Friday, 25 September 2020

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

A patient arrives in  hospital with flu-like symptoms and within hours he's dead. His illness is like nothing anyone has seen before, and before anyone has chance to act the infection is sweeping through the hospital and beyond. The most bizarre thing is that only men seem to be affected. What do you do when the world's faced with losing almost half its population, and its accumulated skills and knowledge?

This isn't published till next spring, and I'm not sure whether its relevance to this past year will work for or against it. How many want to read more about pandemics? Will we have had quite enough of them by then?I'm not sure. I've happily watched Contagion (and criticised it) during lockdown, and raced through this. Maybe it's akin to watching disaster movies or real-life medical dramas? Whatever, it's a compelling read - particularity the first half/three quarters, it slows after that - and I rather enjoyed it even when picking fault with the characters' actions.

Unfortunately we're all now experts on pandemics, so a variety of things may grate - no lockdown, no mention of R number, no segregation of men and women. And as a voracious reader and watcher of apocalyptic pandemic fiction I like to spot details that I think might not hold true, and plan how I would do things differently and, of course, better (down the Winchester for a pint), so I did somewhat pick holes in the plot as I went along. As I said, though, I still enjoyed it. It's gripping, quickly paced, and highly topical!

It would make a brilliant read for a book club, or just to discuss among like-minded, slightly survivalist friends. I'd love to hear a man's opinion of it - though he'd probably insist he'd fall into the tiny immune group.


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