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The Children of Men

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  43,532 ratings  ·  3,277 reviews
Told with P. D. James's trademark suspense, insightful characterization, and riveting storytelling, The Children of Men is a story of a world with no children and no future. The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathe ...more
Paperback, 241 pages
Published December 5th 2006 by Vintage (first published 1992)
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Patricia Moberg No, I agree. I feel like the ending left a little ambiguous how Theo (and other prominent figures, society) was going to tackle these issues - it was …moreNo, I agree. I feel like the ending left a little ambiguous how Theo (and other prominent figures, society) was going to tackle these issues - it was made clear that Rolf didn't actually care about this, Theo wasn't too fussed about it initially. Of course he changed a lot, but the last interaction with Julian, when she says that he shouldn't have the ring/power and his reaction and thoughts, suggested to me that there was a possibility that he wouldn't be the humble, benevolent ruler she would want. Maybe the author wanted to leave it open if he even tried to change things that much. (less)

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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
"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
Feb 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopia, fiction, uk, 20-ce
I have come to realize, years after writing this review, that is it is marked by a naïve Lamarckism--a belief in the heredity of acquired characteristics. But I'll let it stand as a reminder of my errors, and how much I have learned since then.


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
Althea Ann
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Re-read for post-apocalyptic book club.

I liked this book better, the second time around. I read this the first time quite a while ago, and I think perhaps my age has something to do with the difference in perceptions. It's certainly a piece geared toward older readers. Although it contains violence and tension, it's slow-moving, with a quiet, elegiac feel.

Our narrator, Theo, a lonely academic, is the cousin of the Warden of England. The upheaval of the world's current situation has allowed the W
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mindfuq, sci-fi
This novel seriously freaked me out when I read it. I actually sat in stunned and depressed contemplation at my own lack of children and the decisions I believed I held dear at the time.

I didn't care to bring children into this world, and at the time, I hated the world pretty much entirely, so I got struck against the back of my head after reading this and I haven't really been the same, since.

The novel took me on a very disturbing ride with the ultimate death of humanity by way of sterility. T
Lauren (Shakespeare & Whisky)
"Early this morning, 1 January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being to be born on earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenos Aires, aged twenty-five years, two months and twelve days."

Despite a riveting premise, I did not enjoy this novel at all.

Children of Men struggled to engage me due to an opening act that lasted for the entirety of book 1 ("The Omega"), an unlikeable protagonist and confused thematic messaging.


"We are outraged and demoralized l
May 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: creepy, dark, apocalyptic
Now I realise I read the book before the movie was in the cinemas! great story, impressive and a creepy view on a dystopian future. I love the Dalgliesh stories too.
Aug 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Ugh! I don't like the cover of this book (the one showing on this page). Don't get me wrong, I like Clive Owen, and the 2006 movie is not too shabby but it does not have much to do with the original text apart from the basic premise; and Theo the protagonist of the movie is the polar opposite of the novel’s character. The author P.D. James is best known for her crime fiction novels mostly featuring defective detective Adam Dalgliesh who is also a poet. I have only read a couple of these Dalglies ...more
Oct 16, 2016 rated it liked it
* Very odd what happens in a world without children's voices .
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
Sophia Triad
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Post Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Depressing.

It describes a hopeless, sterile future.
No more children, no more light, no more expectations.

But what if there is a ray of light? What if there is a woman pregnant after more than 25 years without any births on Earth?

“Feel, he told himself, feel, feel, feel. Even if what you feel is pain, only let yourself feel.” 

When I read Dystopian fiction, I want to read about hope and expectations that oppose the darkness. This is one of the darknest Dystopian books
Nigel Mitchell
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was another novel on the list of movie adaptations that I really enjoyed and wanted to see how the original source material compared.
Admittedly it’s been so long since I’ve seen the 2006 film but remember it enough to know that the premise are the same but each has a completely different feel.

The main crux is the human population can no longer reproduce, with the last child born 25 years previous and how it impacts on society.

With the story set during 2021 it couldn’t have been more timely,
Dec 24, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
dianne (off seeking immunity)
In a word? Disappointing. For the vast majority of this book the primary character, who is written sometimes in third person, and sometimes in first (we read his diary) is dry, vindictive, judgmental, indeed hopeless. I was convinced. Other than being an Oxford professor (certainly a worthy achievement) he had no other redeeming qualities that I could appreciate. Not a whisper of kindness seemed retrievable; he was a conceited Trump-like man, albeit with a better vocabulary and a real degree.

Feb 21, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good read. Easy, compelling writing. The characters of Xan and Theo are very complicated.

Hope to find time (not now) to see the movie, and read Aldiss' book, Greybeard, which Aldiss appears to believe James ripped off, for her story.


Interesting connection to Greybeardby Brian W. Aldiss, noted in a goodreads user's review for this book:

by Brian W. Aldiss
Paul Bryant's review Jul 10, 2016
* * * it was ok
Feb 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Dec 31, 2012 marked it as filmed
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
Nov 21, 2008 rated it liked it

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.
Dystopian books have a certain appeal. Dystopian films also appeal so when I watched Children of Men several years back I was impressed enough to think that I would one day read the book. I finally have.

Now this is not meant to be a "film is better than the book" review and vice versa. I, for example, love the Terrence Malick version of the very good book by James Jones The Thin Red Line. What I liked about that film was that Malick took an idea and made it into something other. The same can be
A totalitarian world (2020s) where all humans are infertile and there are incentives for the infirm to commit suicide. Dissidents on the run, chases and hardship etc, but not as clichéd as that sounds. Gripping, chilling and (mostly) believable characters. The "science" is never really explained, so futuristic rather than sci fi? The film is very different, and not in a good way; fortunately I read the book first.

Jun 04, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, english-lit
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
Jul 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 able ...more
Mankind is dying out and there is no hope for the future. Dystopian novels aren't my usual reading fare but the premise looked interesting and this novel is featured on the Guardian 1000 list.

Found the main character Theodore Faron to be a bit of a cold emotionless fish to begin with. It wasn't until the second half of the novel that he began to come into his own. Wouldn't really class this as a mystery as such although to my mind the story raised more questions than were answered.
Jan 26, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Rating: 3.5 Stars

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

- T.S. Eliot

A dystopian/post apocalypse story. Twenty five years before the story begins the Human race loses the ability to reproduce and there you are. The Apocalypse strikes - only this one doesn't consist of horrific death courtesy of a shattering virus, a planet killing meteor or environmental collapse. Humanity is left to live it's remaining years in rel
Amy | littledevonnook
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
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
Thomas Edmund
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm always a fan of more classic dystopian settings. I must be getting old, but the recent fad for heroic young lass' saving the world from shallow and controlling governments seems a little too trite for my tastes.

Where Children of Men gets it right is thorough social commentary seamlessly stirred in with a good story so that one never feels the world is fake or artificial, nor does one ever get bored with the lack of action.

Relatively short The Children of Men is enjoyable and thought provokin
May 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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P. D. James, byname of Phyllis Dorothy James White, Baroness James of Holland Park, (born August 3, 1920, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England—died November 27, 2014, Oxford), British mystery novelist best known for her fictional detective Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard.

The daughter of a middle-grade civil servant, James grew up in the university town of Cambridge. Her formal education, however, ended at

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