and she ends up being in hardly any danger at all throughout the book. So all my hopes of an action filled gripping plot were poorly founded.

What the book is really about is the war within all religious people between belief, ego, faith, greed, doing the right thing, and seeking after power. It's the battle that some would call the fight between the natural man and the virtuous man. Now I know that all people have similar struggles, but I call the the war within all religious people because the book centers around the demand for the proof of God compared to what you've seen of God which is of course a religious debate.

Now, you might be reading that summary and thinking, "Well that sounds great!" and the truth is that those struggles really are a great premise for a book. My issue is that I think that those issues can be dealt with in a less tedious way. The book is completely from the point of view of a character who's main characteristic is how boring of a person he is. As interesting of a subject as you might have, if you wrap it in a drab character with minimal rises and falls to your plot, it's going to get boring.

Now I recognize my bias to this review. Most of what I'm saying is, "I thought it'd be an action movie and instead I got an indie art house piece." Had this been pitched to me as an indie art house book, maybe I would have loved it, that's even one of my preferred genres. Unfortunately, that's not what happened. I felt like I was promised a dystopian Bourne Identity/Transporter, and instead ended up reading a hip "what if" telling of the Bible. And as much as I appreciate the Bible, this reworked version was just kind of, "meh."
Genevieve Williams
I confess that I had not read this or even heard of it until the movie starring Clive Owen came out a few years ago. I gather that James is mostly known for crime fiction (indeed, someone gave me Death Comes to Pemberley for Christmas) and that isn't a genre I really read, so while I'd heard of her, I hadn't intended on seeking out her work.

After watching The Children of Men again, however, I decided that it was time I read the book. I'm glad I did. This isn't whiz-bang science fiction where the I confess that I had not read this or even heard of it until the movie starring Clive Owen came out a few years ago. I gather that James is mostly known for crime fiction (indeed, someone gave me Death Comes to Pemberley for Christmas) and that isn't a genre I really read, so while I'd heard of her, I hadn't intended on seeking out her work.

After watching The Children of Men again, however, I decided that it was time I read the book. I'm glad I did. This isn't whiz-bang science fiction where the solution to the crisis--which remains unexplained throughout the story--is one eureka! away. Nobody understands what's happening, and everybody's responding as people do to horrific realities: denial, comfort-seeking, power-mongering, suicide.

The premise is simple, and James's decision not to try to explain it is, I think, the right one: humanity, as a whole, has simultaneously become infertile. Women do not get pregnant; the procreative function of sex has entirely disappeared. When the novel opens, the last person born on Earth is 18 years old and has just been murdered.

But this isn't a murder mystery, though it is a mystery story in an older, more alarming, revelatory sense of the term. What is revealed is a species entirely bereft of purpose, and this imagined future is all the more frightening because the world doesn't descend into chaos. At least, Britain, where the story is set, does not, and this is truly the heart of the matter: it is a Britain ruled by a tyrant, an apparently peaceful place kept so by means that readers will tell themselves they would never accept. Xan's despotic rule allows people go on living, even as the lack of children becomes an emptiness at the heart of the story all the more horrifying because the human race as a whole has given itself over to despair, yet nonetheless clings to its existence.

The hope of salvation, when it comes, is just as inexplicable and mysterious as the condition that it might someday correct. And this is entirely right, because this setting is not the story's real point. Its point is the conditions under which people will willingly submit to power, will allow horrors to be committed for their sake of our comfort, and will do everything within our means to preserve the status quo because, as terrible as it is, there is a kind of safety in our understanding of it.

The relevance here is, I trust, glaringly obvious.

The Children of Men has been called science fiction. I think it is, though I also think that that label has been carelessly applied by people who have looked no further than its premise. It is science fiction in the way that Ursula Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is science fiction, in the way that "The Lottery" is science fiction, in the way that "Brave New World" and "1984" are science fiction. The best science fiction has the capacity to shock us by creating an entirely foreign world and then, after immersing us in it, forcing us to confront our own. The label of "science fiction" is thoughtlessly applied by those who assume that all science fiction is escapist.

The Children of Men is not. That's the point.
Jon Nielson
I really wanted to like this book because the premise was so fresh, but holy crap, describe much? Every time something new is introduced (a person, place, a flower, a road), the author takes 8 pages to describe it. Just tell the story.
Megan
I really enjoyed this book, which is simultaneously beautiful and grim, an oddly complex mix. The scenario, that humankind has lost the ability to reproduce, is the only truly sci-fi part of the novel; otherwise, the novel is set in what I imagine is a fairly realistic picture of late 20th century England, in that its ordinary culture, technology, and habits govern the lives of the characters. I expected a sci-fi novel, a dystopian novel; what I got was something closer to myth, in that James, t I really enjoyed this book, which is simultaneously beautiful and grim, an oddly complex mix. The scenario, that humankind has lost the ability to reproduce, is the only truly sci-fi part of the novel; otherwise, the novel is set in what I imagine is a fairly realistic picture of late 20th century England, in that its ordinary culture, technology, and habits govern the lives of the characters. I expected a sci-fi novel, a dystopian novel; what I got was something closer to myth, in that James, through the growth of the central character Theodore Faron, tries to use stories to explain what makes humankind worth saving, and where our inner moral compass, particularly courage and hope, comes from.

Honestly, it's difficult to explain what this book is about, or describe, in any articulate fashion, its themes. The English major in me would like to point out that, as Todorov notes, all literature is inherently beyond the reach of analysis; if it were not so, there would be no literature. All analysis can do is hope to gesture at what a text means, and I could not even do that without further study. All I can tell you is what I found interesting: the human response to the slow-burning apocalypse, which consists primarily of deteriorating relationships, a preference for animal companions or for sensual pleasures over genuine relationships; indeed, there seems to be an inability to sustain genuine relationships at all. Also interesting is the conversion story which drives the plot, as the central character finds his sensual pleasures empty compared to real love, and commitment to a cause, and gradually claws his way up, out of himself, the increase or growing of faith, the fact that goodness and love can exist side-by-side with an abuse of power. While I've only read one other James book (Death in Holy Orders), I noticed this novel shares similar motifs to it: the tension between faith and doubt, religious people acting non-religiously, parents dealing with grief, and guilt, over the loss of a child, the tension between inner and outer lives.

As far as the four-star rating: I'm not entirely on board with the way that James dispenses with some of her characters, nor with the way that she reveals a few significant plot points; these steps seem unnecessary, and unexpected. With the exception of the beautiful ending, taking up the final twenty pages or so of the book, the first, post-apocalyptic half is, I think, better. (But then, I always prefer the writer setting the stage, particularly in novels that are remotely sci-fi or fantasy, to the finishing up of the plot.)

If anyone else reads this novel (Adrienne, Grandma), I've love to hear your thoughts on its themes.
Kate Stericker
A fantastic reading experience. Although the premise was elaborate and the stakes high, the writing has a lyrical quality that is rare in science fiction and offers deep insight into the character of Theo.
Lawrence
A very good read about a world in which humans are no longer able to reproduce.

The first part of the book is depressingly, sadly crepuscular. Here, Ms. James depicts very well a privileged world (Oxford)that is slowly disappearing forever. She is very good on the details of daily life which, to all appearances, seems like today's except for the absence of children. She is very thoughtful as when one of her characters wonders whether sexual desire diminishes when there is no hope of procreation, A very good read about a world in which humans are no longer able to reproduce.

The first part of the book is depressingly, sadly crepuscular. Here, Ms. James depicts very well a privileged world (Oxford)that is slowly disappearing forever. She is very good on the details of daily life which, to all appearances, seems like today's except for the absence of children. She is very thoughtful as when one of her characters wonders whether sexual desire diminishes when there is no hope of procreation, voluntary or involuntary. Or when a type of hysteria leads to a strange culture of dolls and kittens, even to the extent that they are baptized in the C of E. This is quite an amazing feat of imagination that highlights for me how an Omega scenario might really play out emotionally. In addition, Ms. James lets the reader reflect on political power. In her book, England is ruled undemocratically by a council with an all-powerful president in the Warden of England; yet daily life seems middle-class normal. Perhaps this reflects our own cultural times in which it sometimes seems that daily life goes on, but the opportunity to have even a small chance of changing or sharing in governance is absent. But also she makes me reflect on the drive for power. Does it always exist even when the place in which it is exercised is disappearing. Why not a society of sharing and love? Last, is democracy even the best form of government for a society that is in a deep involuntary transition?

Part Two is a thriller. Ms. J. takes us out of Oxford to the broader world which is closing down in a relatively orderly fashion according to the council's directives. This leaves some pockets of wilderness, disorder, violence, and fear. The chase is on in this Alpha portion of the book! It is pretty exciting, and I do not want to spoil things by going further.

There are some matters in the book that are not really satisfactory for me. I don't really understand the relationship between the diarist/memoirist/protagonist (depending on the chapter) and Xan Lyppiat (Welsh name, we're told!), the dictatorial Warden of England. A little more on this relationship might explain the transformation of the ironic protagonist and his unpleasant or, better, hitherto unloving personality.
Satinder
If all you know about "The Children of Men" is the Clive Owen starred movie, then you should go and pick up the book. It's not that the movie was bad, it was beautifully made with some superb acting, but it nowhere reaches the level of the book.
The silent musings of the narrator, remembrance of things lost to humanity, fall of man in the gloomy depths of his own ego, as the narrator says the infertility is a cruel punishment from gods - all these could never have been achieved so realistically a If all you know about "The Children of Men" is the Clive Owen starred movie, then you should go and pick up the book. It's not that the movie was bad, it was beautifully made with some superb acting, but it nowhere reaches the level of the book.
The silent musings of the narrator, remembrance of things lost to humanity, fall of man in the gloomy depths of his own ego, as the narrator says the infertility is a cruel punishment from gods - all these could never have been achieved so realistically anywhere else other than the pages of PD James's masterpiece.
Set in a future where humanity has lost the ability to reproduce, the book sets up a bleak picture of how society will collapse despite the invincibility of its creations. Some of the consequences of absence of children which James imagines are quite chilling: mass suicides of elderly which is encouraged by the state, childless women carrying around dolls in prams.
James has written it with such confidence as if she had a vision of the future. Her unwilling hero, Theo, who patiently counts out his days amidst his books, goes on walks in now empty education institutes, is a man with whom we can sympathize with as he takes on a seemingly impossible task when a small hope for mankind emerges. His "enemy" in this mission is his own cousin and the ruler of the country. Xan is not so much as an enemy as someone who took the opportunity which presented itself and became the warden of England. He sincerely believes what he is doing is for the benefit of his people. Every single despicable act of his reign is justified as an attempt to hold the shattered remains of the society together.
The ending of the story is not exactly the ending. It leaves the reader to make his own mind as to whether "real power" will claim another victim. All in all, a must read book for fans of dystopian tales which has a high probability of coming to pass.
Maddy Doe
In the book, The Children of Men, written by P.D. James, the human race is on the brink of extinction due to no man being fertile. The main character, Theo Faron, is a professor at Oxford University, and also first cousin to the Warden, and subtle tyrant of England, Xan Lyppiat. The first five chapters of the book are written in the first person,as Theo writes his own journal entries and describes his lifestyle, his divorce, his dead child, his job, as he pedantically explains the thoughts, regu In the book, The Children of Men, written by P.D. James, the human race is on the brink of extinction due to no man being fertile. The main character, Theo Faron, is a professor at Oxford University, and also first cousin to the Warden, and subtle tyrant of England, Xan Lyppiat. The first five chapters of the book are written in the first person,as Theo writes his own journal entries and describes his lifestyle, his divorce, his dead child, his job, as he pedantically explains the thoughts, regulations, and new circumstances the infertile race has become familiar with. After chapter five, the book is written in the third person, as Theo’s story and his new experiences of love, discovery, anger, and hope as his encounters with a group of radical rebels is narrated by the author.
The first half of the book has a somewhat slow pace; however, the last few chapters are unusually short and extremely fast-paced, as the author intended to pull in his audience and wait towards the end to build up to his climax-- there is little falling action.
I have to admit, I was expecting more from the book. I looked forward to more action and suspense, when most of it was details of loneliness, government regulations, data, and new social tendencies. The book also ended on a cliffhanger; but whether it was a hopeful one or not, depends on who reads it.
Overall, the book was intriguing; however, I wish there would have been more jaw dropping moments, and more of a falling action, since I’m not the biggest fan of cliffhangers. The book is short, and should be able to keep readers’ interests. It wasn’t necessarily disappointing, I just expected more excitement. I would recommend this book to those who delight in reading dystopian fiction, action, and even sci-fi. It makes us put our thinking caps on, wonder, and overall, it’s a page-turner.
CV Rick
I picked this book, The Children of Men, because I loved the movie so much. Clive Owen and Michael Caine were brilliant in a dystopian science fiction masterpiece full of dark mood and atmosphere. I expected the book to be like the movie but it's not and that's not completely disappointing. What I found from PD James story was a thorough investigation of a man struggling to find identity in a world that no longer needs him.

Theodore Feron is an historian in a world where no woman can become pregn I picked this book, The Children of Men, because I loved the movie so much. Clive Owen and Michael Caine were brilliant in a dystopian science fiction masterpiece full of dark mood and atmosphere. I expected the book to be like the movie but it's not and that's not completely disappointing. What I found from PD James story was a thorough investigation of a man struggling to find identity in a world that no longer needs him.

Theodore Feron is an historian in a world where no woman can become pregnant and no woman has become pregnant in 27 years. What need is there for history - what need is there for society - what need is there for Theodore Feron in a world that no longer cares and is just waiting to die? It's a question of character that is a central theme of a novel investigating the psyche of a man who's wondering if he has a will to live in a world that has lost its will. That's what I love about this book - it answers the question in such detail in a way that the movie couldn't approach.

To compare the book and the movie is rather unfair because while they take the same setting their exploring entirely different aspects of the world. The movie is dark, moody, and action-packed. The book is cerebral and appeals to the side of the reader who wants to know why.

When Julian searches Theodore out to enlist his help in meeting the Warden of England it ranks him back into a world that he thought he'd left. More importantly, that world thought that they had that rid of him and it's that central conflict more than the question of what is a world without children like that shapes the story.

I do recommend this book, but not if you're expecting a repeat of the movie.
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