Dark Lullaby

Polly Ho-Yen

Rating: 4 out of 5.

We used to worry about nuclear weapons, overpopulation, climate change… but not this. Not infertility.”

It’s been over twenty years since the last child was conceived naturally. Trying to have a baby involves long, painful, and sometimes fatal fertility treatment, but a successful outcome – a child – is the most precious thing in the modern world. So precious that the government takes an active hand in that child’s upbringing. So precious that parents can’t be trusted to do the right thing. They need to be observed. They need to be judged. And if they’re found wanting…well, that’s what the OSIP inspectors are for.

Dark Lullaby is set in a near-future dystopia where humanity faces an almost 100% infertility rate. On the surface, it’s a novel about a mother’s love for her child, and what lengths she will go to to protect that child. Dig a bit deeper, and it becomes an observation of the way in which a woman’s worth is often linked to her fecundity and how well she performs the roles that society expects from her, and the way in which she is punished if she rebels or fails. It’s totally not my sort of novel, but I loved it. It’s thoughtful and well-written, with an undercurrent of menace running throughout. It’s also perfectly plausible: studies have shown that sperm counts are dropping in the west, and reproduction rates are falling all across the world. I wonder how our respective governments would respond to a suddenly shrinking populace?

I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Publication date: 23rd March 2021

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