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The Children of Men

A post-apocalypic novel by P.D. James

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Excellent concept, strange execution

  • Jun 14, 2010

I first started hearing buzz about Children of Men two years before the movie was released.  I heard that it was based on a book by the same name and it looked like something that was right up my alley, so I went searching for the original novel.

The concept is sound and the background is well explained.  The characters are well-developed and we're given as much information as we need to feel invested in the story and yet it just didn't sit right with me.

Everything was in order.  Everything was appealing.  There were no gaping holes in the plot or any lacking in the story itself, but I just couldn't really enjoy myself.  It took me ages to figure out why.

P.D. James is a mystery writer and she's gained some measure of fame within that genre, but Children of Men isn't a mystery, it's science fiction.  Someone should have mentioned that to James.  It's written like a mystery, but there's no major reveal to happen at the end.  As a result, the book is filled with false and unnecessary suspense and the ending is lacking because there's no real culmination of events.

So I thought to myself, well, maybe it was just the problem of a mystery writer trying to tell a science fiction story, but the movie was as much of a let down as the book was.  Instead of fixing the storytelling problems, they abandoned the book entirely and worked from a rough concept.  The movie execution became even stranger than the book's.  Instead of a well crafted story, we received a well-crafted premise and a forced storyline that felt as if it was more about trying to make a point than trying to tell a story.  It felt very contrived and cliche.  Even the changes (some of which were significant) were predictable and what little was left was the same stuff that I had a problem with in the first place.

Children of Men is the first book that I have read where I felt that both the book and the movie were equally worthless.  I wanted to like either or both.  I TRIED to like both, but it was simply not to be.  And the only people I've talked to who enjoyed the movie not only didn't read the book, they didn't even know there was one.

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More The Children of Men (book) reviews
review by . June 27, 2010
I don't know what I think about this book. It's undeniably well-done, but aside from that I'm unsure. Her prose, at times, gets descriptively out of hand by just a hair, but it was all right overall.      The character of Theo is well-done, but there's little explanation for why he's become the way he is: he waxes all morose about himself for being unable to feel the emotion of love, but it's never really explained how or why he became that way. Albert …
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
A suspenseful thriller. Now a major motion picture.
review by . July 14, 2008
There is a certain theory of fiction about these days. It maintains that readers want conflict and action and anytime that's not spent setting up, describing, or analyzing the effects of action is wasted. By that theory, this is an awful book: broody and moody with a narrator who's interesting but not likable.  On the other hand, there are pages in this book that you will reread just for the pleasure of the words. There is also one of the most quietly horrible chapters (chapter 9) about …
review by . January 26, 2007
For those uninformed readers who buy this book expecting Ms. James' normal detective mystery, they will be disappointed. However, those who know the premise of the book, and enjoy excellent writing and a taut plotline will find this book greatly to their taste. We are given a future time when the population of the world is infertile, and England is run by a Warden, assisted by a Council of advisors. Life doesn't appear to be too awful, even if there is no future for mankind. The tale ropes us in …
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   ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~   As destructive as life,   As healing as death;   An institutioner of strife,   Just as prone to bless.   It is … more
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About this book


In her 12th book, the British author of the two series featuring Adam Dalgleish and Cordelia Gray ( Devices and Desires and An Unsuitable Job for a Woman , respectively) poses a premise that chills and darkens its setting in the year 2021. Near the end of the 20th century, for reasons beyond the grasp of modern science, human sperm count went to zero. The last birth occurred in 1995, and in the space of a generation humanity has lost its future. In England, under the rule of an increasingly despotic Warden, the infirm are encouraged to commit group suicide, criminals are exiled and abandoned and immigrants are subjected to semi-legalized slavery. Divorced, middle-aged Oxford history professor Theo Faron, an emotionally constrained man of means and intelligence who is the Warden's cousin, plods through an ordered, bleak existence. But a chance involvement with a group of dissidents moves him onto unexpected paths, leading him, in the novel's compelling second half, toward risk, commitment and the joys and anguish of love. In this convincingly detailed world--where kittens are (illegally) christened, sex has lost its allure and the arts have been abandoned--James concretely explores an unthinkable prospect. Readers should persevere through the slow start, for the rewards of this story, including its reminder of the transforming power of hope, are many and lasting. 125,000 first printing; BOMC main selection.
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ISBN-10: 0307275434
ISBN-13: 978-0307275431
Author: P.D. James
Publisher: Vintage

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