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The year is 2025, and a mysterious virus has broken out in Scotland--a lethal illness that seems to affect only men. When Dr. Amanda MacLean reports this phenomenon, she is dismissed as hysterical. By the time her warning is heeded, it is too late. The virus becomes a global pandemic--and a political one. The victims are all men. The world becomes alien--a women's world.
What follows is the immersive account of the women who have been left to deal with the virus's consequences, told through first-person narratives. Dr. MacLean; Catherine, a social historian determined to document the human stories behind the male plague; intelligence analyst Dawn, tasked with helping the government forge a new society; and Elizabeth, one of many scientists desperately working to develop a vaccine. Through these women and others, we see the uncountable ways the absence of men has changed society, from the personal--the loss of husbands and sons--to the political--the changes in the workforce, fertility and the meaning of family.
I don’t think this is going to be a book for everyone given the current circumstances such as, you know, the global pandemic. I went into it thinking I would love an apocalyptic story about a plague that wipes out most of the men, leaving women in charge, and even I felt a little funny about the whole thing. Please go into this knowing it may well upset you or at the very least make you feel very uncomfortable.
Anyway, as for the actual book. I enjoyed it a lot. I liked the world building the most, as that’s what most of this book is. It doesn’t really get into the nitty gritty of the characters like I was hoping, nor is it a fast paced action thriller that follows people trying to outrun a plague. It’s actually showing how society would change and rebuild if the majority of men were to die. It’s a bit grim, but also fascinating.
I feel like the amount of POVs was a little overwhelming, particularly because they all sounded very similar. I struggled to remember who I was reading about at the time (most were written in first person POV), and I couldn’t remember which event had happened to who at some points. I read the acknowledgements and the author said that the original draft had many more POVs too, so I assume this is a carry over from that and this number was still a little too high for me.
I appreciated that the author didn’t just cover the events in the UK, however I felt the coverage of the rest of the world to be a little lacking. Other countries such as the Philipines and China was briefly mentioned, but who knows what’s going on in the whole of Africa and South America. I would have loved it if the author had developed this a bit more – even just some passing comments would have been good – but instead we got just a couple of POV chapters from characters who lived elsewhere, and there wasn’t enough to make me emotionally involved in them. It felt more like they were plonked in there at an attempt to expand the world building a little more, but not enough that they had any sort of significance.
Overall I very much enjoyed this book, no matter how uncomfortable it made me. It’s not my favourite, and I think it could have been improved upon, but it was a solid debut and if you’re looking to read a pandemic or apocalyptic story for whatever reason, plus a bit of social commentary, then you should give this a go.