The Children of Men is a book that paints a disturbing picture – if human beings ceased to be born, what would happen to the world? How would we contiThe Children of Men is a book that paints a disturbing picture – if human beings ceased to be born, what would happen to the world? How would we continue to function, knowing that as a species, we are dying out? There are some sad, touching moments in this book – the mass suicide of the elderly (willing or not), women cherishing dolls as if they were babies, and kittens being as the ageing population try to find a substitute for childbirth and child-rearing.
The main character, Theo, is not instantly likeable, seemingly happy to be self-reliant and distanced from the people around him, teaching history to bored middle-aged women and reminiscing on his earlier years with his cousin Xan, Warden of England. However, as the story progresses, through his willingness to become involved with the underground who are striving to make the dying world a better place, even although on the surface he seems to most unlikely candidate for rebellion, and his particular way of caring for Julian, he develops into an intricate, fascinating character. The writing is incredibly descriptive, perhaps for some readers overly so, and I had to call up my dictionary more than once.
There are some negatives to this book – I found the middle part to be incredibly slow-moving after a riveting start, however the action does pick up again. I also didn’t fully understand the relevance of The Painted Faces, and wanted to know more about what they represented and why they were terrorizing people so randomly.
However, The Children of Men is today also a relevant social commentary, as the average life-span of humans continues to grow, in places the elderly outnumber the young and in first world countries the birth rate steadily falls, how immigration is managed (or mismanaged) by wealthier countries and the trial and punishment of criminals is undertaken. Perhaps, after reading P.D. James’ dystopia, there could be some changed opinions.