Cover Image: The End of Men

The End of Men

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

“In the process of compiling the stories, I have asked myself about the recording of history. For the first time in the history of the world, women are fully in control of the way our stories are told.” - Catherine Lawrence, Anthropologist, September 2032.

My thanks to HarperCollins Fiction/The Borough Press for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘The End of Men’ by Christina Sweeney-Baird in exchange for an honest review.

Glasgow, 2025 and Dr Amanda Maclean is working in A&E and is called to treat a young man with flu-like symptoms. Within three hours he is dead. The mysterious illness sweeps through the hospital with deadly speed. This is only the beginning. All the victims are men.

It isn’t long until the disease has spread to all corners of the globe and with a high mortality rate the race is on to find a cure and/or an effective vaccine. Can the human race survive with so few men left alive?

This was an interesting book to read and listen to during a global pandemic. In places quite a harrowing read though the high mortality rate is thankfully not reflected in our real life pandemic. Yet it is a cautionary tale.

This is Christina Sweeney-Baird’s debut novel. In her Author’s Note she advises that she wrote it from September 2018 and completed in June, 2019, some months before news of the real life pandemic occurred. She writes of the surreal situation that she found herself in during its editing: “testing my imaginary world against the real one. I gauge the distance between what I have written and what is happening. As a writer of speculative fiction, this is not something I ever expected.”

‘The End of Men’ is presented as “Stories of the Great Male Plague’ compiled by Catherine Lawrence. So there is a number of points of view, including doctors, academics, government officials, survivors, and the grieving as well as reports and articles. This gives it the feel of a work of nonfiction.

I felt that Christina Sweeney-Baird approached her topic with sensitivity, stressing the loss experienced by so many and the ripple effect upon the world caused by such a catastrophic disease.

Christina Sweeney-Baird will be an author to watch.
Was this review helpful?
I was not in the right head space for this. I DNF’d at 40%. Tried picking it up again and ended up putting it down again. It’s well written and the concept should be my jam, but I can’t help feeling that any book that looks at a virus that affects a specific group is somewhat mean spirited right now. It’s probably me but reluctantly I’m parking this one indefinitely. It’s going to be a long time before this is what I want in dystopian fiction.
Was this review helpful?
The End of Men was a magnificent book. Warning though, I was reading the book with tears streaming down my face.

The End of Men is written from the point of view of many different characters, and it is all the more powerful for it.

The book begins in London with Catherine five days before the pandemic hit with Catherine trying to decide if she is going to dress up for Halloween.

Her timeline was tough for me because Theodore reminded me of my own son, not least in his love of Halloween.

“Halloween has suddenly flipped from being a thing he had a remote understanding of last year to bring the most exciting event imaginable (until Christmas).”

I loved the way Catherine’s relationship with her husband Anthony was described.

“We’ve been together over half our lifetimes now. You don’t become two halves of a whole overnight.”

The only flaw in their otherwise perfect relationship is that Anthony wants to try IVF in pursuit of a second child, but Catherine isn’t so sure.

“If I could guarantee that a round of IVF would give me a baby, the new member of the family we’ve wanted for so long I would do it in a heartbeat. But that’s not a promise anyone can make me.”

We first meet Amanda when she inadvertently discovers patient zero in Glasgow A and E.

“His body went from being normal to near dead in under an hour.”

When Amanda realises that there appears to be a disease which only effects men she calls her oncologist husband and tells him she will divorce him if he doesn’t go home from work and pick up their sons on the way home.

Her emails to Health Protection Scotland remain unacknowledged.

Some of Amanda’s timeline made for hard reading for me as a healthcare worker who has worked through the current pandemic it sometimes felt as though she had plucked experiences right out of my head. Although with a toddler I had no choice but to go near him as he couldn’t understand.

“My sons are alive because I somehow kept this awful disease out of this home and away from them. But they are starving for my care and affection and I cannot give it to them. I don’t hug them. I don’t cook their food. I don’t go near them if I can possibly help it. I cannot be too careful when their lives are at stake.”

The funeral service for one of the men and the burial in a garden were two bits where I had to take a moment before I could carry on reading.

The End of Men was unnerving at times in terms of how close it came to the advice from government and the growing death toll on the news.

I cannot stress enough how excellent this book is.

“Will my gorgeous baby boy die? Will my husband die? Will everyone catch it? Will there be a cure? What is this never ends? What if this is the end of the world as we know it?”
Was this review helpful?
I devoured this in 2 days! That’s when you know it’s a great book for me. 

With our current situation, I wasn’t sure I would be ok reading this, but I was. Maybe that was because this virus only affected men. 

It really had me hooked. 

I really enjoyed every characters story’s, and although there are quite a few characters, it was easy to follow. 

I can’t wait to see what else this author has to show us in the near future.
Was this review helpful?
The End of Men is the story of a near-future pandemic in which there is a flu-like virus which is fast-spreading and deadly – but only to men. By the end of the pandemic, only one in ten men has survived. The novel follows a number of different characters in brief chapters where they recount their experiences of the pandemic and how their lives have changed.

The End of Men is unlucky in being published at a time when we are all armchair experts on what actually happens in a pandemic. There’s an explanatory note from Sweeney-Baird explaining that she wrote it before the real one struck, although there might have been some last-minute edits – there’s a single reference to “social distancing” which sits oddly given the disease she describes.

The disease is first identified by a Glasgow A&E consultant Amanda MacLean, but not recognised by the authorities. I found myself wondering why, if the virus spreads so (two days for incubation and then another two days for death) it took the authorities so long to get on the case. Amanda goes on singlehandedly to pursue the truth of how Patient Zero was infected, because without that, she knows there can be no vaccine (of course we all know differently).

There were some other things I found hard to believe, one being the swathes of medical staff, including Amanda, who refuse to go into work. That’s not to say it never happens, but in the context of the novel it is shown as normal, rather than exceptional, and jars with the evidence of recent pandemics. (We know a number of healthcare professionals have lost their lives to COVID-19.) 

The stories of loss and grief – husbands, sons, fathers, aren’t as moving as they might have been because the narrative flits between characters. The losses feel abstract to the reader. It’s the imagined aftermath of the pandemic that is more interesting, but again, the net is cast wide rather than deep.

There are a couple of references to what is happening abroad, including political upheaval in China, on the basis that a society previously dominated by a male military would be unable to repress women campaigning for democracy.

Sweeney-Baird seems pretty down on Scotland. In this future it is independent but its public bodies are either incompetent or isolated from bigger international alliances, while the English/Welsh government is focused and purposeful in reallocating work to the surviving women. I’m sure many of us contrasting the performance of the Johnson and Sturgeon governments over the last year would happily take the Holyrood approach.

Women are reallocated to suitable work in a conscription system. She talks at one point of a shortage of electricians but doesn’t really think through how the world would change with a significant loss of men. In the West, at least, men dominate in roles like tech, engineering and construction. Women could do these jobs, but it would take time. What would happen to, say, the internet, transport infrastructure, housing in the meantime? Would the lights go out? Would everyone pull together or be torn apart?

She does reference how the world, over time, comes to be more female friendly, using examples that sound like they’ve been cribbed from Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women – the size of phones, the diagnosis of heart attacks, the rate of car accidents.

It’s in the area of sex and relationships that I was most incredulous. The response to the shortage of men made me think of Virginia Nicholson’s Singled Out – which described how young British women, particularly the middle classes, were left after the First World War with the knowledge that most of their male peers had been wiped out. Then, there were both social taboos and technological limitations that meant most women wouldn’t have children alone, or openly form relationships with women (although, of course, many did), or even marry outside their class.

In The End of Men, everyone is terribly stoical and reasonable (for that reason it also made me think of Nevil Shute’s On the Beach)! Some women find female partners through dating apps, while the surviving men are surprisingly reluctant to exploit their new found scarcity. Many remain faithful to their wives. Childless women are willing to wait obediently for the state to grant them an allocation of sperm for IVF. Sweeney-Baird doesn’t seem to take on board that a shortage of men is not the same as a shortage of sperm.

I’m sure plenty of men would be willing to take matters into their own hands, so to speak, and that women desperate for a child would be inseminated through private arrangements, either artificial or traditional. (Perhaps when the resulting children grew up, there would have to be an app, like the one in Iceland, so the next generation could check whether they were related to their potential dates).

The End of Men is very readable but the number of narrators means their stories are not developed. Many of them are giving an account after the event which means the sense of immediacy and drama are lost. Despite the fact that they are drawn from across the world and the narrative incorporates letters, journals and magazine articles, they all have the voice of a middle-class Western woman, which is probably why the characters of Amanda and Catherine, a London-based anthropologist, are the most successful.

What I did enjoy about The End of Men is that it got me thinking about some of the issues that would be thrown up by a shortage of men and boys, and asking some questions, even if I didn’t agree with the author’s answers.
I received a copy of The End of Men from the publisher via Netgalley.
Was this review helpful?
This fantastic and eerily truthful book had me reading late into the night. Interesting, exciting and deep. Overall a great and frightening book.
Was this review helpful?
This is a brilliant read.
Wonderful well written plot and story line that had me engaged from the start.
Love the well fleshed out characters and found them believable.
Great suspense and action with wonderful world building.
Can't wait to read what the author brings out next.
Recommend reading.

I read a complimentary advance copy of the book; this is my voluntary and honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I am staggered that this book was written in 2018 and 2019, and the further I read, the more I am amazed at the parallels between the book and the Covid 19 pandemic that ensued in 2020. This has feels of Lockdown by Peter May in that respect, and yet this book tackles a different angle, that of wiping out an entire gender- hence, the title The End of Men.
This has deep undertones though, of how the strength of the human spirit enables us to live in extraordinary times and through immeasurable trauma and grief. I lost my eldest sister in April 2020 (not Covid related) and this has helped to remind me of the strength we have, and to call on it when we need to. 
The narrators for the audiobook were all fantastic and played their roles perfectly. Clearly defined and totally engaging.
Was this review helpful?
Reading this whilst in the middle of a pandemic isn’t the best idea but the similarities between the book and real life were scary. Brilliantly written and gave so many different perspectives on the people left behind.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to NetGalley and The Publisher for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

I found this book entertaining, but for probably all the wrong reasons. The author explains that this book was conceived  and written between 2018-2019, pre the COVID-19 pandemic.  I think its important to keep this in mind when reading this book. For the most part it is quite light easy reading and due to the timing of its publication, I feel there were bits that were unintentionally funny -  the many references to Skype (who uses that anymore) and Sweden's handling to the Pandemic... 

I like the fact that the story was told from multiple points of views however they all sounded the same in my head, so don't think they were written with enough distinction and found myself having to go back to find out who the narrator was.

The explanation of the science was terrible but considering in real life its the experts doing that, I think you should be able to gloss over that and just read the book for what it is. I think the book does a good job about making you think about how sticking to gender roles could have a devastating effect on our societal structures if 90% of the male population were wiped out and that we shouldn't wait until then to empower women.

Considering what the world is going though this book didn't add to the doom and gloom but was actually a nice respite from it all.
Was this review helpful?
This started out oddly for me - the first narrator we encounter was entirely unconvincing as an academic, the voice was all wrong. Next we went on to a Scottish doctor who was among my favourite narrators of the novel. 

Ultimately, I wasn't that interested as we met more and more characters. 

I've seen comparisons to The Power and while I think they're fitting I think it's more because they both share a disjointed narrative structure that ultimately, doesn't quite come together, rather than similar female centric narratives.

I wanted to like this more than I did and I'm sure it will find an avid readership. 

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Highly thought-provoking read, especially given the current Covid-19 pandemic.

I was hooked from the start, and although I felt the middle lost its pace a little bit, it held my attention to the final word. The book follows a number of characters and the chapters are written from each of their perspectives. This may be a little overwhelming for some, especially as a few of them are only heard of once or twice and then disappear until nearer the end of the book when you've practically forgotten about them!

Overall, it's an interesting look at the world if we lost our men to a disease. I am still thinking, and talking to friends about it, days after finishing, It will stay with you a while.

Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for gifting me an e ARC in exchange for a review. 

I first started reading this as the Corona pandemic was ramping up, but I had to put it aside. Now, I’ve finished reading right when our vaccines are available and perhaps our understanding of the virus we’re living with is started to be more understood. The narrative in the book is absolutely harrowing in the midst of our own crisis, especially since so many of the dead in the book are children. That difference in comparison to the Corona virus is a deal breaker indeed, and wow am I glad our virus does not target children and that the mortality is so much lower. Still, one can’t help but make comParisons while reading. 

What’s amazing in this impressive debut is the depth the author has gone to in understanding/predicting reactions to a pandemic for such an array of characters and countries. I really appreciated the snap-shot of getting to know different people and their experiences (though there a downside to that too, see below). And wow, the author was so right on so many of her assumptions it’s scary!

What I loved less was the pace, i would have wanted more action earlier. I felt all the different people we get to follow made me care less about them individually, and since we didn’t get to follow the outbreak in more day-by-day detail, it felt more like a reportage in places than a driven narrative. I was not emotionally invested in any of the characters, sadly, and since the pace is sometimes very slow, that detracted from my experience. I love pandemic books, and I love speculative thrillers, so I am definitely the target group for this book. A shame it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. 

Still, it’s a very impressive blueprint for the way the world reacts to a virus, albeit different from the one we’re in, and a very impressive debut. If the author had managed to get her readers more emotionally charged, or the pace up, it would have been a five star read.
Was this review helpful?
Written pre-covid and set through the different stages of a global pandemic (not unsimilar to the one we find ourselves living through) 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘔𝘦𝘯 is a powerful and pacey debut that will have you gripped from the very beginning. 

Told through multiple perspectives of women from all over the world, in different positions within society, this novel explores what life would be like in the absence of men - the effect it would have on the world, with disruptions to male dominated workforces like the army and the affect on fertility and family life, being standout asks. It was completely unnerving but utterly compelling. I was (and still am) in awe of the storytelling - I just couldn't put it down!

Reading about an imaginative yet now believable deadly flu in the middle of real pandemic was an interesting experience that's for sure and I'm not going to lie it's scary how, through her writing, Christina has managed to shadow certain aspects of our very real pandemic life: the panic, the actions that are taken such as isolation - right down to the exhaustingly different way of life we've found ourselves adjusting to. All written BEFORE any of us had even heard of covid 19! 

With an expertly crafted plot, an eye for detail and such strong character development, 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘔𝘦𝘯 will leave you with much to ponder. It's an outstanding and timely debut that will get a lot of attention I'm sure and rightfully so, it's brilliant!
Was this review helpful?
The End of Men was already on my kindle (courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley) when I heard an interview with the author on Radio 4. In that interview Christina Sweeney-Baird mentioned that she had made references to The Power when submitting her manuscript. I was disappointed. I didn’t want another book about the male-female reversal of fortunes and about power corrupting women in the same way as it would men. I didn’t want another book where the pronoun he/him would be replaced with she/her. I almost didn’t read The End of Men.
I am so glad that I put aside my reservations and dug into it! Apart from the common denominator of men becoming vulnerable and women holding the balance of survival (and ensuing power) in their hands, The End of Men is nothing like Power. It is incomparably better, in my opinion.
There is subtlety and many different layers of emotions here as Sweeny-Baird explores a world where the male population becomes decimated (literally to the tenth of its original number) and women have to take over the reins. No cheap gloating, primitive vengeance or abuse of power ever enters the page. When the virus attacks their men, women go through what any human being of any gender would: initial disbelief transforms into an instinct of preservation and protectiveness, loss brings on immeasurable grief, the disintegration of the world inspires action, resourcefulness, survival and regeneration.  Many women (and one man) narrate/are the protagonists in this book and each of them tells her (or his) own unique story of metamorphosis. The story of Amanda (the doctor who first discovered the virus and identified Patient Zero) and Catherine (the anthropologist who after an unsuccessful attempt at escaping and saving her loved ones, begins to research and record the events and their impact on individual lives) are the two leading threads. But there are many more characters, each with their own reactions to the challenge of the pandemic. There are personal, deeply intimate stories, but also wider events on a larger, geo-political scale tacked in this book. The book reads in places like a factual account – a dramatized real -life occurrence. 
The End of Men rings true. Although it is a work of fiction, it touches on the subject of pandemic that changes the world and the traditional male-female roles beyond recognition. As we have all just gone through a life- and society-transforming pandemic, it is easy to believe in this tale and the possibilities it contemplates. But it isn’t just about the pandemic. After WWII in which many men died, women had to take charge of their families, communities, and the future of the world. Women took on new “masculine” careers. This sort of a challenge to the established traditional values of our society is not new. Sweeney-Baird treats it with great sensitivity and insight.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to the publishers and netgalley for allowing me access to an eArc in exchange for an honest review. 

This book starts in Glasgow 2025 when a patient is admitted to a&e with symptoms not like anything else. Dr Maclean reports her findings, and quickly realises that the victims of The Plague are all men. 

How does the world change when 90% of men die? 

This book is almost like a study of what would need to happen in the event that men cease to exist. This is told from multiple international perspectives over the course of a few years following the outbreak. 

This book was written in 2018, so it is interesting to see some of the parallels in our current situation be played out on the page. Of course, the book's pandemic is a lot more fatal and is an extreme version of our current reality.

I'm giving this book a 3.5 stars
Was this review helpful?
Falling into the gender dystopia category of novels such as The Water Cure and The Power, The End of Men added a surprisingly prescient element - that of a plague with an almost 100% mortality rate that only affects men. 

Set in the not too distant future, at times this read a little too close to home as we are currently living through the Covid-19 pandemic, one that seems to disproportionately affect men though nowhere near at the levels of those found in this book. What's interesting is that Sweeney-Baird completed the manuscript in June 2019 before Covid-19 took the world in its grip and that makes some of the observations she makes all the more unsettling many of them being reflected in real time on our TV screens and news feeds. 

The book is set out in a series of vignettes each from the point of view of a different woman (never a man). Some of the women appear frequently and we get to follow their journeys. Others appear only briefly but offer an insight into the different ways the pandemic has affected people's behaviour. 

The viewpoints we hear from are varied and span different classes, ages and continents. There was also the inclusion of a trans character, an element that could have felt shoe-horned in for representation but that I thought was sensitively and intelligently explored. We see these women through the different stages of the pandemic from its very beginnings through to a time when some semblance of normal is starting to be restored. Almost every story has an element of loss and heartbreak and even the happier stories are tinged with sadness by the lives and potential lost through the sudden death of a large proportion of the world's men. 

I liked how the book explored what happens when one gender is elevated over another and how it can change everything from the size of mobile phones to the makeup of the highest decision-making authorities. We see how different aspects of human life are impacted by the Plague - love, family, friendship, career are all fundamentally changed by this catastrophic event. 

The writing good overall but suffered from the lack of confidence you get with a debut author. There were times when the same point was repeated multiple times, just worded slightly differently, whereas a more confident writer would have felt happy to make the point once or subtly hint at it rather than spelling it out to the reader. I feel this is a confidence that will come to Sweeney-Baird in time. She has all the tools to go on to write even better fiction and I will be interested to read what she goes on to write next.
Was this review helpful?
Interesting that this novel was started pre COVID pandemic and set in the future.. Amanda , and A and E doctors alerts the powers that be to the possibility that there is a virus about affecting only men but can be carried by women and there is a percentage of men immune to it too. There is a disconcerting period of disbelief and difficulty being taken seriously . The race is on to find a vaccine and / or a cure.
Was this review helpful?
If I had picked up this book before the pandemic I would have been freaked out and found the whole story terrifying and shocking. Now - it is still very scary but maybe less so than if we were not in the middle of a pandemic. 

I thought this was an excellent read and I enjoyed the different viewpoints from
a range of characters from across the globe. From its start in Glasgow we see the ramifications of The Plague far beyond the city. I thought this gave in depth perspectives of the characters featured. 

This was an emotional and heartbreaking read in places and I thought it was difficult to read knowing the inevitability of what was happening. However. the sense of hope and the resilience of many of the female characters was captivating. 
A excellent read and i am looking forward to see what else this author creates.
Was this review helpful?
3.5 Stars

This book is an awesome, yet hard read as we claw our way out of a pandemic, in almost every way but disappointed me so much that I couldn't rate it any higher. 

Ok I am going to go hard on what really really disappointed me about this fantastic book before I talk about any good points as this really truly and utterly brought what would have been a 5 star rating crashing down. THE SCIENCE IS SO CRINGE!

I am a biologist. I hold a PhD in evolutionary genetics and I have studied the evolution of sex chromosomes among other topics throughout my career. I have also worked closely with one of the first physicians to treat Covid within the UK. I clarify this so you know why the Science in this book made me cringe, so hard. It follows an epidemic of a flu like virus that only effects Men. This instantly brings up the question why and the Scientists in the book leap to find out. Problem number one: It then takes them SIX MONTHS to hypothesize its X-linked (associated with the X chromosome). Hoof beats you think horse not zebra, it would likely be this first genetic target eliminated when such sex deterministic structure is involved. Problem two: No women die, or get ill from the virus. This is statistically and genetically unlikely from the proposed genetic target. I wont go into a genetics lecture but this is high school level Bio with the possible combinations of sex chromosomes. By the same reasoning the male immunity rate is too low. Problem three: the whole eureka 100% vaccine efficiency moment - the collective world now knows 100% effective isn't possible and that was just so cringe, a disease with such high mortality rate we would accept lower efficacy just to keep people alive. We also know that more than one vaccine can be created. Only one group can be first, but many other groups kept working towards vaccination. 

Its really sad for me as a scientist when a relatively good concept and superbly written books just seems to fail at really easy research. Author's out there, if your writing a book and are unsure don't be afraid to ask! Have a nosy at your local Uni's staff list send a few emails. Tweet, a lot of us are avid readers. Contrary to popular belief Scientists are actually a chatty bunch, a lot of us are happy to answer questions (don't dismiss the PhD students and Post-Docs) if you ask nicely. 

My final gripe is not science related but personal, of all the women in this book not a single one of them is not desperate for children. All the straight women, even the child free women express there great desire to have offspring and how the Plague has taken that away from them. There isn't a straight woman who is child free by choice and his happy about that choice. Which for a book so focuses on the world and inner monologue of women is a disappointingly old-fashioned viewpoint.  I know this book is about grief, particularly female grief and it would have been nice to have a perspective of a woman who is grieving for the life partner she choose, the life that she had hoped for with him and not just the potential of his sperm. 

OK Rant over I can now tell you how gorgeous and heart breaking this book is if you ignore the science/ are happily child-free woman. 

The writing in this book is fantastic. It is told through lots of various perspectives, mainly from women, from around the world right from the outbreak of the Pandemic to years afterwards. It has a really diverse number of perspectives cataloguing the initial outbreak, the failing of governments, the development of the vaccine and implemented recovery operations to try and bring life back to the new normal. It covers everything from the medical and bad take on the scientific aspects, political aspects, domestic aspects and international relations too for women all over the world. It covers the loss of fathers, husbands, brothers, sons but not just those lost by death but by distance, mental health issues. It covers love and life after what seems like the end of all we know. The story is detailed and emotional and I did find myself tearing up. 

I really enjoyed the varying voices of the women and occasional men we heard from throughout the story. I liked how the author allowed us to sit with their grief, anger, fear. I loved that they were all determined in different ways, some ruthless, some heart broken. There individual stories felt intimate and compelling. 

Obviously, the author acknowledges that now one would know how closely art would imitate life, completing her draft in 2018. Therefore, it is a bit of a hard read particularly in the beginning of the book when you recognise the panic, miss information and misunderstanding sweep through the globe that we are now all to familiar with. For those concerned about the amount of perspectives, I found them distinctive and easy to tell apart but I have checked and it appears the audiobook is full cast so may help make the voices even more distinctive.
Was this review helpful?