teries, minus the bodies in the bilhardrnroom. Instead, the result of her first attemptrnis The Children of Men, for whichrnJames chooses as her scenario nothingrnless than the end of the human race. Itrnis, however, the end of the race as only arnwriter long practiced at finding innovativernways of knocking people off couldrndepict it.rnThe year is 2021, and Britain, like thernworld, is ending with a whimper ratherrnthan a bang, for in 1995 the last childrenrnwere born to a humanity whose malesrnhave inexplicably become sterile. In thernopening chapters, Theodore Faron, Oxfordrndon and historian of the Victorianrnage, introduces us to this world by reminiscingrnin his journal, briefly summingrnup the intervening years. The 1990’srnwere years of tribal warfare, Volkerwanderung,rnreligious upheaval, lawlessness,rnand hedonism; the cataclysm was intensifiedrnin the next decades by the desperationrnand impotent rage of a dyingrnspecies whose god—science—had failedrnit.rnBy 2021, though, things have settledrndown into a decidedly non-utopian, butrnmostly cozy, Britain. An aging race hasrnincreasingly less energy and motivationrnfor war or violence, while managing tornpreserve certain 20th-century creaturerncomforts. Early in the novel, Jamesrnwrites with simple grace, lulling us intornTheo’s Britain, a land in which we canrnpicture ourselves peacefully living outrnour existence, both individually and as arnpeople. With Britain gently depopulated,rnwe find not a cluttered I990’s countryside,rnbut rather one which is returningrnto a slightly wild rusticity that Tennysonrnor Byron might more easily recognize.rnNow the domain of staid ladies and gentlemenrnbroadening their horizons, Oxfordrnstill stands, no longer the sole privilegernof bureaucratic research institutesrnand saucy undergraduates. Humans beingrnwhat they are, not all is well, butrnconditions seem acceptable. There isrncorruption, decay, and selective lawlessnessrn(the pampered Omegas born inrn1995 can literally get by with murder),rnbut these things are not different in kind,rnor even necessarily in degree, from whatrnwe in the 1990’s experience.rnOverseen by Theo’s cousin and boyhoodrnfriend, Xan Lyppiat, Britain’srngovernment is decidedly authoritarian.rnYet Theo’s world seems, if anything, a littlernmore stable and free than our own,rnand with the help of James’s well-craftedrnprose, we are made to feel satisfied withrnthis. Britain has found what apparentlyrnis a dignified via media by which ladiesrnand gentlemen can confront the close ofrnhistory with composure: it is not hard tornimagine the last tottering old man inrnOxford closing a dusty volume of poetryrnin the Bodleian, drinking a last glass ofrnclaret, and drifting off into eternal sleeprnas the birds sing and the tendrils curl inrnan overgrown courtyard outside the windows.rnMore predictable dystopian novelsrnconvey a sense of foreboding from thernbeginning. Although the brainwashed,rnbought-off, drugged, or otherwisernnumbed masses are outwardly content,rnthe reader knows better; he is revulsed atrnseeing humans losing their liberty, independencernof thought, and humanity.rnNot so in this book. When James introducesrna small group of would-be reformersrnand revolutionaries, they strikernus as nuisances who are getting in thernway of the Jane Austen novels, the drivesrnin the country, and the bottles of vintagernwine that must be consumed while therernis still somebody around to consumernthem. We, like Theo, wonder why anyonernwould bother about politics, legalrnsystems, or even religion in a peacefullyrndying world. But having thus seduced allrnbut the more doctrinaire anti-statists,rnJames hardens her prose as the revolutionariesrnmake their case. By removingrnthe comforting beauty of her earlierrnchapters she forces us to a more objectivernconsideration of Xan’s Britain, even asrnthe reformers are revealed for the largelyrnunheroic and unlikable people that theyrnare.rnIn The Children of Men the Utopianrndesires of the 20th century, barely altered,rnbecome the dystopian realities ofrnthe 21 St. This is, of course, not a new device;rnJames’s twist is to provide no evidencernthat man has wrought his ownrndestruction. It is as if man’s will hasrnbeen heeded by the world of spirit, as ifrna hand as invisible as that which delugedrnthe earth in the days of Noah has reducedrnman not only to sterility of thernflesh but to impotence of the soul, denyingrnhim even the Promethean satisfactionrnof self-annihilation. Thus the selfimposedrnsterility increasingly favored inrnthe early 1990’s gives way to the mysteriousrnuniversal sterility of the late 1990’s;rnthe trend actually goes unnoticed at first,rnowing to man’s desire not to reproducernhimself. Theo writes in his journal:rn”Much of this I can trace to the earlyrn1990’s: . . . less and less in the West wernmade love and bred children. It seemedrnat the time a welcome development in arnworld grossly polluted by over-population.rnAs a historian I see it as the beginningrnof the end.”rnJames is one of those increasingly rarernentities: an unpretentious, traditional,rnbread-and-butter Anglican. Theo impassivelyrnnotes the insipidity of thernChurch of England, which in 2021 has arnfemale “Christian Rationalist” as Archbishoprnof Canterbury, and concludesrnthat, were infants still being born, shernwould surely ban their baptism as superstitious.rnHe is not as sure that she wouldrnobject to the growing practice of bringingrnkittens and dolls to church for christening.rnThough unconsciously drawnrntoward faith, and bearing the name ofrnGod, he remains a calm, detached agnosticrnwho makes no leaps of faith on hisrnOn Wednesday he invariablyrnattended the three o’clockrnservice of Evensong in MagdalenrnChapel. A small number of collegesrnwith more than usually eccentricrncollegers or an obstinaterndetermination to ignore realityrnstill used their chapels for worship,rnsome even reverting to the oldrnBook of Common Prayer. But thernchoir at Magdalen was among thernbest regarded and Theo went tornlisten to the singing, not to takernpart in an archaic act of worship.rnHilary Mantel, in the abovementionedrnreview, suggested the difficultiesrnthat the more literate genre writersrnface: “Wherever P.D. James’s booksrnare discussed there is a tendency, on thernone hand, to exaggerate her merits; onrnthe other, to punish a genre writer who isrngetting above herself.” P.D. James willrnlikely be urged to return to the mysteryrngenre by both her hardened “whodunit”rnfans and her more pretentious critics—rnthe former because they want her to skiprnthe boring stuff and cut to the drawingrnroom denouement, the latter becausernshe doesn’t write like Graham Greene.rnOne hopes that she can resist such pressuresrnand devote a part of her remainingrndecades and all of her engaging assortmentrnof literary talents to writing morernnovels like The Children of Men.rnEdward B. Anderson is a physician atrnthe Minot Air Force Base in NorthrnDakota.rnSEPTEMBER 1993/37rnrnrn