Cover Image: The End of Men

The End of Men

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What if COVID only infected men? What if it had a 90% mortality rate? What would the world look life if men were a minority the world over? 
How would our world change if we lost our fathers, our husbands, our sons... how would the world change if all of the fields and positions held by men now were decimated, without enough functioning bodies to train the desperately needed women to fill the void? 

How can the world over come to terms with loss at such a grand scale? And how do you continue to function, if you've lost everything that made life worth living? Can you even stay connected to those that were lucky, and survived unscathed? 

Love, loss, life, family, purpose... identity.... in some ways this was really hard to read, given COVID and the devastating impact it has had in the last year, but in some ways it wasn't because you feel seen, feel heard, and feel like you can relate - which is so rare with how much our lives and family have changed. 

Powerful, emotional, gripping, and heart wrenching. Worth the read.
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As a woman who is madly in love with her husband and is a mother to two beautiful young sons, I was not sure I could make it through this novel. I knew the premise going into it, of course, but the author writes the characters with such humanity and heartbreaking emotion that I could too clearly imagine myself in their shoes. 
It also can't be ignored that this novel comes at a time when we are facing a pandemic situation in real life. This added to the sense of urgency and desperation that are so prevalent in this story. However, amidst the devastation and tragedy, this story is also about hope and love. 
As for the writing, it is very good - the characters feel like real people, the events seem plausible, and the suspense is consistent. There are multiple viewpoints, but they are distinct and arranged chronologically, which keeps them coherent. I really enjoyed the story and would recommend it to anyone who can handle its realism during this challenging time. 
Thanks to Penguin Random House Canada / Doubleday Canada and NetGalley for the advance copy to review. All opinions are my own.
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This book was well written but for some reason I just wasn't hooked on the characters.  They seemed a little hollow.

The story is well written and the topic it covers may just be slightly too fresh for me.  I think it had great promise but didn't meet what I expected
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This was an engrossing and all-too prescient depiction of a global pandemic (completed, according to the author, well before our actual pandemic) in which the world is overtaken by a virus that attacks only men. A very limited number are found to be immune, but enough are killed over the course of the "Plague" as it's called, that society is changed substantially. The course of the virus, from "patient zero" to the recovery period, is related through the voices of a number of women and two men. At first I thought there were too many voices, but there are about four really important ones and gradually many of them interconnect. This device allows the author to demonstrate first-hand how many women in many different walks of life are affected, and the ultimate result is a rich and quite satisfying in-depth exploration of how the world might be changed if such a catastrophe should occur. Of course, it is made all the more interesting by its topicality. I don't know enough about genetics or viruses to be able to comment on how possible it all is, but it was explained convincingly enough for me.
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****SPOILERS AHEAD****

HERE BE SPOILERS – LAST CHANCE

I was given an ARC by the publisher to review and I will admit, I wasn’t sure that I COULD handle reading a book on a plague during well….. a plague.  Incidentally, the author advises that she was working on this book long before our plague so it must have been surreal. 

Our book opens on a typical shift in a hospital with a patient that suddenly crashes with no warning and the attending physician (apparently very new at her job) is left bereft.  It is only when going over the notes with her mentoring physician does the mentor notice that this particular patient had been seen in Emergency just a few days prior and the Dr. starts to notice a pattern.  This is a highly infectious virus – and it only kills men.  

Cue the higher ups ignoring her increasingly frantic emails with one [male] doctor calling her hysterical and basically saying she is wasting peoples’ time – until they figure out that she isn’t.  Unfortunately (for the male population), by the time people get their heads on straight, the virus has run absolutely rampant and men are dying by the millions.  A journalist starts exposing government ineptitudes (and they are many) and things trundle along.  As this is a review, I don’t want to tell the story but I do want you to READ THE BOOK. 

There are so many things to love about this book and I am going to list them for you in no particular order: 

•	The realism with which the disaster unfolds.  There is no single big BOOM moment.  Instead, it is a series of human follies, a lot of denial on the scope and scale of the illness and the type of illness – particularly that it was killing only men and boys.  In fact, one of the very best elements of this novel is how arrogant and utterly entitled some of the men remain as though the world isn’t crumbling around them and only some of them are going to make it.  I also adore the perfect depiction of government ineptitude in the face of an epic scale of disaster.  The way she depicts the “fly be the seat of your pants” governing and decision making being done at the very beginning comes off far more realistically than if it would have been a coherent perfect response. 

•	The studied obliviousness of the men involved until or even while the truth is staring them in the face.  It is in the patronizing comments of the CDC man as Elizabeth goes to England, in the MP who has been an MP for far too long and retains all of his bluster and entitled ridiculous ego even though the bulk of men have now died around him, in the Dr. who tried to deny his original role in denying the plague to begin with, the ridiculous (but accurately depicted) men’s rights advocates who think that women will suddenly be falling all over themselves to be with them.  The way this is written is a glorious study in the fragility of the construct of the male ego.  Absolutely glorious.  It is as though these characters simply cannot reconcile themselves to a world where they are not the center. 

•	The deft use of language to convey chaos; to convey a maelstrom of emotion and fear and anger.  The author’s use of language is truly extraordinary and she wields her vocabulary in a way that takes the reader into a world that could be a mirror of ours.  She also manages to convey a very human condition that I think is missing in a lot of these novels – kind, resolute resilience.  Not the need to cannibalize and be cruel and weapon up resilience but the resilience that comes from looking around, seeing that there is a job to be done and just mucking in and doing it.  A lot of time, authors perhaps miss that very human thing and choose to go with a flash bang type of resilience instead but that really does a disservice when all around, people are mucking in and doing what needs to be done without the flash and the bang.  It is worth noting that the quiet ones are always the ones to be afraid of. 

•	The reality of what it means when a plague of whatever sort targets an entire sex.  It is a commonly mouthed platitude that women do everything better because we are just nicer or kinder or less aggressive or [insert ugly trait here] but the reality is – women can be just as awful as men and I love that this book shows what it really would look like if a plague struck and our men started dying.  Men are our partners, our brothers, our fathers, our sons, our cousins, our friends, and so many other things; in a more practical sense, men make up disproportionate levels in some areas of economies and losing them that fast would absolutely be catastrophic on an economic level.  

Ms. Sweeney-Baird shoves that reality front and centre and shows what it really means when men die.  Her depictions of a mother frantically trying everything to keep her sons alive – and failing; of a woman who sends her only child into isolation, potentially giving him serious PTSD; of a sociological anthropologist who loses both husband and son and of random women everywhere who lose so much yet are expected to carry on and carry the burden is a delicately layered concoction of grief, exhaustion, envy, fear, fury, hope, and also avarice all rolled into one.  She certainly doesn’t shy away from it and there are points where it is almost physically painful to read the pain of some of these people.  Certainly the fury at people who let the plague get out of hand so quickly feels real. 

There is so much more to love about this book I could go on for days and I haven’t even gotten to some of the best parts. 

Now, on to the flaws: 

The book was too Euro and North American centric.  I understand that the Author may have been working with points of view on what might be available if the world went poof in real time but frankly, it was far too Euro and North American centric.  There are other places in the world with just as many capable people doing capable things and it would have been great to see what the women in those places were adapting like.  Aside from a few fleeting mentions, those places were basically afterthoughts and it was really disappointing.  

China – I don’t want to get too spoilerific here but the treatment of China in the book isn’t surprising and is a bit cold war-ish.  This is disappointingly bland from an author who thus far has shown great promise.  
There were other small flaws here and there but not important in the way that these two particular things really stuck out for me. 

There are no unicorns and rainbows in this book with The End of Men and life changing as we know it but there is a grace and resilience in how it is handled.  This is the book that should be declared the must read of 2021.

**Note to the Publisher - this review will appear on Goodreads and on my facebook
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I finished this book a few days ago and can't stop thinking of it (especially in the era of COVID). I enjoyed the speculative nature and how it captured the fallout, and I found myself  continuing to extrapolate on what might happen if this were to happen in real life. This frequently switches POVs and has a huge scope (beginning of a pandemic right through to the recovery and adaptations 6 years later), but I found myself able to keep track of each arc and felt emotionally invested. Having so many characters captured the global effects of the disease and showed a *plethora* (hopefully those who've read it will understand this specific word choice) of impacts and societal changes in a way that a small cast wouldn't have been able to do.

I questioned a couple of minor things -- I found it hard to believe that it would take so long for scientists to realize that a disease affecting men would have some connection to the Y-chromosome, or that a 96% effective vaccine wouldn't be approved or used when 90% of the male population is dying. These were minor gripes about the scientific content though, and I otherwise enjoyed the novel a lot.
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I really enjoyed The End of Men. I've always enjoyed a mysterious outbreak story, and this one felt realistic, interesting, and, ultimately, hopeful. I liked the range of characters and experiences and the way they were framed. There was lots of food for thought, and some of those characters and scenarios will stay with me, especially because we are just coming through a pandemic and this is a reminder that things could have been much worse. 
I know there will be readers who have no interest in reading about this subject matter right now, but for those who are open to the idea, I will definitely recommend this book.
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Thank you Netgalley and Doubleday Canada for allowing me the opportunity to read this book ahead of its publication date. It's incredibly difficult to believe that this is Christina Sweeney-Baird's debut novel, "The End of Men" keeps you engaged and invested right until the last sentence. I keep flip-flopping on my rating for this book do I give it 3.75 or 4 stars the ONLY thing about "The End of Men" that I didn't like was the number of characters that we follow throughout the story I just feel that I would have preferred to spend more time focusing on a few of the more central characters. If you feel that you can handle reading a book about a worldwide pandemic and its effects right now I would say pick it up when it comes out on April 27th it's one hell of a ride.
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I’ve noticed a couple titles in the last year or so whose storylines centre the absence/nonexistence of men (e.g., Afterland, The Mercies). Naturally, I was very intrigued at such a premise.

The End of Men is my first foray into this trope. This novel chronicles the fictional events of 2025–2031 as a virulent pandemic sweeps across the world and decimates the male population. We follow over a dozen interweaving POVs, each illustrating how the world reels and comes to terms in all its realms—in love, economics, politics, medicine; we watch as this world rebuilds.

I thought it would be draining to read a book about a pandemic, but the opposite actually occurred—I got a glimpse into an even more terrifying, dystopic reality. I was able to say, “Things are bad right now, but at least they’re not this bad.” This being the Male Plague, with its 90% mortality rate, its ability to stay alive on surfaces for 36+ hours, its rapid spread (1.8x that of HIV).


Many thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House Canada for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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The best word I have for this book is scattered. It’s a quality that both enhances and detracts from the novel.

The End of Men switches dizzyingly between more than a dozen characters’ POVs. For most of the book, each character’s voice felt vaguely the same; it became difficult to keep track of who was who, where, doing what. I took to actually writing down characters’ names and defining features to differentiate between them.

Unexpectedly though, as the book progressed and the individual storylines interwove—with a recurrent focus on Amanda’s and Catherine’s plots—I found myself appreciating the diversity of perspectives. I liked how they eventually dovetailed and allowed the reader to track disparate experiences of the Male Plague.

Catherine is a social anthropologist who grapples with infertility both before and after the onset of the pandemic; as she mourns her loving husband and tiny son, she sets out to record stories of the Plague. Amanda is an A&E doctor in Glasgow (in the Independent Republic of Scotland) who discovers the Plague’s existence—and is gaslit for trying to alert the world to its devastation. Lisa is a professor of virology at the University of Toronto and eventual creator of the long-awaited, life-changing vaccine—only, she has decided to monetize its release. Elizabeth is a junior CDC virologist who travels to London to help with vaccine development; to her surprise, she finds love in a world that seems barren of it. Dawn works at the British Intelligence Services, one of the few Black women employed; she moves her way up the ranks, and through her POV we see the economic and political impacts of the Plague. There’s also Rosamie, a Filipina nanny for a wealthy Singaporean nanny; Toby, a 60yo English man who becomes stranded on a cruise ship off Iceland; Morven, a Scottish woman who runs a hostel that is forced to take in dozens of orphaned boys; and many more.

Sound confusing? Not gonna lie, it was.

At the same time, I found it fascinating to see the distinct ways in which the Plague, the loss of 90% of all men, reshaped the world. This was made possible by the panoply of POVs.

There is a scramble to rebuild the workforce, especially in professions formerly dominated by men; women find themselves at the helm of garbage collecting, electrical repair, army service, policy-making, global leadership. Elections are dominated by women; Canada has its first (full-term) female prime minister.

There is immense political upheaval. For example, the into twelve democratic states because the male-dominated army and Communist Party have been ravaged, allowing rebel parties to take charge of governance.

There are difficult decisions to be made about childbearing—for example, how to best protect male infants from viral exposure? New Zealand decides that, for the safety of he newborn boys, they will non-consensually remove babies from their mothers.

The Plague also necessarily has ramifications for romance and sexuality, including the smash-hit success of a dating app exclusively for women meeting women; many women deciding not to date; the devastation to queer communities, gay and trans folk especially.

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The last thing I’ll mention about this book is that I didn’t really jibe with the writing style. The prose in this book isn’t particularly artful or eloquent, rather favouring sentences that are curt and clipped and overly to-the-point.

As its name implies, there isn’t much subtlety in The End of Men—not the prose, not the premise. At times I was left with the distinct impression that the brevity of the sentences did not fit the scale of tragedy they described.

Other times I had to suppress a laugh at the absurdity. Take the description of a fictional and devastating riot at the San Francisco airport, for example. The passage uses “shoot” (or some related word like “shooter”) thirteen times. The effect is ABSURD. There is none of the horror, the calamity, that should accompany sniper activity at the airport. Instead, I wanted to laugh. I shoot the shooter. You shoot the shooter. The shooter shoots.

The book also features several news articles penned by a character by the name of Maria Ferreira. She’s described as the Washington Post’s former science editor, a woman who was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize—and yet her writing made me cringe; it’s devoid of lyricism, eloquence, impact.

The writing in these news articles was so simple, so heavy-handed, as to feel immature. (It doesn’t help that I’ve just finished a phenom book by Lulu Miller, a science writer for NPR, whose quick turns of phrase and clever, vivid prose puts The End of Men to shame. Not really a great comparison.)

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BOTTOM LINE: I wasn’t particularly impressed with the prose (or science) in The End of Men, but if you can acclimate to the dizzying swirl of character POVs, you’ll be rewarded with an interesting exploration into a post-pandemic world without men.
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With all my love for dystopian novels and everything that is happening in the world right now, I find it surprising that I haven’t come around to read a book about a pandemic. When I read about this debut coming out this year, I’ve decided that it’s time to jump onto this train. 

The name “The End of Men” intrigued me and the synopsis sounded like something I might enjoy - the Plague that killed 90% of the male world population and left women to deal with it. In the course of the novel, readers get introduced to a lot of different characters; some of them were truly memorable for me (Amanda and Dawn were my favourites), while the others were kind of indistinguishable. Somewhere in the middle, I found it was very hard to keep track of all the stories, although each chapter starts with a name and a date. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters and in the end I was pretty disappointed with the whole experience.
There were moments when particular figures made me cringe. A Russian woman who is being repeatedly abused by her husband, Filipino nanny (really?), an anthropologist who hates everyone whose husbands/sons are immune, and then Moldova is apparently a country drowning in sex traffic... The last chapters I read in a rush just to be done with it. 

Overall, I’m very disappointed because I had great expectations for this book especially it being so highly rated. I really wanted to like it, but I couldn’t close my eyes on all the stereotypes and cultural ignorance.
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