The title and synopsis got me first.
I don’t know if this is because we’re living in a time where a pandemic does exist, but I do wanna read some fiction about a virus-caused pandemonium that (interestingly) only affects men.
Back to the book, the more I read it, the more I thought that this book is not mainly about a virus apocalypse, but more like a speculative fiction in which women become the dominant race on earth (unintentionally – or so we thought) because men are being attacked by an unknown virus that mimics an extreme case of Leukemia.
The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird was written in World War Z – Max Brooks style (and the author did confess it in the afterword – btw, read my review on WWZ here). It’s like journal entries from several characters from the book. So you’ll find more than one POV, mostly women (only one male survivor) that affected and became the key figures in history.
In the book, you’ll find entries from the point of view of a female witness of patient zero, you can also read from the perspective of a female researcher who helps find the cause of the men’s deaths, a female historian that decides to write the entire story, even the one who created a rather-taboo program to ensure the existence of human race.
Because you know, in this book, men were gone, only 10% are left to give the women their sperms. So, you can imagine by yourself what taboo things that we would dare to do in the name of humanity.
The Women Left Behind
Of course, there are despair and pain suffered by the women in the book. Almost everyone lost a husband, a son, a brother, a grandfather, male colleagues, male friends. Though not all of the disappeared males are missed, their absence does make difference in terms of psychological, physical, and economic.
Sectors that previously filled by mostly men are dead, non-operational. Tea and coffee become a rare commodity, there’s a mandatory program for women to work as a mechanic and electrician, job vacancies are everywhere – ready to be taken.
Some of the characters in the book did take the chance, they finally become the leader and boss that they always want in a pandemic when men become the sole victims.
During my time reading this book, I couldn’t help but think: this is such a great bedtime story for feminists.
What About the 10% Men?
Now here’s the interesting thing.
There’s a part in the story when men were depicted as a victim of human sex trafficking. And there’s a male communication department in the government that focuses on how to protect the dignity and rights of men due to the increasing case of catcalling and sexual assaults towards men.
Let’s not lie to ourselves that it did feel like an intentional innuendo to the version of reality that we are having now.
Two Questions, Though,
I respect the perspective the author took for this novel. I found it really fun to read, although I only give it 4 out of 5 stars because the story (for me) a bit lack in depth.
I know that there’s more than one POV, so maybe there are not enough pages to explore all the characters’ thoughts, but I did wish they discover the reason why the virus only attacks men, sooner and… deeper?
Yes, it’s because of their XY chromosomes. I mean, what else could it be? Could a virus detect pen*s? Does the virus afraid of b**bs? We could figure that out by ourselves, it’s their chromosomes, sure it must be, let’s focus on what we don’t know yet.
I want a thorough explanation of the state of the monkey carcasses that are suspected to be the source of the virus. What is the implication to the other chromosome variants? The XYY? The XXY? The XXX? We could investigate more.
That, and the notion that the story highlighted the fact that women are finally able to take the world because we are finally winning in number.
Personally, I never thought that number is the only problem. It’s mindset, tradition, and religion that put women in this position (not that I hate it, but that’s the fact). But number? We are more in numbers now. I think the story could give more impact if the book includes a view from a female/male that is part of a religious/traditional community when men are viewed as the sole leader of humanity and actually talk about what will (speculatively) happen with their faith and tradition.
The quote above is the only reference of religion that I got from the book. And d*mn isn’t it interesting? Why not explore more?
Other than that, this book is a quite fun read. If you enjoy The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (and its series), you may find The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird interesting. Will search for more speculative fiction for my next read.