What would the world be like if humans lost the ability to have children? In this novel, that’s exactly what has happened. It has been a little over 25 years since the last birth. There is no longer any need for baby furniture, daycare centers, elementary schools, or toys. Theo Faron is a 50-year-old history professor at the Oxford University who is just trudging through life with no real purpose. After all, he figures, what good does it do to teach, when there is no one to pass the knowledge on to?
Great Britain has become a dictatorship, with Theo’s cousin Xan being the Warden Of England. Xan and his small council rule with an iron fist. Men and women of what used to be child-bearing age are subjected to humiliating physical tests every six months. Foreigners (the Sojourners) are brought in to do the menial labor, then kicked back to their home country when they reach the age of 60. Taking suicide pills (Quietus) is encouraged when one is elderly or sick. And all criminals are dumped on a designated island where they are left to fend for themselves against the most brutal inmates.
Then Theo meets a small band of dissidents – Julian, Luke, Gascoigne, Rolf, and Miriam. The small group is trying to change what they feel is wrong with society. Even though humanity will die out, they are fighting against practices that are unjust. At first Theo doesn’t really want to work with them, but finds himself drawn into their efforts. Hope begins to return, and that changes everything.
The book was made into a movie in 2006 starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine. It has some major differences from the book, but both versions drew me into the story. The main theme of moving from a depressed, pointless life to a life in which there is hope and meaning is clear in both the printed book and the movie.