I am delighted to share my review today for The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird. This was published initially in 2021, at the time I had seen it out and being reviewed, but at the time I didn’t want to read it as Covid was still too prominent. However, a year on and it was obviously the right time because I really enjoyed it and thought it was a great book to read.
My huge thanks to Borough Press, a branch of Harper Collins, for granting my request to read this title via NetGalley.
This was a really great book to read and I do like the way the author approached the story and then went further with it. Not just the lead-up and during, but the after-effects of living in a world that had undergone huge changes.
When a mysterious disease starts in Scotland, Dr Amanda Maclean is ignored. She is just a female doctor and does not know enough to be making such a rash call that this is something to be worried about. It is brushed under the carpet. It then starts to spread. It affects only men and they are dying by the millions as it spreads around the globe.
This story was written before the start of the Covid pandemic in 2018/19, it was then published in 2021. A lot of what is discussed in this story did happen when Covid struck. Initially, it was seen as a problem on the other side of the world, governments were slow to react and as we know the pandemic was to kill millions around the world. The End of Men is a similar story and one that the author imagined prior to the pandemic.
This story is told from the perspective of different characters around the world. They are female characters as they now are prominent, not every man has died, and there are some that are immune. The race is on to discover where the virus started, what makes it spread, who are carriers and why only certain people live.
As much as I really enjoyed the beginning of the story, and this was really good, it was the recovery and adapting to the virus that really turned this story around for me. The author imagines so many scenarios that I had not even considered. There are the obvious ones about having a depleted workforce, of women retraining and having a prominent role in how countries are run and how they have new freedom, especially in countries where women were definitely not seen as equal. Yes, in some ways this story is about empowerment and also feminism but it is also about how people adapt to change.
A story like this is easy to relate to as we are still living with Covid. As we are adapting to the world after this pandemic it is nothing compared to how the author sees a world with a significantly reduced male population. Without men, it becomes a matter of how the human race will recover with a limited supply of males to help repopulate.
I liked this book a huge amount. Set in a future that is all too real to imagine and the way the author uses her story to envision a future that has changed drastically. This is one for those who like dystopian, futuristic and feminist viewpoints, it is a mystery and a thriller as the race is also on to find and develop a cure. It is one I would definitely recommend.
The really alarming thing about this book is that the author did imagine this prior to the Covid Pandemic. I have a copy of a letter sent via NetGalley detailing this…
Here’s a letter from Christina Sweeney-Baird:
I first heard about corona virus as most people likely did; through snippets of news and emails from friends saying, ‘Have you seen this? So weird!’ For a number of weeks, it felt distant in that way so many foreign news stories do. Something awful and scary but ultimately a disease I would remain personally unaffected by.
Only a few months on from those emails and news reports, I’m sitting in my flat in central London in lockdown. I leave the house once a day for exercise, and shop for food and other essentials once a week. I don’t know when I’ll next see my family in Scotland, my boyfriend who is living in Dubai at the moment for work or my friends and colleagues. Billions of people around the world are in the same position. I feel immeasurably fortunate to still be employed and to have recovered from suspected corona virus (I have not been tested but experienced the virus’s tell-tale cough, breathlessness and extreme fatigue after returning to London from a trip to Northern Italy). I know you’re meant to ‘live your truth’ through art and everything, but contracting corona virus was a step towards authenticity I could have done without.
It’s an understatement to say it feels surreal that I wrote a book about a pandemic disproportionately affecting men just before a pandemic disproportionately affecting men swept the world. More than one person has half-jokingly called me Cassandra. When I started writing The End of Men in September 2018 it felt like the ultimate thought experiment. How far could I take my imagination? How would a global pandemic with an enormous death rate change the world? What would the world look like without men, or the majority of them? I wrote the first draft of the book in nine months, finishing with a burst of intense writing in June 2019. Now, as I edit the book for my editors wondering what this summer will bring, I find myself testing my imaginary world against the real one. I gauge the distance between what I have written and what is happening. As a writer of speculative fiction, this is not something I ever expected.
I’m relieved that corona virus doesn’t have a death rate as high as the virus I have imagined in my novel, and that it will not kill nine in ten of the world’s men. The imaginary world I have written belongs safely in fiction, within the pages of a novel. Nonetheless, we are experiencing in real life the greatest pandemic of our lifetimes, which is more than I ever could have imagined in my wildest nightmares. I hope that by the time you’re reading this, there is a vaccine. I hope our healthcare systems survive and economies recover. I hope your loved ones are safe and that the world has returned to that wonderful, boring, nostalgic state I now crave: normality.
Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx