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The End of Men

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Eerily prescient and at times tough to read given the state of the world. The real draw is reading about the social and cultural implications of a pandemic that only infects men. It's thrillingly imaginative in that regard.
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I wasn't expecting the pandemic to have upended everything so much still in Spring 2021--and I definitely wasn't expecting to love a book about a pandemic, but I did--and The End of Men is an outstanding, thought-provoking book. The premise is pretty obvious from the title but the plot is handled well, the pacing is good, and the characterizations are phenomenal. This book is definitely going to start some very intense book club discussions and I will definitely be pushing those. And for those looking for a great movie to pair with this excellent book, the choice is obvious: the brilliant and underrated Children of Men.
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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of The End of Men.

I'm not the type of person who shuns pandemic storylines when the real world is in the throes of one; I find apocalyptic themes comforting to read, but I'm an odd duck.

I was stoked when my request was approved because the premise was intriguing and sounded similar to the graphic novel, Y: The Last Man, which I have not yet read but will before the movie comes out.

The End of Man is about a deadly pandemic that sweeps across the world, decimating most of the male population. It strikes quickly and unlike COVID, there is no treatment.

As half of the world's population is eroded by this horrifying illness, readers are introduced to several women, the most pertinent are the medical professionals on the frontlines; the female doctor who treated Patient Zero and whose warnings were dismissed by a male colleague; a woman of color and a intelligence officer, and a medical researcher racing to discover a vaccine.

Coupled with these womens' accounts are other female perspectives dealing with the outbreak and the horrific aftermath as some or most of their families are wiped out and they struggle as survivors and adapt in a new matriarchal world.

First, there are too many POVs; there are a few women who only have one or two chapters and did not really move the plot forward.

I felt the author should have focused on a fewer number of characters and explored their characters in a deeper way. As a result of numerous POVs, their names blurred together and I easily confused one person with another. It wasn't until their profession was mentioned did I remember who they were.

Also, I didn't connect or sympathize with anyone.

Second, many of the marriages depicted here are long and happy ones, which is great, but how realistic is that?

Only one female POV waits for her abusive husband to get sick and die. 

Where are the single parent female voices from marginalized communities? How would they cope?

How about a POV from a male survivor?

The narrative also includes news articles/blog posts about rebuilding the community, looking for love in a post-pandemic world where half of the male population is gone, government incentives to grow the population and promote breeding, all of these were meant to enhance to the world building but only read as tedious.

I really love the premise but the execution lacked suspense and urgency. 

There was little to no character development and I would have been more invested in the story if the plot had focused on two or three women and explored their personal stories.
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Let me preface this by saying that I don't hand out five-star ratings often because, to me, that means a book needs to be fantastic and unforgettable. But, this book is just that. Christina Sweeney-Baird's debut novel is poised to be a prolific piece of prose that'll have everyone talking this April. I already know I'll be thinking about this dystopian novel and its implications on the future of our society for a while to come now that I've reached the final pages. 

In this work of fiction, a virus circulating around the UK sweeps the world and takes out most of the male population in a global pandemic, leaving women to pick up the pieces of society as Sweeney-Baird wonders what would happen to the world without men. This book is the immersive first-person account of the women rebuilding the world, including Amanda the doctor who treated Patient Zero, Catherine a social historian documenting everything, scientist Elizabeth working on a vaccine, and more from around the world and different backgrounds. This novel aims to chart how the absence of men changed society both personally and politically in this prolific novel. In this book, as these women try to keep the world running, they also grapple with fear, loss, grief, mortality, fertility, and humanity.

This gripping modern thriller/literary fiction read is so poignant and timely about the world's new normal, which is made all the more prescient considering it was written two years ago. Yet, it's still so relevant, raw, and vulnerable. This book is so brilliant, and I can't put it down; the story is just so real and gripping, but also its messages and themes are so impactful and important to elevate this read into what it is. The language just enthralled me, captivated me, and drew me in. This read is just so poignant, well-written, and prolific that really makes you think.

Content Warnings: Grief and loss; death of a parent, child, or spouse; infertility; suicide
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Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This piece of speculative fiction was written between Sept 2018 and June 2019. The timing of this book about a devastating pandemic in the middle of a real pandemic might turn some people off. But I actually found it comforting becuase when the most awful unimaginable happens- we fight, we suffer, we grieve, then we get up and survive, and eventually thrive.. 

Each chapter of the story is told by a different woman ( and a couple of men), some appear only once and others we get to follow their journey. The women come from all walks of life - Amanda the ER doctor who recognizes that she has something worse than the flu in patient zero and can’t get anyone to listen to her. Catherine the anthropologist who loses everything but finds the strength to document it all, Elizabeth,  a Jr level  CDC virologist who is allowed to go to the UK to help ( her male bosses think its a UK thing and wont impact them) and finds the key to understanding why only men are killed. Lisa who creates the vaccine and decides that she is tired of women giving their work away- and so she plans to sell it and get very very rich. 

Though it all ,these stories ring true as the author tells of exactly how would this happen, and exactly how would we recover- everything from food shortages necessitating ration books, mandatory work assignment ( someone has to do all of the “male jobs - garbage collection, plumber, telephone repair that keep a society running) and dating when women out number men 9 to 1. I find this soft of logistical detail really facilitating and often lacking in other stories of this type.
The reverse sexism is honestly satisfying to read- how pre-plague everything from drugs to cars has been made for men and post plague women are really thriving while men are victims of sexual harassment (and yet some of immune men were jerks before and are even worse jerks after so many women choose a female partner instead. Love is love. 
Highly reccomend and cant wait for you to read it so we can discuss.
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Even though this wasn’t one of the best books I’ve read this year, it was a really good book for me to read right now. This year has pulled me in and out of reading slumps a few times and a fast, easy, engaging read like The End of Men was exactly what I needed. Although it might seem counterintuitive that a book about a fictional global pandemic would perk me up during an actual global pandemic, strangely enough, that’s exactly what happened.

The End of Men invites comparison to two of my favorite apocalyptic novels, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife and World War Z, both of which I read (or reread) this year, so they were fresh in my mind reading this one. From its blurb, The End of Men seems like it will be Unnamed Midwife in reverse: Instead of a plague that kills women and children, it tells the story of a plague that kills only men. And its multiple first-person narratives immediately reminded me of World War Z. These comparisons were probably what doomed this book to a middling three-star rating for me; it just couldn’t compete.

Unnamed Midwife’s greatest strength is its protagonist. By comparison, The End of Men features many different point-of-view characters, most of them women, a few of whom are more central than the rest. Most were good, memorable characters, but no single character was the sole focus of the book and so I lacked that strong connection. I also didn’t feel like The End of Men’s exploration of feminist issues was nearly as well done as Unnamed Midwife.

On the other hand, World War Z has just as many characters as The End of Men, but instead of having their stories chopped up into many short chapters, as in The End of Men, most were told all at once in what read like a collection of connected short stories. Additionally, the different stories in World War Z represented the most exciting, most emotional, or most memorable part of each character’s experience, whereas most of the chapters in The End of Men read like slices of life during a pandemic, although there were some exceptions.

This book would have had more potential as a four- or five-star read if Christina Sweeney-Baird had focused on the one or two characters with the strongest narratives, which in my opinion are Catherine and Amanda. Their stories were more emotional and introspective – Catherine’s brought me to tears – and told two very different perspectives, one of an ordinary woman who is profoundly affected by the Plague and the other of a doctor who was there when the Plague began.

My final complaint, a more minor problem that nonetheless took me right out of the story, is with the fictional news articles Sweeney-Baird scatters throughout the novel. If you need any proof that there’s a big difference between writing fiction and writing the news, look no further. Sweeney-Baird wrote an engaging and enjoyable novel here, but she doesn’t know how to write a news article. The ones she included weren’t at all realistic, even to someone like me with no background in journalism. (I also don’t think some of the science and medicine in this book was very accurate but I am even less qualified to talk about that.)

Despite all my criticisms and unfavorable comparisons, I wouldn’t call this a bad book. It was fast-paced, although the ending did drag on a bit, and tough to put down. And there were shining moments even outside Catherine and Amanda’s chapters. There were some especially memorable minor characters: Morven, a Scottish former hostel owner; Rosamie, a Filipino nanny; Helen, a mother of three girls; and Lisa, a virology professor. The parts about governments figuring out ways to cope with the effects of the Plague were really interesting to me. If you’re considering reading this one, I say give it a shot.
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I wasn't sure I wanted to try another book with The Power by Naomi Alderman vibes, but The End of Men was amazing.  Completely different, but with a strong core.  A must read!
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Thank you to Netgalley and Putnam for giving me access to this title prior to publication next April.

A virus begins in Scotland. As it progresses, it becomes clear that only men and boys are affected. Dr. Amanda MacLean cares for patient zero and tries to alert other entities to what is happening. Nobody pays attention to her at first, deems her hysterical, so the virus grows to pandemic proportions. 

Many women are involved in trying to find a cure in the way of a vaccine. Each has their own story – some patriotic, while others manifest selfishness.

This is a debut by an up-and coming author to watch carefully. Other reviewers said it was written before our own pandemic hit and marveled at the sameness of the two.

I’m not so sure. I read the author started the book in 2018 and finished her final edits in 2020, which would give her plenty of time to add in some of the details we’re all actually experiencing now in our own pandemic. 

Riveting seems like an understatement, but the plot is enthralling. So much of what happens in this book either has happened to us currently or easily could have happened to us. 

I highly recommend this title.
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If feminism and the year 2020 somehow got together and had a baby, this would probably be it. A distinctly modern apocalypse in a way the author seemingly didn’t intend, her afterword reveals this book was conceived and birthed prior to the end of 2019, which makes it all the more terrifying. Kind of like watching Utopia (the British not the US version, be good to yourself, do it right) a tv show that ended years ago in 2020. Terrifying. And had author known her predictive powers, would she have written a book about world peace and an arrival of munificent advanced alien culture who save the Earth? Anyway…must be just one of those things…but a strikingly eerie reminder of how life sometimes imitates art and truth can be stranger than fiction.
     Anyway, it was actually Utopia (which ended much too disappointingly soon)  that made me want to read this. I do enjoy a good apocalypse story no matter what tv show I’m watching at the moment, but this one seemed like it was already done, exceptionally well mind you, in Y The Last Man. Turns out, this is a distinctly different male annihilating apocalypse, a beast of its own. It’s essentially 2020 (disguised as 2025 in the book) but much deadlier and with a distinct gender selection. It kills 9 out of 10 men. And quickly. Throwing civilization into chaos as everyone scrambles to pick up the slack, with men dominating so many industries and professions that make the world go around. 
    Not to worry, though, the ladies step up to the plate and do it all, just like they said they were able to all those years when they were getting ignored, overlooked, underhired and underpaid. It’s funny, really, how much this sudden gender disparity does for feminism, certainly more than any bra burning march every did. The women save the world and manage it just fine and there are still enough male survivors to assure the continuation of (wo)menkind. Though everyone seems very upset that the preapocalypse population cannot be sustained…the question is, should it be? I mean (and this isn’t just Utopia talking) the Earth was dramatically overpopulated before, with finite resources and severe climate difficulties. Surely, it isn’t a great tragedy not to return to the previously unsustainable population increases. Breeding, after all, isn’t a contest, it’s a privilege. 
     And there’s much in this novel about breeding, it is an estrogen driven apocalyptic fiction after all, but the novel never really veered into the dangerous slumps of women’s fiction with its cheap emotional sentimentality and lachrymose melodramatics. It has its share of tragedy, but it almost never flat out exploits it. Instead it (smartly) concentrates on the actual logistics of the entire thing and it’s the realism that sells it. 
     Also, the format. Very World War Z in its multiple perspective narrative, progressing through time. Although, unlike WWZ, this one reuses narrators, alternating their storylines. So you can pick and choose your favorites. For one thing, the genius Canadian scientist who saves the world gets the wrong end of the gratitude stick, making her the evil greedy lesbian, strangely demonized, not quite on Khaleesi levels, but still…wtf. The rest fare nicer, getting some heroic deeds done along the way to quiet or not so quiet peer acclaim, including those who decide to chronicle the end of men for posterity. 
     In the end, it is a perfectly decent world actually, not your typical apocalyptically devastated one. A world operated on girl power. And to author’s credit played in a very natural and reasonable (to the scenario) manner, where it easily might have gone the extreme feminism way. There are no overpowering gender condemnations, no men bashing (just mass killing, but that’s different), it’s just one of those crazy what if speculations. And it’s quite riveting, dear readers. The format works, the plot works and the timing is alarmingly impeccable. It’s terrifying, emotionally engaging and darkly entertaining. It’s clever in the realizing all of its apocalypse’s sociopolitical ramifications. It’s well written and exceptionally dynamic, all of its multiple threads are woven together very nicely into a bleak and fascinating tapestry. Difficult to put down and reads quickly enough that you won’t have to do that much. I (very uncharacteristically) skipped lunch to finish this. Love it when a 400 page book speeds by like this. Very good indeed and a most auspicious of debuts. The X chromosomes have it. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
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I would suggest this book to anyone who likes dystopian or sci-fi type novels. This was certainly out of my comfort zone but I really enjoyed it. It was a true pageturner and it hooked me from the very beginning. For me, the test of a good novel is whether or not it keeps me turning the pages. The END OF MEN did just that. I couldn't have asked for a more original novel. 

THE END OF MEN is about what the title suggests: The end of men. A virus breaks out which kills only men. Women are the only life form left. 

Fast-paced!

Read it!
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I may be the wrong person--or, perhaps, the absolutely right person--to review this book, not because of the real pandemic we're all currently living through, but because I like the premise way too much to remain unbiased. While there are some men I love and/or know it would be tragic for humanity to lose, if I had to choose a pandemic and the society that resulted from its outcome, I'd take this one over most.
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I almost stopped reading this book, because a story about a pandemic right now is too depressing. However I did finish it and found it interesting. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
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