Rediscover: The Children of Men

Book lovers seeking a less traditional Father's Day read need look no further than The Children of Men by P.D. James (1992), a literary dystopian novel set in England nearly 30 years after every human on Earth was rendered mysteriously infertile. James (1920-2014), best known for her mystery novels featuring Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh, imagines a society without hope for the future, in which most citizens have lost interest in politics--allowing the dictatorial but supposedly egalitarian Warden of England to seize power.

Theo Faron, a professor at Oxford University, is the Warden's estranged cousin. The novel opens with one of his diary entries (later switching between these accounts and third person), introducing the despairing facts of this fatherless future: social lethargy, a savage penal colony on the Isle of Man, half-sane denied mothers raising lifeless dolls, ill-treated guest workers, mass "suicide" of the infirm elderly, and compulsory reproductive checkups, among a litany of other grim omens. Still, Theo manages to trudge on, despite his possibly dangerous extended family and crumbling society, until a group of amateur dissenters called the Five Fish net Theo into a dangerous scheme.

In 2006, The Children of Men was adapted into a superb, if drastically different, film by Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) starring Clive Owen. The novel was last published by Vintage that same year ($15.95, 9780307275431). --Tobias Mutter

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