Sandra Newman movie review The Men – A Vision of a World Without Men | science fiction books

IIn Sandra Newman’s fifth novel, all humans and fetuses with a Y chromosome disappear in an instant, leaving XX to celebrate, grieve or organize in a radically changed world. To create a work of fiction with such a stark premise – as Neumann also did in her earlier high-concept novel, the Paradisea time-travel tale between present-day reconstructed New York and sixteenth-century England—risks confronting the reader with a hard-to-see reimagining task later on.

But while it is true that The Men never allows us to forget its first dramatic principle, many other threads and themes come to light: the long consequences of trauma and coercive control; various manifestations of charisma and complicity; The insidious and inhuman effects of a enslaved society to examine representations of reality. It is also a narrative of how far we may all go to quell individual loss and grief; If the world was a better place without the one you love, would you sacrifice the greater good to turn back the clock?

In exploring these regions, the hinterland behind the shocking title, The Men truly stirs up intrigue and inconvenience. Indeed, once characters and readers internalize the mass disappearances and their immediate effects—the collapse of industries and facilities run mainly by men, and the ensuing plane crashes, blackouts, and insecurity; The massive decrease in sexual violence and abuse, and the “noise of voices in the air” when these voices only concern women and girls – the less obvious fallout dominate.

For her central character, Jane Pearson, a tall, white, blond former ballerina, given Newman’s only first-person narrative, the loss of her husband and young son brings not only mourning, but an opportunity to try to merge the two parts of her life and herself. There is her youth, when the head of a predatory dance company used her to lure young men and boys, leading them to become “the most famous sex criminal in the United States”; And her puberty, where she tried to become the ideal wife and mother, a “love saint”.

Connecting the two is Evangeline Moreau, a black woman who, after a prison sentence for shooting police officers who massacred her family, founded a political party and appears to be on the verge of becoming President of the United States. Evangeline and Jane were once lovers and mates, and the disappearance of Jane’s home life means they may be back together again; The ambiguity about who holds the power in their relationship, and to what extent it erases the structural privilege of race and the character’s class dynamic, is one of the novel’s most fertile subplots. Honestly, Jane’s story is prioritized all the time; It is the white hero whose shock is most worthy of detail and understanding. Newman is aware of this by several key scenes, including one in which Jane mistakenly assumes Evangeline is chasing her through the streets because of her bad reputation; In fact, the black woman simply wanted to ask her not to attend a class targeting black students.

Evangeline’s name obviously means to suggest H.G. Wells’ novel The Island of Doctor Moreau, but despite her apparent desire to impress, she’s not the mad book scientist, who desperately strives to create half-animal, half-human beings. This series of story unfolds in the form of a mysterious online video, showing the missing men in a horrifying and brutal place. Many of the novel’s characters became addicted to “Men,” as it became known. The footage is quickly engulfing viewers desperate to see their loved ones on screen, and may fuel their obsession with the gradual release of additional material.

Utopia and its failure, and outright dystopia, are the preoccupations of Neumann’s work. in 2014 Ice cream star countrya post-plague society must discover why everyone dies before the age of twenty, while the alternative ways of life represented by aliens and visions made their first appearance in 2002, The only good thing anyone has ever done, where the possibility of transformation is clearly indicated by the name of the protagonist, Chrysalis. In this novel she appears more concerned with the conflict between the individual and the group, and the ways in which any form of progress might be threatened. The landscape in “Men” is riddled with environmental degradation, as “there was no stick, no floating seed.” “We got it: this was a futuristic world in which men never disappeared. It was the hell we were going to rule over, the land they were going to make,” Jane notes.

The novel caused trouble before it was published. Severe accusations of gender essentialism and transphobia have been made; In Newman’s scenario, the disappearance of anyone with a Y chromosome means that transgender, bisexual and non-binary people have been swept away. (“Now that,” one character thinks, sadly, “these trans girls are gone just like the guys. There were also accusations of having a dislike for the idea that violence, war, and cruelty might simply disappear in the men’s absence, rather than move on to another host. And as expected, Most of these reactions have occurred in the absence of the text itself, although some detailed criticism has emerged recently.Even at that time, though, the novel’s introduction, the elevator pitch, was easy to summarize, the tone of the elevator, which dominated it.

But it seems too literal to read the book as a simple equation in which the existence of men is equal to the death of hope for the future, even when one also argues that the stark arrangement makes such a conclusion difficult to avoid. The Men is a baffling novel, filled with charged thoughts and jerky feelings, and a prose style that veers from ignorance and remoteness to attempts to capture vulnerability (Ji-won, an artist who became a volunteer truck driver, shaving her head for practicality, later “the turtle’s feelings came out of its shell, or perhaps with a bare heart.”) in a timid invasion outside the body”). Yet he is at his most powerful, exploring attachment, its temptation and its dangers, and the impossibility of eradicating it from human affairs.

The Men is published by Sandra Newman by Granta (£14.99). To support the Guardian and Controller, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.