Title: The End of Men
Author: Christina Sweeney-Baird
Release Date: 29/4/2021
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 39
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from The Borough Press HarperCollins UK ,via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Set in a world where a virus stalks our male population, The End of Men is an electrifying and unforgettable debut from a remarkable new talent that asks: what would our world truly look like without men?
Only men are affected by the virus; only women have the power to save us all.
The year is 2025, and a mysterious virus has broken out in Scotland–a lethal illness that seems to affect only men. When Dr. Amanda MacLean reports this phenomenon, she is dismissed as hysterical. By the time her warning is heeded, it is too late. The virus becomes a global pandemic–and a political one. The victims are all men. The world becomes alien–a women’s world.
What follows is the immersive account of the women who have been left to deal with the virus’s consequences, told through first-person narratives. Dr. MacLean; Catherine, a social historian determined to document the human stories behind the male plague; intelligence analyst Dawn, tasked with helping the government forge a new society; and Elizabeth, one of many scientists desperately working to develop a vaccine. Through these women and others, we see the uncountable ways the absence of men has changed society, from the personal–the loss of husbands and sons–to the political–the changes in the workforce, fertility and the meaning of family.
In The End of Men, Christina Sweeney-Baird creates an unforgettable tale of loss, resilience and hope.
This book is an awesome, yet hard read as we claw our way out of a pandemic, in almost every way but disappointed me so much that I couldn’t rate it any higher.
Ok I am going to go hard on what really really disappointed me about this fantastic book before I talk about any good points as this really truly and utterly brought what would have been a 5 star rating crashing down. THE SCIENCE IS SO CRINGE!
I am a biologist. I hold a PhD in evolutionary genetics and I have studied the evolution of sex chromosomes among other topics throughout my career. I have also worked closely with one of the first physicians to treat Covid within the UK. I clarify this so you know why the Science in this book made me cringe, so hard. It follows an epidemic of a flu like virus that only effects Men. This instantly brings up the question why and the Scientists in the book leap to find out. Problem number one: It then takes them SIX MONTHS to hypothesize its X-linked (associated with the X chromosome). Hoof beats you think horse not zebra, it would likely be this first genetic target eliminated when such sex deterministic structure is involved. Problem two: No women die, or get ill from the virus. This is statistically and genetically unlikely from the proposed genetic target. I wont go into a genetics lecture but this is high school level Bio with the possible combinations of sex chromosomes. By the same reasoning the male immunity rate is too low. Problem three: the whole eureka 100% vaccine efficiency moment – the collective world now knows 100% effective isn’t possible and that was just so cringe, a disease with such high mortality rate we would accept lower efficacy just to keep people alive. We also know that more than one vaccine can be created. Only one group can be first, but many other groups kept working towards vaccination.
Its really sad for me as a scientist when a relatively good concept and superbly written books just seems to fail at really easy research. Author’s out there, if your writing a book and are unsure don’t be afraid to ask! Have a nosy at your local Uni’s staff list send a few emails. Tweet, a lot of us are avid readers. Contrary to popular belief Scientists are actually a chatty bunch, a lot of us are happy to answer questions (don’t dismiss the PhD students and Post-Docs) if you ask nicely.
My final gripe is not science related but personal, of all the women in this book not a single one of them is not desperate for children. All the straight women, even the child free women express there great desire to have offspring and how the Plague has taken that away from them. There isn’t a straight woman who is child free by choice and his happy about that choice. Which for a book so focuses on the world and inner monologue of women is a disappointingly old-fashioned viewpoint. I know this book is about grief, particularly female grief and it would have been nice to have a perspective of a woman who is grieving for the life partner she choose, the life that she had hoped for with him and not just the potential of his sperm.
OK Rant over I can now tell you how gorgeous and heart breaking this book is if you ignore the science/ are happily child-free woman.
The writing in this book is fantastic. It is told through lots of various perspectives, mainly from women, from around the world right from the outbreak of the Pandemic to years afterwards. It has a really diverse number of perspectives cataloguing the initial outbreak, the failing of governments, the development of the vaccine and implemented recovery operations to try and bring life back to the new normal. It covers everything from the medical and bad take on the scientific aspects, political aspects, domestic aspects and international relations too for women all over the world. It covers the loss of fathers, husbands, brothers, sons but not just those lost by death but by distance, mental health issues. It covers love and life after what seems like the end of all we know. The story is detailed and emotional and I did find myself tearing up.
I really enjoyed the varying voices of the women and occasional men we heard from throughout the story. I liked how the author allowed us to sit with their grief, anger, fear. I loved that they were all determined in different ways, some ruthless, some heart broken. There individual stories felt intimate and compelling.
Obviously, the author acknowledges that now one would know how closely art would imitate life, completing her draft in 2018. Therefore, it is a bit of a hard read particularly in the beginning of the book when you recognise the panic, miss information and misunderstanding sweep through the globe that we are now all to familiar with. For those concerned about the amount of perspectives, I found them distinctive and easy to tell apart but I have checked and it appears the audiobook is full cast so may help make the voices even more distinctive.