The “End of Men” Challenge

suz

© James Pyles

If you like my work, buy me a virtual cup of coffee at Ko-Fi

I get an email from Bookbub every morning. I initially signed up and indicated my book preferences to see if I could get a line on reading material I otherwise wouldn’t know about. I’ve even considered promoting some of my works on Bookbub, but according to Jericho Writers, it’s astonishingly expensive.

After a while, I stopped opening the emails. Most of the books looked really boring, and the few I did buy because of seeing them on the app weren’t particularly worth it.

Today, on impulse, I clicked the link and found End of Men by Suzanne Strobel (that’s her Amazon Author’s page).

The Bookbub blurb says:

For days now, every newborn baby in the US has been female. Why is it happening? What if it continues? Reporter Charley Tennyson will risk her life to find out… Unravel a dark conspiracy in a dystopian near-future in this unputdownable sci-fi read.

That sounds interesting, but I’ve seen books with lots of hype before that turned out to be lackluster.

However, I was curious and read the professional reviews on the Amazon book page:

“It’s not often that an author comes right out of the gate with such a beautifully written novel. Strobel’s style is lyrical and easy to read. The pace is fast and holds you from beginning to end. It’s eerie and amazing how this futuristic novel parallels our current world. Smart plotting, a unique premise and edge-of-your-seat action will keep you turning pages until the very end. This book will remain on my keeper shelf.” -Mindy Neff, USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author

“End of Men is a smart, evocative page-turner set in an unnervingly plausible future. Strobel’s plot unfolds at a furious pace, seamlessly weaving in scientific, technological and social details that will convince you her dystopian vision is right around the corner.” -Doug Kurtz, The Story Coach

“Suzanne Strobel has woven a narrative that holds up to the best of the top-tier dystopian writers. The heroine, Charley Tennyson, embarks on a journey where she uncovers the truth to a scientific mystery, has to build trust with others, and ultimately finds hope. You’re not going to want to pass up this gem; in fact you’re going to want to bring it to your book club.” -Tamara Palmer, Author of Finding Lancelot and Missing Tyler

That sounds pretty impressive. Also, there were 82 global ratings on Amazon with 78% of them being 4 and 5-star. That’s not bad.

suzanne strobel

Promotional image for “End of Men”

This book was published a year ago and Strobel has no other books listed. I also noticed on her Amazon author’s page that she hasn’t blogged in the last seven months. She also was last on twitter in October for a single retweet, and before that, last “tweeted” in June. It’s unusual for an author who wants to promote their works to “ghost” the public.

On the Author page of her blog, Strobel describes herself as:

Suzanne earned her Bachelor’s in Creative Writing at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her writing career has run the gamut from greeting cards and gift books to cybersecurity blogs, travel articles, and advertising campaigns for new homes and business ventures. END OF MEN is her debut novel.

Suzanne and her husband, Matt, live in Denver with three wonderful boys and a dachshund named Bucca.

This all led me to her March 23, 2021 blog post Male-Pattern Violence, Mass Shootings, and the “End of Men”.

While you can click the link to read the whole missive, I’m providing a few relevant quotes:

I didn’t talk about this deep, internalized fear (of mass shootings including Columbine) because it seemed pointless and “silly.” I certainly didn’t have any answers to solve it. Instead, I infused the topic into my novel as a way to explore it. End of Men takes place in a not-so-distant dystopian America where mass attacks become such an epidemic that the government shuts down public places and people are afraid to leave their homes. This was many years before Coronavirus and I wondered how I’d ever make such a thing seem believable.

Today, as I grapple with yesterday’s mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder less than a week after the shootings at massage parlors in Atlanta, that dystopian future seems all too possible. What does it say about the state of our nation that the scariest part of this pandemic might be facing public places again after it’s over for fear of getting shot?

And…

One of the boards I read coined the term “male-pattern violence.” This topic is incredibly sensitive, for obvious reasons. I actually avoided working on my book for a long time because of my discomfort addressing the issue. Like the protagonist, I worried it would look like I hated men and thought they were all evil, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I have an incredibly kind father, a wonderfully compassionate husband, three sweet young stepsons, and a lot of male friends who I love, trust, and admire.

And…

In all my research on gun violence and mass attacks in the United States, I found very few articles talking about the disturbing fact that the killers are overwhelmingly males.

While Strobel states that “It’s not about us versus them,” she does reference #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, and even quotes feminist Gloria Steinem:

“We’ve begun to raise our daughters more like sons…
but few have the courage to raise our sons
more like our daughters.”

[As an aside, the quote reminds me of Ruth Whippman’s New York Times opinion piece What We Are Not Teaching Boys About Being Human. Except “human” really means “girls.” I can’t get back to the article because the Times wants me to pay for it, and I refuse. As I recall, the author wanted boys to have the same sense of empathy for others as girls (stereotype much?).

She cited a long narrative about a girl who had committed herself to go to two birthday parties and then went through a comical (to me) set of actions to seem to be at both parties at once, running herself ragged going back and forth across town. It sounded like a bad sitcom. Why not just accept the first invitation and tell the person who had asked second that they had other plans but might be able to stop by later?

So driving yourself to distraction and being terrified to hurt anyone’s feelings, even in situations where it would be impossible to do otherwise is “human” or “raising sons like daughters.” Okey dokey.

But anyway…]

And finally…

After the COVID pandemic ends, we’ll all go back to work, school, concerts, and public events. Are we going to return to a steady stream of mass attacks in the United States? Sadly, I haven’t seen any gun reform or mental healthcare programs that lead me to believe otherwise.

We need gun control.

We need mental healthcare for everyone who is suffering. (Which, these days, is EVERYONE.)

And we need to take a hard look at the links between violence and masculinity.

This is not a video game. It’s not a movie.

Strobel mentions church both in her book and in reference to herself, so I assume (yes, dangerous, I know) that she’s a Christian. If that’s the case, I don’t see how her faith is being applied to her fears. Also, if males are so hostile and violent, how can she possibly trust her father, husband, or the idea that her step-sons won’t grow up to be killers?

I bought her book. $0.99 is pretty cheap so I’m just out a buck. Not everyone thinks it’s a good read, so I’m also taking a chance of wasting my time reading it.

Strobel’s blog post only vaguely addresses solutions to her fears such as gun control (which varies widely from state to state) and mental health treatment (it exists in multiple forms, but she doesn’t say what needs to be changed here).

She also didn’t state if she believes this is just an American problem or if males worldwide are hostile and violent (she seems focused on guns and the U.S, though). I mean, even if you take away all the guns, you haven’t solved “male pattern violence,” you’ve just changed the weapons violent men use.

On her blog post, she pretty much admits that she’s not abstractly addressing a societal woe. For her, this is personal. She’s personally afraid of gun violence, as if it will reach out and kill her or someone she loves. Granted, the probability isn’t trivial, but it’s not a foregone conclusion, either. Of course, she wouldn’t be the first author to project their personal issues into their writing.

In reading Strobel’s book, I want to see how she addresses her fears and if she provides any sort of solution (for herself if no one else). From what I know so far, she already has plugged in climate change, gender roles, government power, and violence in general into the novel (sounds like a narrative you’d find popular on twitter). It will either be insightful as fueled by her passion for this topic, or it will be self-serving and and try to suck the reader down into a whirlpool of her anxieties.

I’ve just started another novel, so Strobel’s book will have to wait a bit. I’ll review it on my blog as well as Amazon and Goodreads once I’ve finished with it.

It would be interesting to see a statistic of the percentage of the American population who is male and then what percentage of them have ever criminally shot anyone (police officers and soldiers sometimes shoot people as part of their duty). Yes, men commit the overwhelming number of gun crimes. Yes, gun crime, any violent crime, including rioting, is bad and we need to be better as a nation. But just how many men are truly evil? I ask because the men who aren’t evil are getting a little tired of being lumped into the same pot (Strobel says she’s not doing that, but it’s unavoidable when you use terms like “male pattern violence”).

Challenge accepted, Suz.

Addendum: Since webpages sometimes go “poof” when someone like me draws attention to them, I decided to archive Strobel’s article at The Wayback Machine. That way, the content will always be available, even if Strobel should take her write up or even her entire blog offline.

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