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Reading this book in a post-pandemic 2022, I can see why it created such a buzz when it was released. The End of Men was written before Covid-19, and the story revolves around a global pandemic with a 90% mortality rate, which came to be known as The Plague. In this story, only men became ill or died with the virus, although women could be carriers. The book begins in 2025, with a Doctor first realising that there is a common link between a very small number of patients who are all mysteriously dying of an unknown cause, with the same symptoms. As the virus takes hold and spreads around the world, there is widespread panic – there were riots, protests, a race for a vaccine. People were told to stay home, shops were closed, public transport was grounded, and families were divided for fear of transmitting the disease. Of course in the real world this now all feels very familiar.

The book is written from the points of view of several characters, the vast majority of which are women. Some only occupy a couple of chapters, while others are main characters which drive the narrative. Despite the large amount of narrators, I did not find it difficult to keep track of who was who, and each character was clearly drawn and believable. There were also a few newspaper articles and blog posts which made up chapters of their own, again all of which added to the story.

As for whether I liked the book – put it this way, I started this book on a long haul flight; I had downloaded a couple of films to watch during the journey but I didn’t get to them, because I could NOT put this book down. I would have found it very uncomfortable reading in 2020, but felt able to tackle it now, and I found it utterly absorbing, with every page and every character drawing me in, whether I liked them or not. It actually made me cry on a number of occasions when people were discussing their sorrow and grief, either for the people they had lost or the lives that they had planned and now would never had. Not all of the characters were likable, and some of them did some pretty awful things, but these were people dealing with a situation they never could have envisioned.

I stayed up late one night (I was jet-lagged but that wasn’t going to stop me) to finish it, and when I had read the last page, I thought it was one of the best books I have read in recent years. If I could read all books with the urgency I read this one, I would triple my reading output!

Anyway, I highly recommend this book (although beware that it may be triggering to people who are suffering emotionally with the fallout from Covid-19), and will definitely be buying anything else that Christina Sweeney-Baird writes.

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This film was something of a departure for Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was previously always known as an action star with the occasional foray into daft comedy (Twins, Junior). This is a post apocalyptic horror, slow moving but thoughtful and poignant.

The world is consumed by the Nercoambulist virus which turns those afflicted into violent ‘zombies’ 6-8 weeks after infection. Wade’s (Schwarzenegger) daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) has been infected but has not yet turned violent and he is determined to bring her home and look after her until such time as she turns violent and becomes a threat to their safety.

There are a few scary ‘made you jump’ moments, but this is not really that kind of a horror film. Instead, it’s more about watching someone die slowly, knowing that they will become a danger to their loved ones. It’s set in the present day, but the world has been ravaged by the virus. Wade loves his daughter but has to struggle with what he knows is to come.

I enjoyed the film, although it was by no means a relaxing watch. Schwarzenegger put to bed any suggestion that he can’t act – clearly he can, and while he might not be Oscar winning level, he is as good in this role as many other talented actors would be, and you can see the pain on his face.

My only complaint about the film is that it is just so dark. I don’t mean figuratively – it’s certainly that – I mean quite literally. A lot of the scenes are so dimly lit that it was sometimes difficult to make out what was happening. This reflected the tone of the film but at times became slightly frustrating. On the whole though, if you like a more thought provoking type of zombie movie, you might want to watch this.

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