On reading: Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Title: Wanderers

Author: Chuck Wendig

From the back: A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. From the mind of Chuck Wendig comes an astonishing tapestry of humanity that Harlan Coben calls “a suspenseful, twisty, satisfying, surprising, thought-provoking epic.” 

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And, like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead. 

For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them—and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them—the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unravelling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart—or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world. 

The gist: Imagine a virus is ravaging the world, right wing extremists are cementing their grip on the political landscape, politics and money are more important than the value of the lives behind it. Also, bats and celebrity. 

Wait. 

Oh, shit. 

Wendig has, quite simply, created a scarily prescient masterpiece, that’s sure to find its place in the classic novel lists of the future. Hell, it should probably just be on those lists now. It’s an epic tome, which gives Wendig the space to introduce a whole host of characters that combine to show many of the faces of humanity in a society that is threatened not just by viral destruction, but by hatred and racism and corporate greed. 

There are so many ways in which Wanderers explores the angles on our current situation. Ways that are both horrific, disturbing and at some times tender. This book understood my anger, this book understood fear, and this book made me cry. I’m hesitant to say too much about the content of this book—suffice to say you’ll need to read it through your own lens, it cannot help but sit in the context of your own experiences of the crazy times we call now

Wendig has always been a master at super pacy writing, punchy characters, and writing that ain’t scared to bite. And Wanderers is no exception. Getting to read such a large-scale piece from him is a true pleasure. 

Wanderers does for me what all great science fiction books do. It shines a light on us, as we are now. And it asks if we need to change. 

Hopefully it’s not too late. 

Favourite line: “Shit, Benji. Have you met America?”

Read if: You want a book that reflects so much of the hour we find ourselves living in.

Read with: Time to breathe, because this book is going to feel close to the bone.

Get it: Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

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