on 14 April, 2013
Source: Author Review Copy
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction
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The end of man was not signaled by marauding gangs or explosions, but with silence. People simply grew older knowing a younger generation would not be there to replace them. The final two residents in the neighborhood of Camelot, an old man and his invalid brother, are trapped in their house by forests full of cats and dogs battling with the bears and wolves to eat anything they can find. As the man struggles to survive, he recounts all the ways society changed as the human population continued to shrink—the last movie Hollywood ever made, the last World Series that was played, how governments around the world slowly disbanded. THE MAN WHO WATCHED THE WORLD END is the haunting account of a man who has witnessed the world fade away. It is also a story about the power of family.
I’ve never read a dystopian like The Man Who Watched the World End, one that is set after the post apocalyptic events have occurred and not amidst the action. There are no other living humans in sight, aside from the narrator and his brother, and they are both old men nearing the end of their lives. In his somber, quiet and watchful existence, this man writes journal entries every day about living out the rest of his life.
The concept behind the end of the world is a new one, explored in great detail throughout the man’s accounts of the past (we never learn his name). The Great De-Evolution is the event where humans have devolved, and all newborn babies were born as comatose ‘blocks’, without the ability to think, move or speak. The gestation rate for these babies became to climb and soon, all babies that were born became blocks. Humans began to slowly fade out, as these new blocks could not attend school, couldn’t reproduce, or even think for themselves.
The narrator’s only company is his brother Andrew, a few years his junior who is a block. Every day, he speaks to his brother as if he was a walking, talking human being, and acts as his care taker. In his heartfelt and touching journal entries, he reminisces about how his parents ushered him to treat Andrew with love and respect as an equal, even though Andrew isn’t like him. Even in his old age, you can see the love that this old man has for Andrew, and how appreciative he is of his brother keeping him company until the end.
Despite the narrator’s fixation to his house, never really going anywhere else, the book holds your interest with his stories about the end of the world. The world building is in-depth and extensive, as he covers everything from the last cricket game, prejudice against those who gave birth, blocks being maltreated and the declining importance of higher education and even religion. Other countries dealt with the de-evolution in differing ways, although the outcome was the same. This is the end of the world as we know it, with scientists failing to figure out a way to create test tube babies that were healthy and ‘normal’ humans dying out.
All types of food could be created out of a magical food processor that makes food out of nothing, which was a bit of a convenient way to cover that issue. The aging man doesn’t need to hunt, cook or capture anything so he stays in his house and watches DVDs with Andrew. Not to mention the dangers of going outside – since humans devolved from being the dominant species, all types of animals went to fend for themselves in the wild, with some more successful than others. Animals post a constant threat to the man which is why he chooses to be holed up instead of leaving the town of Camelot and joining a colony further south.
While the concept of The Man Who Watched the World End was definitely interesting and covered in depth, there isn’t much to be achieved by an old man that refuses to leave his house or look for other chances of survival. He often regrets that he didn’t leave and join a colony sooner when he still had his health, and also thinks about his neighbours leaving him alone without saying goodbye. There’s quite a lot of repetition throughout the book about this, and about his block brother not being able to do anything – after the 30th time of explaining why his block brother couldn’t’ react, couldn’t move a muscle, couldn’t think and speak, I thought the book could have benefited from a bit of editing.
Despite these minor issues, I quite enjoyed this book as a unique, well thought-out dystopian that is so different than any other I’ve read. It’s more about a heart felt story about mortality, regrets and the deep bond of family love. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a different dystopian with excellent world building in the place of action.
I received a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 4 out of 5