I remember very little about the movie except a vague impression of not liking it, so I wasn’t real excited when this came up on my library book club list. I was justified in my crankiness; this book was uuuuunpleasant.
The story could have been interesting, and the thought-experiment side of things was: how the world’s population would react if there were no more children, how the end of the world can come in with a whimper instead of an apocalyptic bang, how society would handle it as all the remaining humans got older and more doomed. However, if you hang your end-of-the-world story on thoroughly unlikeable characters telling detailed, unrelated stories about people who have already died and don’t affect anything else in the book, it gets really hard to care what happens.
For reasons no doctors or scientists have been able to suss out, a few decades ago, pregnancies stopped happening. Totally, completely, worldwide – no more babies. The last-born generation becomes known as the Omegas, and as they reach puberty and adulthood and it becomes clear that they are also unable to conceive, the world gives up. England is ruled by a Warden, and things stay kind of civilized, with a side of post-apocalyptic tyranny thrown in for drama. A group of five forms a resistance and approaches Theo, the cousin of the Warden, to bring him their concerns.
Theo. Sigh. He’s an ass. I am astonished that he was written by a woman, and also surprised that this was written in 1992. Theo feels straight out of the 1950s White Guy sci-fi canon. If P.D. James was doing a send-up of the stereotype or something, it missed the mark for me and I took it too literally (I’ve never read her before, so I didn’t know what to expect). Theo is rude, smug, condescending, dismissive, and way too pleased with his education. There’s an aggravating love story with one of the resistors, because there has to be, because otherwise Theo is too self-involved to help them and there’d be no story. But he’s at least 20 years older than her and knows absolutely nothing about her except that she needs to be protected (insert barfing emoji here). Plus, some of the chapters are written as pages from Theo’s diary, and then it switches to third person for other chapters, and it was very confusing at first – I thought there were two main characters. Theo is thoroughly unlikeable even before you find out about the horrible accident in his past, and I have no idea why James chose to make him the main character.
Anyway. There’s not a ton of plot (resist, run away, stumble from bad thing to bad thing), and even less explanation. The ending is hopeful and depressing all at once, but I found I didn’t really care about any of these people, so it didn’t even really matter. Theo’s going to land on his feet, and write more in his diary about how important he is. Ms. Love Interest is going to go along with whatever he decides, because that’s what she’s there for. BAH.