.....last night while I was waiting to see if my congested head would just go ahead and explode or not. It didn't, so I finished The Children of Men by P.D. James. PDJ usually writes mystery novels (my book club read her Original Sin earlier this year), but The Children of Men is not a mystery. It belongs to my beloved genre: apocalyptic fiction.
It is the year 2021, 25 years after the last child was born in the world. The Omegas, that last generation of children are now 25 and into adulthood. All males, worldwide, are apparently sterile. There is no future. PDJ's take on what that would mean is fascinating and, I think, spot-on. Despair rules. Mass suicides occur. People sink into a lethargy of personal comfort seeking. A "dog eat dog" penal colony is set up on the Isle of Man. Even though sex is consequenceless (is that a word?), it almost dies out--because other than as a gymnastic exercise (PDJ's take), it just isn't worth it.
Rapid depopulation brings a tyrant to power in England, though the government is still theoretically representative. People have to move in to population centers where powere and services can be maintained. No one wants to do the dirty work--so Sojourners, workers from poorer countries--are brought in to do the scut work. Then they're sent back to their home countries when they are too old to be productive.
The plot line revolves around Theo Faron, Oxford professor, who is the cousin of the Warden of Englan, Xan. He is living in a shell of passivity--only awaiting the end. Until Julian, a former student, makes contact with him and tries to involve him with her little band of revolutionaries. How that happens and how the world might be saved is the thrust of the book.
It's an extended allegory, to me, of the contraceptive mentality come to full force, though I am almost certain that is not whay James had in mind. But it is most enlightening to think through the changes wrought when a population does not replace itself. And how much our basic outlook depends on being followed by another generation, whether they're our own children or not.
PDJ does not sugarcoat her characters' lack of belief in God. For the most part, people are frank unbelievers. It is interesting to note, however, that the possible hope for the future comes directly from two unabashed Christians. I won't tell that part, in case you want to read it. Here's a snippet about beliefe:
She smiled, understanding the question. "Believe in God? No, it's too late for me. I believe in Julian's strength and courage and in my own skill. But if He gets us through this maybe I'll change my mind, see if I can't get something going with Him."
"I don't think He bargains."
"Oh yes He does. I may not be religious but I know my Bible. My mother saw to that. He bargains all right. But He's supposed to be just. If He wants belief He'd better provide some evidence."
"That He exists?"
"That He cares."
Anyway, worth the read, if you share my tastes.