The Children of Men by PD James

The Children of Men by PD JamesTakeaway: Only similar to the movie in the very broadest outlines.

It has been a while, but I really liked the 2006 movie version of The Children of Men with Clive Owen. I picked up the audiobook of Children of Men recently because I had read two of PD James’ mysteries and wanted to see her approach to a dystopian scifi thriller might be different. Other than the broadest outlines, the book and the movie are very different. I am not really going to compare them (because it has been too long since I have watched the movie), but I will note a few things.

The main character, Theo Faron in the book is a 50 something academic. He is the cousin of the dictator and a former informal advisor. The book is set in a dystopian UK. For an unknown reason, there have not been any children born for nearly 20 years anywhere in the world. The UK, because of its governmental system and relative wealth is broadly comfortable, but the population is aging and there is a broad hopelessness. Foreigners are uses as servants that are little better than slaves. The shrinking population (both because of natural aging and large numbers of suicides) is being moved toward population centers.

Theo is lonely, self centered, but comfortable. He is haunted by his life outside of the dystopian world. He accidentally killed his 18 month old child in a car accident. His already shaky marriage continued on until just a year before the book is set, but was essentially over from the point of the accident. As an academic (19th Century literature and history) Theo is not particularly necessary in the world. He teaches adults. But his field is not essential.

Much of the power of the book is the dull hopelessness and the unrelenting introspection of Theo. The characters are believable. Flawed, but reasonably flawed. Throughout the book the ethical pressure, the moral reasoning, and the theological conversation brings weight to what could be a light dystopian thriller.

I was not particularly thrilled with the ending. But it was reasonably satisfying. The point of the book is not the end, but the process. What would you be prepared to do if you had the weight of the world. If the world was ending, how important is stability to that ending, even if there are brutal aspects of the stability. How important is comfort? Where can God be found in a dystopian tragedy?

I will try to watch the movie again soon. It is streaming on Amazon Prime for free.

The Children of Men by PD James Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook 

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