'The Gender Divide' by David Boultbee

The Gender Divide by David Boultbee

Shadowmere Publishing 2007

222 pages

ISBN: 9781890785123


I enjoyed this book–it’s something of a romp, although possibly that obscures a serious purpose. But, oh dear, it’s often unintentionally hilarious as well.

Boultbee posits a world in which women’s lifespans have increased three-fold following the introduction of a drug to control menstruation. Men are still constrained to their three-score-years and ten. This disparity has brought about substantial changes in society. Women now have all the top jobs, as they’ve had years in which to accumulate expertise and good references, while men predominate in the military. Babies are created by artificial means that don’t require ova. At the time the story’s set, tensions between the two gender groups are set to snap.

Enter Ryan Peters, beneficiary of a secret drug that extends male lifespans. He applies for a security job at pharma giant Delphi–and gets it, despite being male. This brings him back into contact with chief executive Olivia Morgan, who used to be his lover but now thinks he’s his own son. No, this story’s not a farce. He also meets two other high-powered women who work in Delphi’s management–Nicole and Brooke.

Bearing in mind that these three women are very powerful, and have lived far longer lives than most of us can expect to see, and that they’re also wealthy, well educated, and bright, what would you expect them to talk about when they get together? Ryan, you say? Well, you’d be right. Whenever they get together, it’s all Ryan, Ryan, Ryan. You’d think they’d never seen a man before.

Another aspect of the book that concerned me was that although the prejudice against man is talked about, it’s never really shown. We hear that Ryan had some problems with the women in his security team at first, but when we actually see him interacting with them, it all seems typically patriarchal. A shame, as there was an opportunity here to examine some interesting aspects of male/female relations turned on their heads.

The strongest character in the book is Nicole, who is able to hold her own with Ryan despite the author’s inability to make him as inferior as he’s meant to be. His relationship with her is perhaps a distraction from the ostensible plot–to retrieve the formula for the secret drug and thus “normalise” gender relations–but it’s touchingly human.

Overall, a book that tries very hard, but seems to shy off going deeply into the consequences of the set up. A missed opportunity.

(Did I talk about Ryan too much?)

Note: a print copy was reviewed.


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