The Children of Men
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The Children of Men

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  22,512 ratings  ·  1,717 reviews
The Children of Men begins in England in 2021, in a world where all human males have become sterile and no child will be born again. The final generation has turned twenty-five, and civilization is giving way to strange faiths and cruelties, mass suicides and despair. Theodore Faron, Oxford historian and cousin to the omnipotent Warden of England, a dictator of great subtl...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 26th 2005 by Vintage Canada (first published 1992)
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Nancy

Posted at Shelf Inflicted

I went to the library to spice up my life and came across a display inviting me to go on a blind date with a book. Each one was covered in brown wrapping paper with a big red heart. Underneath the heart was a very brief description. The one I picked up said “Receptive and chilling”.

It was fun driving home with a book I knew absolutely nothing about. I couldn’t wait to get it home, pour myself a glass of wine, strip off its cover, and learn its secrets. To my disappointm...more
William
I never was much of a genre reader but at some time in my middle years I was assailed by a love of dystopias. There's nothing like a vivid tale of the world ending to truly set me at my ease. It did not occur to me until I read Norman Cohn's The Pursuit of the Millennium why dystopic narratives were so satisfying on an almost physiological level. I realized it was a hardwired need, evolved by centuries of my whack-job millenarian forebears, for apocalyptic solace. These eschatological needs are...more
Becky
"Told with P. D. James's trademark suspense, insightful characterization, and riveting storytelling"...


I have wanted to read this book for a long time. I loved the movie. I thought it was brilliant, exciting, suspenseful and terrifying all at once. It was everything the book should have been... but was not.

What the book was, unfortunately, was big stretches of yawn interspersed by long-jumps of "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we fucking there yet?" and little bunny-hops of "Oh, that's...more
Alex
I was disappointed by the film, finding myself unable to muster sympathy for the characters, but I was intrigued by the basic plot and so ventured out to explore the novel. PD James' original creation follows a plot significantly different compared to that of the movie, but I found it to be no less disappointing. The main character, Theo, was perhaps even less likable, due mostly to his lack of conviction about anything during the first half of the book. I was never able to develop an intense fe...more
Melki
It's been more than a quarter century since a human baby was born on earth. Since that time, the aging population has been just sort of hanging around, preparing itself for the inevitable extinction. Some people develop strong attachments to pets or dolls. Others concentrate on self-improvement with adult education classes. BUT, the secretive and rather sinister council keeps a firm grip on everything, regulating the lives and even the deaths of all citizens.

James tells her tale with third perso...more
Szplug
I saw the film adaptation of P. D. James' dystopian tale on television last night - with Caine and Owen reliably excellent - for the third or fourth time; and it reminded me, yet again, how much I'd enjoyed the novel upon which it was (loosely) based. James is one of those middle-aged female British writers - Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine is another - who put their seemingly endless supply of interesting, somewhat dark stories to the page with a considerable amount of subtlety and elegance stuffed i...more
Chloe
Jan 27, 2009 Chloe rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who have not seen the film.
I wanted to love this book, I really did. I have a very large soft spot for the P.D. James mysteries that I'd read and Alfonso Cuaron's adaptation of this book was beautiful, dark and easily the most wrenching apocalyptic film that I can think of. If only the source material lived up to the grandeur of the film.

Don't get me wrong, it's still a remarkably bleak book. It's set in the year 2021 and the last child born to humankind, twenty-five years previously, has just been killed. Somehow every p...more
Shanon
I found this story dull. I almost stopped at several times but pressed on based on the high ratings of friends. It wasn't until the final chapter that I really cared what happened. However, I have a feeling the story & the message behind it will stick with me a VERY LONG time. So often we refer to a birth as the "miracle of birth" but how often do we really see it as a miracle. Modern medicine and technology has removed so much of the risk for so many people. But the fact that we are still a...more
Patrick
I'm a sucker for apocalypse novels, so maybe I'm not the most objective reviewer, but this one rocked me. It's a beautifully written, very cleverly constructed novel of ideas that also features a well-developed main character. James is writing about alienation and estrangement (personal, political, social), but she also offers a really thoughtful, really interesting exploration of political responsibility in the face of tyranny. One star gets deducted from what would otherwise be a five-star rev...more
Judy
Loved the movie and can't wait to read the book.

Well, the book and the movie are definitely two separate entities. They even have different endings. P.D. James' book lacks the action and excitement of the film version and P.D. James does go on about things like the decor of Theo's house and the political makeup of her futuristic England. And I would have liked the main character Theo to behave a bit more honorably. But I enjoyed the rendering of a world in which the last baby was born 25 years a...more
Nigel Mitchell
I read this novel after I saw the movie, and discovered this novel is one of the rare exceptions where the movie is better than the novel. It's not that it was badly written. It's just that the author had the wrong focus.

The novel is set in a near future where humanity has lost the ability to have children. Worldwide sterility has persisted for so long that an entire generation has grown up without any children at all. England has become a dictatorship ruled by Xan Lyppiatt. The main character i...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Dec 31, 2012 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis marked it as filmed  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Every godsdamn human being
Recommended to Nathan "N.R." by: Wotan
This is perhaps the only film from the past decade which I can watch eight plus times within a year. Compulsively rewatchable. Perhaps one of the greatest movies ever made. Something. But you mustmustmustmust watch this. It is unbelievably fantastic. Reallyreallyreally great. My enthusiasm is earnest and I won't use the required umpteen !'s required to indicate the urgency with which you must watch this beautiful, hopeful film. [and don't miss Zizek's five minute commentary]

The film is so good t...more
Chris
This book is an allegory, but a thrilling allegory for all that. It is better and less heavy hand than say the Narnia books. The characters are a little flat but the world building is wonderful. Once the story starts moving, it really starts moving
Amy
My overall thoughts:

1. This was such a beautifully written book, P.D James does a fantastic job of telling this story in a way that makes it so incredibly believable. The basic premise is that all the men in the world have become infertile meaning the last lot of pregnancies become the last generation of children. We follow the story of one man as he struggles with the aftermath of this event and how he attempts to hold onto the fragile strings of his life whilst life in its essence seems pointl...more
Trin
I loved the recent film version of this (which should have gotten WAY more Oscar nominations, dammit!), so of course I had to read the book, which I’d been told was very different. Is it ever! While the basic premise remains the same, many of the events—and pretty much the entire meaning of the novel—were altered for the film. While the movie is LOUD and VIOLENT, the book is quiet and desolate and lonely. The book explores themes of guilt and how men (er, mostly I mean humans here rather than ma...more
Zanna
I was inspired to read this after watching the film, which at the time I thought was powerful and underrated, but perhaps on re-watch I'd think differently. I actually found this book quite disappointing. It's a great idea and has excellent characters, but I was somehow dissatisfied. The religious theme didn't work for me; in the film this was absent, presumably as it's unfashionable. I found myself put off by it, which is maybe just my personal prejudice. But it was simplistic, and I might have...more
Alyce (At Home With Books)
You know when you start reading a book thinking it’s about one thing and then are disappointed to find it’s something else? That happened to me with The Children of Men and it was entirely my fault for not paying enough attention when the book was described to me. I heard “dystopian” and “women can’t have children” and stopped listening. My brain somehow put those two things together along with the title to draw the conclusion that “therefore the men must have the children.” After all, it does s...more
Frederick Meekins
Often the appeal of science fiction lies in the genre's ability to extrapolate from the trends of the present and project them into the future. One novel exemplifying this tendency is "The Children Of Men" by P.D. James.

In "The Children Of Men", the reader finds a world where the population has become inexplicably infertile and must deal with the stresses of a dwindling population and the psychological angst that results when many realize what's the point of life if it will come to a screeching...more
Sansanee
This novel puts me in mind of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. The near future is dystopic and humanity is facing extinction, having suddenly become infertile in 1995, the year that became known as the Omega. Britain, one of the few countries where civilization still seems to survive, although it is certainly crumbling into chaos, is now run by a dictator known as the Warden of England. People have resorted to watching old movies and television shows about the young, keeping dolls in pram...more
Cher
This one started very strongly for me but became a little less interesting as it progressed. A lot of essential questions were not answered, and I was horribly saddened by the idea that people would quit enjoying sex once there was no procreative possibility. Not believable, and horribly, horribly sad. Even if orgasms had become painful, what about other sexual activities that could have been pleasurable? It just seemed that people were accepting their upcoming demise and had consequently alread...more
Lance Charnes
Sep 02, 2012 Lance Charnes rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: P.D. James fans; readers who want their apocalypse to be very British
Once again, not being able to award half-stars presents me with a dilemma. As usual with P.D. James, The Children of Men is full of lovely, lyrical prose and well-observed settings. And as usual with P.D. James, it left me cold. So, does that make for two stars or three?

James has always struck me as being a "cool" writer, one who keeps her characters (and the reader) at an emotional remove. This should work well for this novel, much of which is concerned with the difficulties of social and emoti...more
Janice
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christy
I must begin by saying that I saw the movie before I read the book and so my reading of the book was shaped by that fact. I loved the movie, in fact, found it haunting and compelling. The book does not have the same effect. There are always differences between a book and its movie adaptation, but in this case, the differences are substantial.

The pace is very different; where the movie moves forward constantly, the book inches along, spending chapters and chapters on Theo's internal life and chi...more
Derek
I think I like the idea of The Children of Men better than I like The Children of Men itself. The idea (that mankind is facing its demise as we have been unable to reproduce for the last 2 decades) is essentially all the book shares with the film adaptation. And I hate to say it, but the film is probably better at getting this across than the book.

It's worth noting that the book was written before 9/11 and the film made after it, and all of the important themes that the film explores so thorough...more
Laura
I don't know what I think about this book. It's undeniably VERY well-done, but aside form that I'm unsure. I felt like at times she was patching a bit purple, but it was all right. The character of Theo is well-done, but there's little explanation for why he's become the way he is: he waxes all morose about himself for being unable to feel the emotion of love, but I seriously doubt that anyone would just so casually become that way. Albert Camus' Mersault didn't feel love, but we find that more...more
Manny

Not a bad book, but IMHO the movie is much better. P.D. James has a nice style, but it doesn't begin to compare with the film's stunning cinematography.
Sheila


P.D. James’ The Children of Men inspired a really exciting movie, but the novel’s deeper and stronger, more thought-provoking and, in its own way, possibly even more thrilling. While the movie presents a world-wide disaster from the points of view of a few, the novel manages to create both global and intimate views simultaneously. A well-educated protagonist comments on life and influence in his diary, recognizing the needs of the downtrodden even while he blithely seems to ignore them. But his...more
Schmacko
One of the great powers of speculative fiction is its ability to make us aware of things we may not have considered.

PD James was 72, the mother of two daughters, when she wrote Children of Men. (She’s still writing today at 92.) I would guess that being a mother gave her the ability to imagine a world without children, a race gone sterile. For 25 years, no babies have been born; elementary schools are abandoned and condemned, and playgrounds become graveyards. More importantly, the human race h...more
F.R.
I waited a little while before reading this book as I didn't want the memory of the film so fresh in my mind, however I needn't have worried as the two take quite different paths.

The setting is the same - a dicactorship of the future where children have stopped being born and mankind is slowly dying out. But whereas the film had chases and action sequences, the book is far more concerned with the nature of man and the nature of power. It all takes place in a far quieter key.

The lead character is...more
Megan
I love post-apocalyptic fiction. I will read basically anything that has that phrase in there somewhere, whether it is good or shockingly bad. I'm definitely not an expert, but I've dipped my toes in at least, and the funny thing is that I still don't have an actual favorite way the book goes. The designated post-apocalyptic event could be disease, or zombies, or nuclear warfare, or regular old warfare, or a natural disaster. (Or it could even be a Biblical apocalypse, but I haven't read any of...more
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P. D. James is the author of twenty books, most of which have been filmed and broadcast on television in the United States and other countries. She spent thirty years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Department of Great Britain's Home Office. She has served as a magistrate and as a governor of the BBC. In 2000 she...more
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