Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird.
Dr Amanda Maclean is called to treat a patient with flu-like symptoms. Within three hours he is dead.
This is how it begins.
The unknown virus sweeps through the hospital with deadly speed.
The victims are all men.
Dr Maclean raises the alarm. But by the time the authorities listen to her, the virus has spread to every corner of the world. Threatening families. Governments. Countries.
Can they find a cure before it’s too late?
Will this be the story of the end of the world – or its salvation?
Compelling, confronting and devastating, The End of Men his the novel that everyone is talking about.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that The End of Men was inspired by the virus that has recently swept across the world in frightening speed. But it was actually written before, in 2018/19 to be precise. The first draft was finished before the word COVID-19 was even whispered in the press. However, there is something eerily reminiscent about this story – so much so that when I first began to read, I did question if I wanted to carry on. These days stories such as these are a little too real, a little too possible.
Of course The End of Men is fiction, just rather more topical than the author could ever imagine. As she herself states:
I’m relieved that coronavirus doesn’t have a death rate anywhere near as high as the virus I have imagined in my novel. The imaginary world I have written belongs safely in fiction, within the pages of a novel. Nonetheless, we are experiencing in real life the greatest pandemic of our lifetimes, which is more than I ever could have imagined in my wildest nightmares.Christina Sweeney-Baird
My hesitance didn’t last long. This is an incredibly engaging thriller told through multiple narratives which I feel works brilliantly for this story and allows us to experience the full horror of what’s happening as experienced from different characters all over the globe. It never felt confusing, which is often the danger in this technique, as Christina’s plot weaves seamlessly together. We watch the pandemic unfold right from Patient Zero and then the swift spread of the virus from Scotland to the far corners of the world. Suddenly what was considered as a possible strain of flu or sepsis becomes something far deadlier to the very survival of the human race. The delays faced by a lack of believe initially, results in a world wide horror on an unimaginable scale.
We watch doctors trying to treat the virus, scientists trying to find an antidote, families trying to stay safe from it and men trying to escape it. Some are immune but 90% aren’t and there really is nowhere to hide. Dr Amanda Mclean is furious that her warnings were not heeded soon enough and decides to try and track down where the virus came from. She needs to go back to Patient Zero, to find out his story and where he caught what is now being referred to as ‘the Plague’.
As well as a thrilling race against time, this story looks at love and loss, humanity, empathy and selfishness. How would the people of the world react? Sadly power and money still wins over in the world, be it run by men or women, but it was still an interesting turn of events and reminds us that currently equality between the sexes is still a long way away. I think at times the world can still feel so behind when it comes to equality but there is most definitely strength is women. There always have been.
This story plays with your emotions and at times it was hard to read of the loss being experienced but I simply had to see how it ended. Would women along with a handful of men be able to save humanity? Well you’ll have to read it to find out.
Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to the publisher for sending me a review copy.
About the author
Christina was born in 1993 and grew up between London and Glasgow. She studied Law at the University of Cambridge and graduated with
a First in 2015. Christina works as a Corporate Litigation lawyer in London.
The End of Men is her first novel.
Publisher talk – Borough Press
The inspiration behind the end of men:
Christina read The Power by Naomi Alderman in February 2018 and found its portrayal of women’s increased physical power fascinating. She started
thinking about how the world would look without men. What would parliament look like? What would a hospital look like? How would the US be different from the UK? What about the rest of the world?
A few months later, in June 2018, Christina nearly died from sepsis. She had an ear infection which quickly developed into something much more sinister, and she was rushed to hospital just over 24 hours later. Sepsis is extremely hard to diagnose and can be fatal. It took over a month to recover.
These two moments are the starting point for The End of Men. Christina’s near-death experience became the genesis for the plague featured in her novel. The
symptoms of her killer virus are identical to sepsis. And having imagined the political, social and cultural landscape of a world without men, Christina’s imagined virus would extinguish 90% of the male population. She used her home city of Glasgow as the epicentre of the virus, with ‘patient zero’ coming from the Isle of Bute.
Christina was also inspired by Max Brooks’ World War Z, in particular the anthropological elements and oral history style, which provide the reader with a strong sense of how the zombie pandemic spread around the world. In The End of Men, Christina writes from multiple viewpoints: from the Glaswegian doctor who
treats patient zero, to the mother of a son desperately trying to keep him safe, to the Canadian scientist fighting to discover a vaccine. Through these narratives,
she explores the consequences on everything from dating in a world where women outnumber men nine to one, to the way the world would evolve to prioritise women, highlighting the inequalities of living in a society designed for and by men.
Author talk – Christina Sweeney-Baird
“It’s an understatement to say it feels surreal that I wrote a book about a pandemic disproportionately affecting men just before a pandemic disproportionately affecting men swept the world. More than one person has half-jokingly called me Cassandra. When I started writing The End of Men in September 2018 it felt like the ultimate thought experiment. How far could I take my imagination? How would a global pandemic with an enormous death rate change the world? What would the world look like without men, or the majority of them? I wrote the first draft of the book in
nine months, finishing with a burst of intense writing in June 2019.
I’m relieved that coronavirus doesn’t have a death rate anywhere near as high as the virus I have imagined in my novel. The imaginary world I have written belongs safely in fiction, within the pages of a novel. Nonetheless, we are experiencing in real life the greatest pandemic of our lifetimes, which is more than I ever could have imagined in my wildest nightmares. I hope that by the time you’re reading this, there is a vaccine. I hope our healthcare systems survive and economies recover. I hope your loved ones are safe and that the world has returned to that wonderful, boring, nostalgic state I now crave: normality.”