The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

‘The Plague virus required the absence of a specific gene sequence.’

Yes, this is another pandemic novel. But this is one with a difference, and it certainly held my attention.

This novel, set in the near future, leads us into a world where a new virus has emerged – a virus which seems to only affect males.  The story opens in Scotland in 2025, when a new and mysterious illness emerges with a high mortality rate. Dr Amanda MacLean reports the illness but is dismissed as being hysterical. By the time her warning is heeded, the virus has become a pandemic. While not all men die, all the victims are men.

The virus results in a new world, one in which women will dominate. But what form will the world take and how will the survivors adapt?

The story unfolds through several different viewpoints and eight different stages. Ms Sweeney-Baird takes us from before the pandemic, through the panic and despair into survival and recovery as a vaccine is developed. But be warned: recovery cannot be (at least not yet, if ever) to the pre-pandemic world. The path into the future requires new strengths and abilities in order to adapt, and also requires the past to be remembered.

I really enjoyed the way in which Ms Sweeney-Baird developed the world of her novel. No, I did not particularly like a world in which males became a small minority, but the impact of this virus and the changes required to the world consequently made me think. How would such a world work?

I finished the novel and returned to the real world. One in which a pandemic is real and now in its second year.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith