Millennial banality with zombies

Severance
by Ling Ma (Author), Nancy Wu (Narrator)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“The end begins before you are ever aware of it.“

Odd book. The beginning feels like Covid-19 reimagined, bacterial instead of viral. Or rather it’s prophetic, as it was written in 2018. Apocalyptic/dystopian on the surface, it reads more like literary fiction. Commentary on capitalism, consumerism, the life of millennials, hopes and aspirations and the reality of making ends meet, the occasional boredom and banality of everyday life and work.

A long look back at the depressing/monotonous life of the MC. Average millenial with average job, living an average-sounding life of the relatively well-off. Illness strikes, an outbreak at first and then a pandemic. People seem to wind up as harmless zombies, wandering about and repeating tasks of their living past. Society as we know it ends. Our MC eventually leaves New York and joins up with a group of other survivors.

The backstories of the MC and her parents, Chinese immigrants to the US, take centre stage for most of the book. Which made me question if the apocalyptic setting was just a gimmick, to draw more readers. There is an odd amount of narrative about the MCs book production job. This had me wondering even more, what the whole point of this book was supposed to be. The dystopian elements only play a small part.

One of my GR friends described this as a „a slightly disguised New Adult Contemporary coming of age“. It’s a bit deeper than that, but nails it pretty well.

The audiobook narrator sounded pretty bored and laconic for most of the book. Or depressed? Pretty similar to how the MC felt about her life before the apocalypse.

The last few chapters made up for the indifference I mostly felt towards this story. The ending is pretty open, which I usually hate, but it gave a nice sense of purpose and possibility here.

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