Many of you Above Average readers know of my pet bird, Froley. I can’t seem to shut up about him. I’ve devoted a bunch of posts to anecdotes about his inane yet gorgeous behavior.
However, I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned how I came up with his name. (Honestly, I might have. I have a tendency to repeat myself, especially when it comes to talking about my bird.)
Years and years ago, I saw a movie called Children of Men, and the name “Froley” was just dropped. There isn’t even a character called “Froley.” It’s just offered as a possible baby name. But as soon as I heard it, I did this mental reminder thing. “You’ve got to use this name someday.”
And I did.
I got Froley at the pet store and immediately named him “Froley.”
What I didn’t know at the time was that Children of Men was based on a book called The Children of Men. And I unforgivably did not find this out until the book was staring me right in the face at a used bookstore in Tucson.
And as soon as I saw it, I knew I had unknowingly committed a literary sin. What sin is that, you ask? It’s the sin of enjoying a movie, loving it, in fact, and not reading the book it was based on.
So I bought the book immediately and I’m happy to report I just finished it and I loved it too.
Just in case you haven’t watched the movie or read the book, I’ll clue you in as to what it’s about. It’s set in a world where women and men suddenly become both infertile and sterile. The whole globe is suddenly faced with the realization that no future generations will come after them.
The movie takes a more action-oriented style to the story, focusing on one man as he rushes to protect the world’s first pregnant woman in years. The two of them have to escape from a literal war in the process. As a movie, I get why they took the story in this direction. It made the plot more visceral, and gave the audience a more visual experience when it comes to the desperation everyone was feeling.
The book takes a ponderous approach to the situation. The lack of children in the world is described with a quiet horror. As everyone slowly ages, despair permeates the reflections of the main character. Set in the UK, an authoritarian government has been constructed to make life more comfortable for the aging population. If you’re in a good spot, the oversight and executive privileges the government wields might not bother you. But if you’re part of a less than desirable social rung, your decline into old age is not as easy.
The main character is well off, but his comfortable world is thrown into disarray when a group of rebels confront him with the disquieting truth about society as it currently stands. These rebels’ position is heightened in our protagonist’s awareness when it is revealed that one of them is pregnant.
Despite the drama of these broad strokes I’m painting of the plot, the pace of the novel is measured and sedate. The Children of Men is really about reflecting about how humanity’s progress and innovation largely stems from the knowledge that people will come after you. Without that hope for the future, humanity stagnates.
These musings are portrayed to readers perfectly in small moments. My favorite is when a deer makes its way into a church. This church is like the rural ones we always see described in Victorian novels, small stone edifices nestled in green hills or gentle woodland. The protagonist sees a deer has made its way into the church and is standing by the altar. For him, it’s a small moment of beauty in a world that is turning decrepit.
That’s when the pastor runs in screaming.
It was not a moment of beauty for him. This elderly man rushes at the deer with his arms waving, angry at it for making its way inside. He cries after it as it bounds away, saying that the world will soon be its for the taking, so can’t it just wait a few more years before claiming it.
The Children of Men was by no means a lighthearted read, but its fairly short length makes it a quick one. You can dive into it and escape in the span of two evenings if you’re pacing your reading time. However, I’d recommend this only to people who enjoy thoughtful prose. Because while it is a digestible size, it does not hold back when it comes to ponderous paragraphs.
I rate The Children of Men a deep-yet-quick-read-that-will-have-you-appreciating-the-continuity-of-the-human-species.