It’s not often that I close the final page of a book and sit there, completely stunned.
”The End of Men” is one such book.
I have just finished the book, and am still trying to untangle what is fiction and what is – well – almost akin to the hellish reality we have have all been living through these past 2 years.
This is one of the most powerful novels I have ever read, and its almost uncanny prescience makes it a totally compelling read. Ms Sweeney-Baird wrote her novel about a plague that rips through the world, killing only men, long before COVID 19 unleashed its horrors on us all. In her own words:
”Coronavirus doesn’t have a death rate as high as the virus I have imagined in my novel. Nonetheless, we are experiencing in real life the greatest pandemic of our lifetimes, which is more than I could ever have imagined in my wildest nightmares. The world I wrote about was meant to stay safely within the pages of my novel; it is now far more closely with reflected by the world than I ever could have expected. I hope that by the time you’re reading this, there is a vaccine. I hope our healthcare systems survive and economies recover. I hope your loved ones are safe and that the world has returned to that wonderful, boring, nostalgic state I now crave: normality.”
The writer’s depiction of a society largely without men, after they are decimated by the plague, is of a world of immense suffering, as women lose their sons, husbands, brothers, fathers but must rapidly take over running the world, as they try and balance their personal grief with the need to keep going, to keep trying to find a cure, and to repopulate society.
There are moments of almost black humour, as women the world over readjust to a world without men, and where some of the few remaining men bitterly resent their diminished role in society. Self reflection is not the strong point of a man such as Brett Field:
“The UK has a female prime minister, which is the Gynarchy at work. (For those of you who haven’t been here before, Gynarchy is the word we use for the takeover by women of the world, depriving men from taking their rightful places in society.) Half of the French political Cabinet is made up of women. Germany has been ruled by a woman for over two decades. I don’t like the smell of it. Not at all. Lots of you have messaged to say you agree with me; something suspicious is going on…
…I’ve noticed a lot of you guys dropping off the message boards. It’s obvious what has happened to you. I don’t know how the women have done this, but I know it’s their fault. It was their plan all along. They wanted to make sure women got into the best colleges and got the best jobs, had the most money, and then they didn’t even need men to have kids. So many women are already having children on their own using donor sperm and weird medical shit, what’s the point of men in that equation? They’ve been moving men slowly into a position of irrelevancy, and now the Plague is confirming it.
One of you asked me awhile ago how the Plague could have been created by women? How could they be smart enough to create this disease that only affects men? The answer is simple, folks. Betas. Thousands of betas who have been brainwashed by women, helped them out. Most scientists are men, right? Most men are betas. It’s not hard to work this shit out.
Women didn’t create the Plague on their own. Betas sacrificed their own kind and helped the Gynarchy destroy us. I’m telling you all now. I know how this is going to end. Men are going to be working on farms or doing hard labour, forced to give up our sperm so that women can still have babies without us being anywhere in the picture. It’s the end of men.”
To be honest, after almost 2 years of coronavirus and reading all the idiocies online, all the conspiracy theories, all the anti-VAX nonsense, all the QAnon ravings, Mr. Field sounded as though he could fit right into our own, real-life fractured world. His egotistical, mysogynistic ranting didn’t sound half as crazy at it might have done pre-Pandemic.
Reading this book was a sometimes weird exercise in remembering where the line between fact and fiction lay.
I feel so battered by our own pandemic, I am still grieving for friends we have lost to Covid, we are still masked and wary, that the horrors of this fictional plague made horrific sense.
A gripping, thought-provoking book and one that is, sadly, almost too scarily familiar. Thank goodness our Covid world isn’t as horrific as the fictional plague world Ms Sweeney-Baird depicts, but there are too many chilling parallels.
“Unputdownable” is not a word I use lightly, but this book is absolutely that.