Review: Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. In the tradition of The Stand and Station Eleven comes a gripping saga that weaves an epic tapestry of humanity into an astonishing tale of survival.

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 are 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 unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advanced reading copy of Wanderers in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this eARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.

When I saw the cover reveal for Wanderers last year, I just knew that I had to have it. I am a big fan of Wendig’s writing, especially his Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy and Miriam Black series. Knowing that this was going to be an epic tome, approximately 775 pages, I had to come up with a plan of action in order to get to it among the multitude of other novels begging for my attention.

Well, suffice it to say, Wanderers didn’t have to beg for my constant attention over the past week or so. I was more than happy to give it my full and undivided attention each and every time I opened up my Kindle. This cinder block of a novel never stopped gripping me with its meaty fists, even after I had turned the last page and thought back on the journey I had just traversed. I have to say this though: yes, it is a monster of a novel and the page count doesn’t even begin to stack up against the word count (I can only imagine the freaking word count…), but I never felt overwhelmed or that I was drowning in the pages. This is a story you really never want to end, even though it has to stop at some point and allow you to get out of bed and get on with your day.

There are many early reviews comparing it to Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ (and even Chuck throws a little nod to King in the novel), but Wanderers wholly stands on its own merit. I also reflected on a couple of other big names and works like Robert Kirkman’s ‘The Walking Dead’ and Joe Hill’s ‘The Fireman’ while reading, but as far as comparisons or similarities go, they are few and far between.

Wanderers is a novel that I felt never really took its foot off the accelerator. There were never any parts that I felt I had to slog through, and even though a majority of our time is spent with “the horde”, there was enough packed into each successive chapter to keep me engaged.

While the most engaging part of the novel was the intrigue surrounding the epidemic, the vast array of characters proved to be the the highlight. There are plenty of POVs to see each and every scene from a variety of angles, each one topping the previous and adding more depth to the story. You are also provided an open door into the minds of each and every main character, exposing their innermost thoughts, desires, and motivations. Being able to see everything unfold from the variety of characters was simply stunning.

While this is a tale of survival in a post-apocalyptic world, Wendig also weaves in denialistic views on climate change, the world’s addiction to technology and the requirement of it to survive, white supremacy being on the rise again (still don’t really get why it’s a thing), science being sorely overlooked, and presidential race that looks all too familiar. There is also a pretty heavy focus on religion (not really enlightening if you are a Believer like myself), but I chose to tune out those bits in order to look at the story as a whole instead of gawking at the way it was displayed and getting upset over it.

All in all, Wanderers is THE epic of the summer and you need to make sure you have it on your wishlist. This book is an electrifying marvel and deserves your attention, so make it a priority. Your bookshelf, or your reading device, will thank you.

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