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PD James: Children of Men

“Children of Men” by PD James has been made into a movie, but as is usually the case, I prefer the original novel to the screen adaptation. The sci-fi novel is set in the year 2021 in England where everything is under the control of the Warden. “Children of Men” is narrated by the Warden’s cousin, who grows increasingly disturbed by the state of the nation and by his cousin’s actions.

Like many works of science fiction, the main theme of the novel centers around the human race dying out. The “Omegas”, who were born in 1995, are the last recorded births in England and tend to be both feared and revered by the older generations for their fierce beauty. As Theo (the Warden’s cousin) gets involved with a Rebel group, the book gets more engaging and the plot moves much more quickly than at the start of the novel.

I don’t always like Science Fiction, but I do like good, strong writing and JD James’ narrative in “Children of Men” flows very well in tightly-written sentences throughout most of the novel. The prose kind of  reminded me of something that Kazuo Ishiguro may have written were he more inclined to write about dystopic futures.

I won’t give away the ending for you, but I will say that as the action in “Children of Men” increased in the last few chapters of the book, PD James lost her way with some of the dialog- she was writing a science fiction novel in the first person, but one conversation between Theo and the Warden in particular sounded more as if it was taking place in pre-Victorian England.  Also, the action in the last couple of chapters takes place at a much more rapid speed than in most of the novel  and she is understandably much more focused on the plot than on maintaining her writing style.

On a different note, I find it interesting that many novels set in the future (Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaiden’s Tale” for one) focus on the end of the human race at a time when one of our primary concerns is the over-population of the planet and what havoc that may wreak later on.  While overpopulation may eventually cause zero population growth, that seems like it would be in the very distant future.