Hi! Content warning 🙂 COVID-19 is hard. This novel is about a similar pandemic. Please move forward with care, if you so choose!
I read this novel and kept stopping, refreshing CNN, and wondering how far off we actually are. Severance is a hard read, because it’s eerily familiar to what’s going on with COVID-19. (You know, minus the part where it’s the total end of the world and only a literal handful of people survive.)
Severance brings us to New York City after a crushing plague wipes out what feels like the whole world. Totally alone in the city, Candace Chen realizes the only way to survive is to find others like her. She brings with her a secret that she knows will be used against her. Call it what you will: satire, sci-fi, mystery. You’ll be left head scratching until the very end.
Ling Ma has an excellent voice for this dystopian sort of novel. It’s gloomy, but not pessimistic. A bit dreary, but not boring. The story is a bit slow, toggling back and forth between Candace’s current situation with the other survivors and her past leading up to the pandemic. Severance is an easy read at face value, but dig in a little more and you’ll discover it’s even more of a gem than you initially realized.
Rarely do I find myself so hooked into a story with a main character so totally unlike myself. Candace is committed to her job to a fault, a representation of Ma’s commentary on the millennial generation. It is not a “zombie apocalypse” novel that typically comes with a novel about an epidemic. It’s a commentary on how we are already zombies, just too ignorant to realize it.