P. D. James is well known as a writer of first-rate mysteries. And when I first picked up a copy of her novel, The Children of Men I assumed it was another mystery. It quickly became apparent that this book was unlike any of the P. D. James books that I had ever read. Rather than being a mystery, this book is pure science fiction. It is similar, in many ways, to the futuristic fantasy of George Orwell's 1984.
In The Children of Men, James has created a world in which all the men have become sterile. As a result, no babies have been born since 1995. When the book opens, the year is 2021 and the population is quickly aging. Due to the lack of children, many people feel that they have nothing to live for and ritual suicide has become acceptable. For most people, all they desire is to live out their remaining years with as little stress as possible.
The story revolves around Theodore Faron, an aging Oxford Historian who is apathtic and has contently accepted his fate. Faron is the cousin of the Warden of England, who rules England with dictatorial powers. Because he is the Warden's cousin, Faron is approached by a group of activists who want to see England returned to a more democratic state, but they are unable to gain an audience with the reclusive leader. They ask Faron to present their demands to the Warden, which he does. This simple action sets off a chain of events that drastically alters Faron's well-ordered existence and sends him on an adventure that will have a profound impact on man's existence.
The Children of Men offers a glimpse at a world where mankind knows it is doomed, and how English society has met this ultimate challenge. I cannot say that I actually liked the story, but I did find it very interesting to see how James performed in a different genre from what I was use to. Perhaps if I did not know that James had written the book, or if I had not read her mysteries, I would have liked this book better. In many ways, I think that I was prejudiced against the book from the start simply because it was not what I expected. Nonetheless, this is a well-written work and one which many people will find interesting.
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