Philip K. Dick Award Winner for Distinguished Science Fiction
When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead.
In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power—and the strong who possess it.
A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence.
After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.
This was a hard review for me to write. I did read it a while back, at the start of my slump when a change seemed as good as a rest (and I enjoyed it), but then I struggled to find what to say about it. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and no one feels fine. The titular heroine of the story, the unamed, gets sick in a world going mad and wakes up at the literal end of the world. Women are mostly dead, dying, or enslaved. Babies aren’t being born. And men are grabbing all the power. Into this world the unnamed goes forth hidden as a man.
The tale is mostly told in epistolary form, and it actually mostly worked for me. The book starts 100 years in the future with scribes recopying the unnamed’s diaries. And with that introduction we are jolted into this world. It is dark, gritty, sad, and much of the time horrifying. Realistic is probably the right word. Don’t expect a happy ending, or romance. Don’t expect reunited lovers. This isn’t this book.
What it is, is a “smart” book that delves deeply into gender role, survival, and the slide into superstition when science is lost. And I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of the book, but there is really no one to root for and you already know no one is getting their happy ending. So if you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary as a palate cleanser, then this is worth a look. Now, I understand there are other books in the series, but this one I think ends in the perfect way, so there is no sense that you actually need to read the sequel if you don’t want to, and I probably won’t.