***I received a free ebook in exchange for an honest and fair review.***
A science fiction action thriller about a future in which men are a rapidly-decreasing minority due to a sequence of tragedies, or Events. As the world becomes increasingly dominated by women, the resistance movement Hamsa is brewing in secret, knowing what no one else does: that men are not dying because of some uncontrollable tragedy, but due to one woman’s desire to live in a world without men.
The writing is crisp, the pace is rapid, and the story hits emotional notes very strongly. The women-based society that the antagonist is building is modeled on bees—right down to the antagonist’s denomination as Queen, her creation of a society of women conceived using her own eggs, and her creation of male-substitutes which she calls drones.
I love this concept. I love some of the risks that the author takes, including the style of narration in the second half of the book.
There’s so much potential here—a world where women are the majority and men are increasingly oppressed is a brilliant premise. That the backdrop is an antagonist trying to create a bee-like society is even better. The writer is excellent at use of language, and weaving of a story.
The diminishing of the male population happens rapidly, so that the story beings a mere 10 years into the future. Yet much has changed, including the societal tendency to treat men as an undesirable minority, whose rights are rapidly getting chipped away. Women in general seem unable to empathize with the plight of men, unless they see these things happening to someone they personally care about—and some times not even then. As a matter of fact, empathy in general seems to be entirely lacking in this society, where people are often portrayed as entirely accepting of the narrative that men are all horrible, but then easily convinced that men are worth being given a chance by the protagonist’s larger-than-life perfection.
For me, a problem with this book is the sheer perfection of the protagonist. He is a Gary Stu through and through. The protagonist is portrayed as being responsible for all the non-conforming actions of his wife and daughter. His wife can resist being mind controlled because they have a strong bond, because he’s such a wonderful husband. His daughter believes in fighting for a world that allows men to live, because he’s such a wonderful father. In their home, they seem maintain familiar gender roles, at odds with the world outside. Yet the daughter never pushes back against this, for more independence, for the right to be the one defending her family. The wife is perfectly content in the traditional role of wife and mother—as a matter of fact, I have no idea who she was beyond a loving, usually-demure wife and mother who is also occasionally willing to fight for her husband and daughter. But everyone accepts that it is the husband’s role to fight, defend, protect.
If you haven’t caught on, though many main players are women, for most of them, their motivations are entirely male. It’s no spoiler to tell you that the antagonist is motivated by a man from her past—that much is made clear more or less as soon as she is introduced. The female protagonist, too, is motivated by her feelings for men. If you were to ask me a character trait of any of the main female characters, my first response would be these relationships that motivate them.
There’s no idealism here, no sense of justice for an arbitrarily oppressed segment of our species. Just people fighting for their own loved ones.
Then there was Mimi. I adored Mimi. It’s a shame she wasn’t in more of the book, because her parts of the story were excellent.
The issue of gender roles, if you see them as an issue, was not present in the last third or so of the books. This was the point at which I could (at last) fully engage with them as people, rather than simply vessels defined and defining others by gender.
So, in conclusion—an excellent story. Extremely strong second half. Some flaws, but definitely worth it. You may not even mind these “flaws” if you’re reading more for an engaging plot than complex characters. I give it a 3.5.