Toxxic | Jane Hennigan

Toxxic is book 2 in the Moths series. In book 1, Moths, we read about a matriarchal world where men are held captive in special facilities. 50 years before, a toxin either killed all men and boys or turned them into furious, sadistic killers of any women they could get their hands on.

In Toxxic, a vaccine has been developed and there is a move to reintegrate men into society, in a controlled way. The women (all of ‘society’ is now women only) are not in agreement. Those who remember the massacre ask why would they want to risk it. And women who remember the world before the plague, male dominated and patriarchal, do not want to go back to that world.

In both novels, women reminisce about the bad ol’ days. It’s horrible to read, because it’s our world. Where women are, essentially, the [physically] weaker sex, forever at risk of male violence. They’re talking about women living in the United Kingdom, and by extension all women in the developed world and, basically, anywhere. Women who live in a constant state if not of fear, at least of wariness. We know all the social codes of how to behave ‘like a woman’, where we can or can’t walk alone, especially at night, how to behave in situations where males might be roused to anger, etc., etc.

There’s no doubt that living in a male dominated and patriarchal world is shit. Sure, ‘most’ men are not like that (blah di blah), many women will never be victims of male violence, etc., but…. Oh don’t get me started, it’s too damn depressing.

Maybe some younger women are not as triggered by these books, but you don’t reach my age without having seen some crap, in your own life, or in your family or wider circle. Male violence towards women is deeply embedded in our culture and daily lives. And now we are seeing women’s rights being eroded, again, in the backlash against feminism that is turning nastier by the day, spreading its filth from country to country, like an unstoppable toxin.

So it’s hard not to dream of a matriarchal society. Even if it’s not ideal and, surprise surprise, if it turns out that women can be just as nearly as corrupt, power-thirsty and awful as men, when in power. Still…

In short, Toxxic and Moths are difficult books to read. They are fantasy, dystopian stories but, like The HandMaid’s Tale (and plenty of other books), there is too much truth for comfort.

It’s also difficult to be objective about Toxxic’s literary value. Hard to think about plot, characters, dialogue and pacing when emotions are running high. It’s beyond me, to be honest.

So how many stars does that add up to? Let’s be generous, and go for the full 5, because, well, hell, we women need to stick together.

Thanks to the author, publisher and Netgalley for the ARC. All my reviews are 100% honest and unbiased, regardless of how I acquire the book.

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