September 2, 2010
Epitaph Road by David Patneaude
by David Patneaude
This post-apocalyptic novel takes place some thirty years after a virus wipes out 95% of the male population in approximately 2 weeks. Not surprisingly, women take over the roles formerly held by men. In short, they remake society. When schools teach history, they teach about the horrors brought to earth not by humanity but by men. Students learn how much better the world is under the reign of women.
Fast forward 30 years to the main story. Kellen is getting ready for his trials — the tests that will determine if he is a 2nd class member of society. Second class is the best that men can hope for in this new world. If he fails his trials, he can appeal but eventually he will be sterilized and relegated to an even narrower existence. You might think that when men are only 5 % of the world population, they would be cherished, but history lessons are rife with the crimes committed by men. Still Kellen doesn’t want most of the jobs open to men — he’s tired of living a life where he must constantly be accompanied by a woman, or a girl, known as a “minder.” He yearns for the freedom of life in the wilderness. A life outside of this women’s world.
Then he learns that the peninsula where his father and other loners live is about to be quarantined because another outbreak of the plague is expected. What would life in the wilderness be without his father? Kellen must get out ahead of the quarantine to warn his father of the impending danger.
I can’t tell you much more about the book because it would completely spoil the plot. But Kellen does have several eye opening moments in the wilderness. For one thing, even there men are not truly free. Tale a close look at the cover, a lonely male figure with women watching over him.
It would have been very easy for the author to create a cast of card-board characters for this kind of novel. Women would be evil and men to be pitied. Fortunately for the world of teen literature, Pateaude does much better than this. He gives any thinking reader quite a bit to noodle over in compelling story about love and friendship and family and trust.
Unlike a lot of dystopian literature, this novel isn’t as disturbing as it might be. Yes, the premise of feminism gone frightfully wrong is terrifying, but there is hope. After all, Kellen can’t go to the wilderness alone and those who go with him, statistically speaking, are not very likely to be male.
Give this book to the reluctant male reader in your life. Challenge him to read it and then have a lively discussion. Does he think it is possible? What similarities does he see between his life and Kellen’s? You might be surprised by the answers you get and, if you are much of a thinker, you might also be just a little bit uncomfortable.