I’m a big fan of the Children of Men, the movie, so when I saw the audiobook at my local library, I grabbed it. Probably 90% of the time someone compares a movie and the book it was based on, they’re going to think the book is better. It’s just the nature of written and filmed works that you can’t pack the same detail into a film as you can a novel. But at least for me, The Children of Men is one case where the movie was better than the book, much better.
Both the book and the movie share the same basic outline, and some of the same characters. About 20 years previous, babies stopped being born, as all males in the world became infertile. In that time, society has changed, become authoritarian, and dissident groups have sprung up to protest the increasing power of the government.
But while the plot of the movie seemed to make perfect sense, that of the book kept me wondering how or why things were happening the way they were. For example, characters fall in love after meeting each other only a few times for a few minutes, and I couldn’t understand why so much emphasis was being placed on the child, when it seemed to me that the father of the baby would be much more important. If the child was a girl, then what? There would still be no way of propogating the human race, and even if it was a boy, they’d have to wait 13 or so years for him to be able start attempting to produce offspring.
And in any case, is one human male, when paired with an unlimited number of females, enough to re-start the race? Wouldn’t that involve a lot of inbreeding? So the fact that a woman is pregnant is definitely cause for celebration, but it really only matters if other males are becoming fertile again as well. The movie is able to sidestep these issues by simply stating that the father is unknown, and focusing on the child as a miracle in itself, not necessarily as hope for the human race to survive.
The book is also very different from the film in that it’s not anywhere near as action oriented. A third of the way through the book basically nothing has happened. It’s full of backstory between Theo and his cousin, Xan, who has now become Warden of England, and their childhood together. It is Xan who wants the child for himself, to cement his power as leader, and Theo must overcome his feelings of friendship for his cousin and protect the baby.
I don’t want to make it sound like the book is horrible, it’s really pretty good; I had no problems sticking with it to the end. But just be warned that if you go into it having already seen the film, don’t expect the book to be similar, or you may find yourself disappointed.