Daily Blog #354: Book Review- Severance by Ling Ma

Greetings and Salutations, Blog Readers!

Today I thought I would hit you guys up with a book review. As you may or may not know, I have been working on reading more, not just rereading fiction I love, but reading nonfiction as well. Some at the suggestion of my therapist, others at the suggestion of either vloggers/fellow readers, or things that caught my attention. Because some of them have been super good, I thought, hey, why not put together some reviews for the blog?

Since I have several books to review, along with a game, I figured I would start with a fiction book. Not just a fiction book, but an apocalyptic fiction book, clearly meant for me, as it is an apocalyptic fiction book for and about millennials. Largely about human condition, with a dash of nearly zombie type fiction, with so many classic elements that I love about apocalyptic fiction.

This book is called “Severance” by Ling Ma and chronicles the story of Candace Chen, who was likely one of the last people left alive when a virus struck the world. As a note, this book was written before 2020…but damn…things got a little real at parts.

The virus is called the Shen Fever, and is hard to detect, and is 100% fatal. The virus starts as a simple enough cold, but quickly becomes worse. Before long, infected fall into patterns of repeating simple tasks they have always done, like setting a table and eating dinner, over and over and over again, or folding shirts in their workplace, forever. The virus, we learn, slowly takes over the entire world.

Candace Chen was one of, If not the last, person in NYC, staying due to a large pay out promised by her employer if she sticks around and runs their home office in the face of the pandemic. This book is told in non linear order, common for apocalyptic fiction, so it is told flashing from Candace’s time in NYC, from her arrival, to her last days, to her time with a group of fellow millennial survivors.

The group is pretty odd, led by a guy named Bill who I truly did not like, but, I didn’t like him because he reminded me of a type of person I don’t like.

The group still clings to Bob as a leader, mostly because I guess they are too scared to be on their own. This whole group thing bugged me, quite a bit, because being in this sort of group in the apocalypse is like a terrible nightmare.

The story tells us about Candace’s parents, their immigration to America, and how their views of their old country, and their views of the new country, impacting young Candace, and formed her world views that would later lead to how she approached things in NYC, and, in “The End”.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, as I do think it is an excellent read, but, it isn’t my favorite of apocalyptic fiction, but, it is a very compelling one. I do wish it was…*more* but, I also understand that sometimes when trying to write apocalyptic fiction with a mind towards milleinials, you may fall from the plot, instead of seeing yourself in the main character, which is what this book feels like. That said, I quite enjoyed the diversion, and I liked reading the many parts that lead to the character of Candace Chen.

The story has some turns I didn’t see, and I will not reveal here, but Candace’s “condition” leads to some issues, and, in the end, leads, in part, to how Candace survives the situation.

The story ends in a way I really don’t like, as it is slightly open ended, but, I did some research and the author said she may do a second one to follow up. If she does, I will be grabbing it up, because that was the only thing I didn’t like.

One thing I WILL say is this book stuck with me. So many of the details were so well done, so well presented, that it was left with me. I think about it all the time and will likely reread it. I know I could go on for a long while all about the capitalism angles, the bits about people repeating their own behaviours, how memories were triggering people to get the virus, how much you couldn’t tell who truly had the virus…But honestly it was all the details of Candace and her life and journey that stuck with me.

This book is overwhelmingly worth the read, and I am working hard to not give too much away because I am hoping to launch a book club and this book would be in it, so I would like to save the deeper discussion for that book club.

But you can pick up a copy of the book on Amazon, or any bookstore Amazon hasn’t put out of business, so go check it out, and let me know what you think, or, wait until my book club launches and join us in the reading of Severance by Ling Ma

Thanks for reading,

Abbi

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