THE CHILDREN OF MEN by P.D. James
Kirkus Star

THE CHILDREN OF MEN

KIRKUS REVIEW

Perturbed by reports that sperm counts among British males have been steadily dwindling in recent years, the doyenne of the English detective story has interrupted her increasingly leisurely series of mystery novels (Devices and Desires, 1989, etc.) for a futuristic dystopia of sterility. Sometime in 1995--records the divorced, bereaved, ineffectual historian/ diarist Theodore Faron--the worldwide sperm count reached zero with the birth of one Joseph Ricardo, last of the Omega generation. Now, in 2021, graying England is frozen in a lifeless nightmare. Theo's cousin Xan Lyppiatt, Warden of England, rules absolute, attended by his Grenadiers and the State Security Police. Xan has consolidated his power by conscripting all immigrating Sojourners to manual labor at public works, encouraging mass suicides (the Quietus), whose survivors are paid a government bounty, and banishing convicted criminals to the Isle of Man, now converted into a penal colony--actions all approved by a populace so frightened of growing old, unprovisioned and uncared for, and so desperate for the warmth of the young that women routinely take to the streets wheeling prams stuffed with kittens or dolls. Approached by female student Julian on behalf of the Five Fishes, a tiny group outraged by Xan's dehumanizing regimen of fertility testing and enthusiastically assisted suicide, Theo finds himself first fruitlessly reasoning with his cousin, then suddenly pulled in by the miraculous, terrifying news of Julian's pregnancy, which she's determined to keep secret from Xan's ruling council whatever the costs to the Fishes--most of whom are clearly bound for harrowing fates--or the future of the race. Despite an opening as slow as anything in James's recent outings, the departure from her usual formula is brilliantly conceived--the note of sad mortality so powerfully sustained that James's benediction of hope is almost unbearable.

Pub Date: March 4th, 1993
ISBN: 0307275434
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1992




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