“You know what evils have been perpetrated through the ages to ensure the survival of nations, sects, religions, even of individual families. Whatever man has done for good or ill has been done in the knowledge that he has been formed by history, that his life-span is brief, uncertain, insubstantial, but that there will be a future, for the nation, for the race, for the tribe. That hope has finally gone except in the mind of fools and fanatics. Man is diminished if he lives without knowledge of his past; without hope of a future he becomes a beast.”
Children of Men begins with the murder of the world’s youngest person, a 25-year-old man.
Humans have become infertile, and they are struggling with a pointless existence. The end of mankind isn’t just certain; it is within sight. This knowledge has brought civilization to a breaking point.
Xan Lyppiatt acts as Warden of England, a nicer title than ruthless dictator. Xan and his council send anyone convicted of any crime to exile on the Isle of Man, an unsupervised penal colony. They orchestrate mass suicides of the elderly, undervalued by a society worshiping youth. They import younger foreigners to exploit for labor and then force them back to their countries at age 60. They mandate gynecological exams and sperm testing.
Theo Faren is a middle-aged history professor with no students. He is approached by Julian, a young woman and former student, to speak with his cousin Xan about the atrocities committed under the guise of providing security to the citizens of England. The meeting does not go well as Xan and his council suspect that Theo’s questions are prompted by a subversive group.
Theo is soon on the run with Julian and the rest of her group. He learns the truth the group is hiding and protecting: Julian is pregnant.
There is suddenly a hope for a future, and that hope is being pursued by Xan and his army.
I liked this book, but then I like books and movies that deal with similar themes. I saw this movie adaptation first. It begins with the same premise, but it takes a very different path to a very different ending.
The movie ends with Theo dying to get the woman and her newborn out of England. They are in a small rowboat. There is hope as another boat approaches.
The book ends with Theo killing Xan and taking his ring to assume power. Theo enjoyed the feeling of power, though he said it would only be for a while. He now has Julian and her baby boy. No one in the world is as powerful as he is in that moment.
Movie Theo never really had the opportunity to be corrupted. Book Theo is susceptible as shown by the worry of Julian at seeing that ring on his finger.
The movie ends with hope. The book ends with a hope tinged with doubt.