An ambitious but unbelievable debut novel depicts a pandemic that kills men.
Christina Sweeney-Baird: The End of Men. Translated by Kirsi Luoma. Like. 350 pages.
The last men is a remarkable reading experience this spring. Christina Sweeney-Bairdin the debut novel tells the story of a world in the near future where a pandemic will kill 90 percent of men.
In the beginning, we are in a first aid clinic where patients suffer from flu-like symptoms and die suddenly on their hands.
The hospital tension is going well and the atmosphere is condensing. The main character, the brave doctor Amanda, seems like an interesting character.
But this is not really the case with entertainment in the spring.
The last men continues with a multi-perspective technique that describes the course of the pandemic through Amanda and other female characters. The situation in Britain and independent Scotland is best described, but there are also occasional visits to the United States and Asia. Women try in vain to protect their men, get caught up in everyday life and develop a vaccine.
The polyphonic narrative solution is reminiscent Max Brooksin novel Generation Z (in the second edition called World War Z). The technology is well suited to describe a crisis that threatens the whole world. Sweeney-Baird’s characters, though, are quite similar to each other.
The means of narration are realistic and neutral, so the reader begins to demand an illusion of credibility from the story. However, the novel feels unbelievable. The author is faced with an impossible task: every reader is an expert in the experience of a pandemic and knows that at least it is not.
The novel feels like a children’s imagination play with a “dangerous virus”. The authorities are standing straight, information is not flowing, and there are no real bodies familiar from the real world. A twinkling, vigorous line doctor finds out the properties of the virus on a hobby basis, because no one else seems to be interested, even though the bodies are already piling up.
The description of the communication is particularly unbelievable. News of the virus’s progression comes in the form of “newspaper articles” reminiscent of long blog posts. In addition to the virus, the whole world seems to be suffering from an unexplained lack of initiative and loss of collaboration skills.
At times, the reader finds himself wondering why the book has been published, let alone translated, in this seam. A happy idea may also come to mind: in reality, this would be better taken care of!
Sure The Sweeney-Baird structure can also be admired. It is an ambitious attempt to outline an unprecedented, global crisis – and as the author says in his preface, The last men was written at a time when nothing was known about the corona.
The approach angle is mundane and as such bold. The apocalyptic stories are typically associated with some kind of super thrill – if not zombies, then at least chases, a thriller-like vibe, and accelerating survival chunks – but The last men focuses on the description of ordinary life, grief, and loss. It seems like a surprisingly strong and original solution. After all, those annoyances caused by space monsters and zombies have already been seen.
In the last men is, of course, one special twist. The virus only kills men.
In the new dating app, women can search for women alone, glass ceilings are literally broken and symbolically, and sperm bank deposits are regulated. The remaining men are the coveted company.
Sex as a description of the power involved The last men settles on the same continuum as Naomi Aldermanin Force-A novel in which women were given the ability to give electric shocks to men. What would happen if women had all the power?
Admittedly, the novel’s remarks on gender relations, power, and division of labor are quite self-evident and universally valid. It seems like even a writer has a hard time imagining what a world would be like without men.
Despite its many shortcomings and unfortunate time of publication, the novel also has functional sides. Story transport is flexible and sometimes quite addictive. The large scale of the novel stays well together. Hopefully Sweeney-Baird’s next book will come out at better times.