Chuck Wendig, Wanderers, Del Rey, 2019.
Audio version available on Audible.
Wanderers is a present-day science-fiction novel. It's a competently written novel, and, though I had some issues with it, it proved to be an engrossing read.
Please note: content warnings follow.
America, present time. A teenager stops everything and starts walking. Where? No one knows. She doesn't answer to her desperate sister who starts following her. She doesn't stop, she doesn't sleep. Soon, others are joining her. America starts panicking. At the same time, a corpse is found, full of a strange fungi.
Content warning 1.
I'm writing this review at the time we're quarantined in Europe because of Covid-19, but I read it last month. Back then, the virus seemed a pretty distant thing. Not so much today. It may be the case also where you are. In which case, if the situation is stressful or anxiety inducing to you, I advise you to skip this novel.
Content warning 2.
The second page may put ace/aro persons (and allies) into a rage. Ace/aro persons are shoe-horned, for no good reason, and there's a complete misunderstanding as to what is this identity. You may want to DNF there and then. If you are willing to give it a try anyway, skip the prologue entirely. It has almost no relevance to the rest of the book.
Because, yes, Wendig wrote a very *very* topical novel. Think pandemic, virus apocalypse, the internet blinking out and stuff. On the other hand, when I read it (in that blissful innocence that made me think I wouldn't be affected) I found myself quite engrossed in it. Wendig writes extremely competently. The prose is clear cut, the story full of action. You simply want to know what happens next. Nonetheless, it is also a weakness because it follows a lot of tropes, typical of American SFF.
But it is a portrait of America right now that Wendig gives us. The far right is very much present in this and Wanderers, beyond the apocalyptic story, is a satire of the current politics in the USA.
I think that the strongest point of Wanderers really is how Wendig weaves the story, how he brings you along for a ride and doesn't let you go. It may prove to be a book you'll read late into the night.
The ending provides a very welcome bitter-sweet counterpoint. It may even be a surprising twist to some readers.
Wendig tries to offer diverse characters, with mixed results. He goes for an ensemble cast and succeeds at making each individually relevant, but your interest for those characters may vary. Some will stick though: the aging rock star, the persistent scientist...
Wanderers may not be the right novel for you at the moment. But if you can face it, it will prove to be the book you don't want to let go of.
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All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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