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Severance : ling ma (Ebook)

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Maybe it’s the end of the world, but not for Candace Chen, a millennial, first-generation American and office drone meandering her way into adulthood in Ling Ma’s offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire, Severance. Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant paren Maybe it’s the end of the world, but not for Candace Chen, a millennial, first-generation American and office drone meandering her way into adulthood in Ling Ma’s offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire, Severance. Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she’s had her fill of uncertainty. She’s content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend.So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies cease operations. The subways screech to a halt. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.Candace won’t be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They’re traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?A send-up and takedown of the rituals, routines, and missed opportunities of contemporary life, Ling Ma’s Severance is a moving family story, a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale, and a hilarious, deadpan satire. Most important, it’s a heartfelt tribute to the connections that drive us to do more than survive.


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Maybe it’s the end of the world, but not for Candace Chen, a millennial, first-generation American and office drone meandering her way into adulthood in Ling Ma’s offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire, Severance. Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant paren Maybe it’s the end of the world, but not for Candace Chen, a millennial, first-generation American and office drone meandering her way into adulthood in Ling Ma’s offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire, Severance. Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she’s had her fill of uncertainty. She’s content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend.So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies cease operations. The subways screech to a halt. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.Candace won’t be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They’re traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?A send-up and takedown of the rituals, routines, and missed opportunities of contemporary life, Ling Ma’s Severance is a moving family story, a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale, and a hilarious, deadpan satire. Most important, it’s a heartfelt tribute to the connections that drive us to do more than survive.

30 review for Severance : ling ma (Ebook)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roxane

    Well written post-apocalyptic story that goes back and forth between a woman in the world after an epidemic wipes out most of humanity and everything in her life leading up to it. Very compelling, nuanced protagonist. Maddening ending that could be stronger.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    4.5 stars This book stopped me right in my tracks - literally. I read it in the span of five hours; I could not put it down. In Severance, Ling Ma shares the story of Candace Chen, a self-described millennial worker drone who spends much of her life sequestered in a Manhattan office tower. With both of her parents recently deceased and no other family or close friends, she has little else to do, aside from going to work and watching movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend. Candace thus 4.5 stars This book stopped me right in my tracks - literally. I read it in the span of five hours; I could not put it down. In Severance, Ling Ma shares the story of Candace Chen, a self-described millennial worker drone who spends much of her life sequestered in a Manhattan office tower. With both of her parents recently deceased and no other family or close friends, she has little else to do, aside from going to work and watching movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend. Candace thus feels little emotion when the Shen Fever hits, a plague that renders people into non-violent zombie versions of themselves, doomed to repeat the same rote tasks over and over until they become fully unconscious. The story flashes between Candace's life before the Shen Fever hits, as well as after, when she travels with a group of survivors led by a power-hungry, authoritarian man named Bob. Ling Ma creates an excellent atmosphere in Severance. While reading, I felt claustrophobic, trapped, and hooked into the story all at the same time - similar to how a lot of millennials feel within late-stage capitalism. The flashbacks and flashforwards worked well here, as they served to deepen Candace's character and backstory while also propelling the narrative forward. Within this tight, gripping plot, Ma inserts commentary about the deadening, devastating effects of capitalism that strikes a skillful balance between serious and satirical. Every element of this story - the zombie apocalypse, Candace's coming-of-age, the dive into corporate life - all came together in a dark, entrancing, and unputdownable way. I have to say my heart broke when Ma wrote about Candace's immigrant parents and how their assimilation to the United States involved the absorption of capitalism. The way she wrote about Candace's father's relationship with work and her mother's relationship with material goods felt so true to my own immigrant family's experience in this country. Taking this aspect of the novel together with a reveal about Candace that happens pretty early in the story, I appreciated how Ma weaves in understated yet powerful insights about race, gender, and exploitation of foreign labor throughout the book. A quirky, cynical, yet important read that has made me think a lot about what matters most in my life (hint: it's leaning toward my close friends and mentees/students, not my work). The style of this book reminded me of Weike Wang's Chemistry and Gabe Habash's Stephen Florida , with some Station Eleven vibes too. Highly recommended to those critical of society's emphasis on work who also want a unique, well-written story.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tasha

    I must be in the minority because this book fell flat for me and the ending was a huge let down.

  4. 5 out of 5

    emma

    Ling Ma served us a whole meal. A feast. A buffet. A week’s worth of Thanksgiving dinners made up of gorgeously subtle metaphor and allegory and motif, if you will. And I will personally be stuffing myself my dear boy. This is the kind of book that makes me wish I was still a student and I was assigned this book in an English class, and could spend a week's worth of hour-long lectures deep in discussion with 20 other people (but reasonably only four who had actually read it). It's the kind of book Ling Ma served us a whole meal. A feast. A buffet. A week’s worth of Thanksgiving dinners made up of gorgeously subtle metaphor and allegory and motif, if you will. And I will personally be stuffing myself my dear boy. This is the kind of book that makes me wish I was still a student and I was assigned this book in an English class, and could spend a week's worth of hour-long lectures deep in discussion with 20 other people (but reasonably only four who had actually read it). It's the kind of book I could have reread immediately after reading for the first time, and then a million times after that. It's the kind of book that makes you think about that terrible movie with Bradley Cooper where he takes the pill that opens his brain up to full functioning, because that's the only way I can reasonably imagine being able to fully appreciate this. The themes in this, man, the f*cking themes: The immigrant parent’s journey versus Candace’s pregnant journey in a new world. The fevered mindlessly going through tasks versus the pre-pandemic office workers doing the same. The idea of a “colony” and what that means. So, so many more. I need to reread this immediately, is what I'm saying. Bottom line: I want to eat this with a spoon. --------------- pre-review do you remember those weird toys from childhood that were like little heart-shaped doodads with cartoon characters on them, and when you soaked them in water they turned into branded dish towels? this book made me feel like one of those. but in reverse. review to come / at least 4.5 stars but maybe 5 --------------- currently-reading updates taking a mental health test by reading a post-apocalyptic book in which the apocalypse was a pandemic featuring a virus that first appears like a cold --------------- tbr review my face when i hear the words "anti-capitalist dystopian literary fiction": 😍

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    I relate a lot to the millenial experience of banality and monotony under capitalism; in fact, I could easily see myself in the same position as the main character, where I still go to work despite the death around me. I like that the zombie apocalypse is different in the sense that it is non-violent, and more so a mindless depiction of people following the same routine over and over again. I also appreciate the additional layer of the immigrant narrative and how the main character's feeling of I relate a lot to the millenial experience of banality and monotony under capitalism; in fact, I could easily see myself in the same position as the main character, where I still go to work despite the death around me. I like that the zombie apocalypse is different in the sense that it is non-violent, and more so a mindless depiction of people following the same routine over and over again. I also appreciate the additional layer of the immigrant narrative and how the main character's feeling of "otherness" is what keeps her disaffected from the disease. But while I like these themes a lot, I still feel very lukewarm about the book and question if the author could have done a lot more, especially since the ending feels rushed and lacks any satisfaction. The commentary of people behaving like drones and mindlessly obsessed with technology and consumerism is obvious and has been done before; I would have liked to see more nuance or new takeaways, and I think the immigrant experience could have been better incorporated to make the book more unique.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    Severance is a very clever, dare I say brilliant allegory and/or modern day fable/ meditation on how we (specifically urban but in general all) humans go about living our lives. This was a Millennial novel that hit the spot for this borderline Baby Boomer/Gen Xer (I flex towards Gen X if you are interested). Ma wrote a zombie novel that seems to ask why fear the zombie apocalypse when we are already zombies? Ma takes aim at our extremely fast paced, material driven, internet immersed society and Severance is a very clever, dare I say brilliant allegory and/or modern day fable/ meditation on how we (specifically urban but in general all) humans go about living our lives. This was a Millennial novel that hit the spot for this borderline Baby Boomer/Gen Xer (I flex towards Gen X if you are interested). Ma wrote a zombie novel that seems to ask why fear the zombie apocalypse when we are already zombies? Ma takes aim at our extremely fast paced, material driven, internet immersed society and wonders what's the point. She also takes aim at traditional roles, and nostalgia and the mythologies of the "past" and the struggles of the past. For me, this was a powerful novel that looks at the life we have today and ponders the relevance.(view spoiler)[ Summary: Candace Chen is a "dreamer" brought from China at the age of 5. She has assumed a stereotypical role of the millennial. She is squandering her potential, spoiled, rather non plussed/ blasé about life and what it has in store. Her parents die in an accident that leaves her a significant amount of money to live on in NYC but the money is running out. She takes an uninspiring job at a book publisher as a product manager for Gemstone bibles. Shen flu is starting to take out large chunks of the population and her company has offered her a significant amount of money along with a few others, to continue showing up for work in the next year. Several young people take this offer while the older workers decide to spend their final days with their families. She holds out for the entire year while the population in NYC dwindles down to zero, pondering the nature of her job, her relationships, her life, her family, her future etc. She walks everywhere as she explores the abandoned city for her blog NYC Ghost. She finally leaves NYC and connects with a few survivors led by Bob an IT manager and would be cult leader. Bob finds out that she is pregnant and holds her captive. The end of the book finds her escaping to Chicago and walking which is a huge symbol at the end of the novel. (hide spoiler)] Ma takes aim at the superficiality of our urban myths "Jonathan had become increasingly disillusioned with living in New York. Something along the lines of: the city, New York fucking City, tedious and boring, its charms as illusory as its façade of authenticity. Its lines were too long. Everything was a status symbol and everything cost too much. There were so many on-trend consumers, standing in lines for blocks to experience a fad dessert, gimmicky art exhibits, a new retail concept store. We were all making such uninspired lifestyle choices." "“To live in a city is to live the life that it was built for, to adapt to its schedule and rhythms, to move within the transit layout made for you during the morning and evening rush, winding through the crowds of fellow commuters. To live in a city is to consume its offerings. To eat at its restaurants. To drink at its bars. To shop at its stores. To pay its sales taxes. To give a dollar to its homeless. To live in a city is to take part in and to propagate its impossible systems. To wake up. To go to work in the morning. It is also to take pleasure in those systems because, otherwise, who could repeat the same routines, year in, year out?” I definitely get the point. As exciting as it sounds to be in the city. The experience culminates to something more vacuous than invigorating. But through the quotes you can see Ma is branching out from urban living to…living. With our nonsensical, material based routines. Candace is intelligent but uninspired to do anything. She's a ne'er do well. Capable but not driven because in this tale there is no consequence to failure and very minimal benefit to success. Or rather in this tale, the benefits to success are intrinsic but the definition of success changes when the system changes. This is the system we have. If it's not what we want, why on earth is the system the way that it is? Or rather from Ma's point of view, why would we tolerate it? Candace has a typically complicated relationship with her parents. (view spoiler)[Her mother judging her for her lack of will to succeed because she has all the benefits that her parents didn't have. Her mother forced to leave a good job in China as an accountant for America where she made wigs. Slightly resentful of the opportunities that her daughter has and doesn't take advantage. Her mother dies early and is constantly appearing in her subconscious also a key point in the novel. Her mother represents her competence, her ambition, her drive, her survival instinct. “You’re not doing too well. You barely eat. You don’t sleep enough. You don’t do things to keep your mind active. You don’t read. She says, Only in America do you have the luxury of being depressed. She says, Change your clothes. Brush your teeth. Wash your face. Moisturize. Exercise. Get yourself together. She says, Now is not the time to give up. It’s only going to get harder. You need to figure this out.” Candace both resents and appreciates this apparition of her subconscious in the shape of her mother. (hide spoiler)] Candace has a boyfriend Johnathan who is a "free spirit". Through him Ma examines the concepts of independence, freedom, antiestablishmentarianism. (view spoiler)[ Johnathan does not want to be part of the machine. “It was the anonymity. He wanted to be unknown, unpossessed by others' knowledge of him. That was freedom.” He is leaving NYC and wants her to come with him. She loves him but doesn't believe that life would be good outside of the system. “What I didn’t say was: I know you too well. You live your life too idealistically. You think it’s possible to opt out of the system. No regular income, no health insurance. You quit jobs on a dime. You think this is freedom but I still see the bare, painstakingly cheap way you live, the scrimping and saving, and that is not freedom either. You move in circumscribed circles. You move peripherally, on the margins of everything, pirating movies and eating dollar slices. I used to admire this about you, how fervently you clung to your beliefs—I called it integrity—but five years of watching you live this way changed me. In this world, money is freedom. Opting out is not a real choice.” (hide spoiler)] Constance is opting for the "dream" aka drone like existence that she also eschews but doesn't have any idea what is better. Candance eventually joins a band of what seems to be the last folks on earth lead by an old IT guy named Bob. (view spoiler)[Bob has a lot of pretentious, pious beliefs about the patriarchy. He's a bit of a scary cult leader or would be if there were any people left. Bob is I think representative of what Corporate America tries to uphold "Christian values" emphasis on values. Though religion was not strong in this novel it definitely lurked everywhere. But what Bob was also trying to do is restore a sense of normalcy and uphold the ideas of what is good and decent and successful (crass consumerism). Bob was part owner of a mall. As an IT person, I think the concept of Bob is brilliant. IT is filled with men who think they know more than anyone about the world because they are techy. (hide spoiler)] I think Ma has been channeling a less dense Margaret Atwood here. She "gets" the subtle but clever and strong satire. The other strong theme with Severance was nostalgia. There is an old saying that nostalgia is a form of narcissism. Ma takes this concept to interesting places. Candace was evading thinking about the past. Running from memories of her life, her parents etc. (view spoiler)[A theme throughout the book was the concept of going home and being with loved ones at the end of the world. Her employers in the end tried to encourage her to go spend time with loved ones. But the flu seemed to feed on nostalgia and turned people into zombies. When they focus on nostalgia, the flu consumes them. Candace seemed to avoid this until the end of the book when she gave birth to her daughter. I believe in the end, the flu got her through the love of her daughter and the desire to create a home based upon what she knew. When you look at it that way, this book is so unexpectedly profound. (hide spoiler)] Plus it is a bit of a Millennial satire. There is this atmosphere of dissatisfaction and boredom with life and people and material things. This feeling of entitlement and underachievement and at the same time desire to please the parents and respect them. To reject traditions, old ways and routines but at the same time try to respect the sacrifices endured. I really enjoyed Severance. The novel was quite amusing and low key. Both in it's sarcastic tone and it's unexpected depth and intellectual heft. The symbolism doesn't smack you in the face, but it's not that hidden either. I think there is much more Ma in my future. She is very smart, observant, funny and wise. I would love to know what her eyes see beyond the Millennials. 4.5 Stars happily rounded up Listened to the audio book and read on kindle. Nancy Wu did a fine job narrating this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. As usual, I'm in the minority about Severance, a plodding post-apocalyptic story about a millennial drone named Candace Chen. When Shen Fever sweeps through the country, killing off most of the population, Candace continues to go to work at the publishing office because she signed a contract. What else is there to do? Her boyfriend has moved away. Her parents are dead. Eventually, she meets up with a small group of survivors led by a weirdo named Bob, who lead them to the Facility, a deserted As usual, I'm in the minority about Severance, a plodding post-apocalyptic story about a millennial drone named Candace Chen. When Shen Fever sweeps through the country, killing off most of the population, Candace continues to go to work at the publishing office because she signed a contract. What else is there to do? Her boyfriend has moved away. Her parents are dead. Eventually, she meets up with a small group of survivors led by a weirdo named Bob, who lead them to the Facility, a deserted mall, to regroup and start a new life. But their numbers dwindle as the fever catches up to them and Candace harbors a secret of her own that may threaten her livelihood within this motley crew. Post apocalyptic books are popping up all over the place, which is fine and dandy, but this one was so boring. That's my main gripe. Who knew the end of the world was so catastrophically anti-climatic? Let me be clear; this is not a story about zombies or the end of the world but a brief look at immigration and first generation descendants and how newcomers adapt to their new country, freedom and rules. The title refers to Candace's father severing ties with China when he left to pursue his education in the USA. When the Tiananmen Square protests erupted, the violence and bloodshed solidified her father's vow that he and his family would never return to their homeland. This led to simmering animosity between Candace's parents and after their deaths, Candace has gone on with her life, albeit a bit without direction. She goes to work. She hangs out with her coworkers. She has sex with her boyfriend. Rinse. Repeat. Candace's POV veers between the past, when her parents were alive and adjusting to their lives in America and when she immigrated later, and her current predicament with Bob and the survivors. Candace is not likable; I didn't hate her but she was as boring as the end of the world. Her voice wasn't interesting, nor was her life. I didn't care about her job or what she did when she traveled to China for work. I wanted to know more about society crumbling, the sweep of Shen fever, how sick people were, the chaos, destruction, the fear. There was some world building but not enough. There were also strange, odd descriptions about her sexual interactions with her boyfriend, Jonathan, that felt out of place. I guess it was to show how disaffected she is about everything, including intimacy, but the scenes felt gross and uncomfortable, which is part of the point, I guess. I did love how the author compared Jonathan's penis to a sea cucumber. Classic! I wished I had thought of that. The writing was really good and the premise had potential but the pace was too slow, dull and Candace's voice made me sleepy. This book just wasn't for me. I want scares, a survivor horror tale, being chased by zombies and/or bad guys, not a mild satire of office life or whatever this book was supposed to be about. But then I'm dark like that.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    An apocalyptic satire about the global onset of Shen Fever, a plague that turns people into mindless drones, Severance follows Candace Chen as she attempts to navigate a world stripped of choice and feeling. In the main plot, Candace joins a group of survivors trying to reach a safe haven from the fever in Chicago. Along the way, Candace struggles to conceal a secret about her health, while also trying not to quarrel with the group’s self-appointed leader, a self-righteous former IT worker named An apocalyptic satire about the global onset of Shen Fever, a plague that turns people into mindless drones, Severance follows Candace Chen as she attempts to navigate a world stripped of choice and feeling. In the main plot, Candace joins a group of survivors trying to reach a safe haven from the fever in Chicago. Along the way, Candace struggles to conceal a secret about her health, while also trying not to quarrel with the group’s self-appointed leader, a self-righteous former IT worker named Bob. Interspersed between these chapters are ones recounting the life stories of Candace’s immigrant parents, as well as ones overviewing Candace’s life as a late millennial working as a publishing assistant in NYC. The author parallels these trio of plots in clever ways: much of the novel’s wry satire comes from noticing the connections between the storylines. The book is otherwise fairly bleak, though it has a not unhopeful ending. The novel’s commentary on late capitalism and Western imperialism is sharp. While I found the last fourth of Severance to be a let down, the rest was brilliant, and I’m looking forward to following Ma’s career.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Sullivan

    I feel like this book was written just for me. It’s a post-apocalyptic anti-capitalist office satire that explores so many of the themes that resonate with millennials like myself. Candace is one of the few survivors of Shen Fever, an epidemic that turns people into non-violent zombies condemned to repeat rote tasks over and over again until they slip into fatal unconsciousness. (You can sense the metaphor already, I’m sure.) For a few months, Candace stays on at her office job—one of the few pe I feel like this book was written just for me. It’s a post-apocalyptic anti-capitalist office satire that explores so many of the themes that resonate with millennials like myself. Candace is one of the few survivors of Shen Fever, an epidemic that turns people into non-violent zombies condemned to repeat rote tasks over and over again until they slip into fatal unconsciousness. (You can sense the metaphor already, I’m sure.) For a few months, Candace stays on at her office job—one of the few people left—aiming to fulfill her contract so she can receive the large payout she’s been promised (and possibly even get a promotion). The absurdity of this is certainly not lost: Candace is the quintessential millennial who is expected, in spite of herself, to value industriousness and professional success above all else, to the point that she’s still hanging onto those ideals as the world around her is literally ending. Then, of course, there are the parallels between Shen Fever victims and working millennials living under late-stage capitalism, both existences plagued by a sense of meaninglessness and routine. Eventually, Candace leaves her job, and New York City, to head west with a small group of survivors led by a vaguely menacing man named Bob. The narrative flows between this present time and Candace’s life leading up to it. Ultimately, in her increasingly precarious situation, she finds herself taking control of her life, arguably for the first time ever. I loved this book. It’s sharp and wry and contemporary and all the things I want in a novel.

  10. 4 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    “The past is a black hole, cut into the present day like a wound, and if you come too close, you can get sucked in. You have to keep moving.” Ling Ma's Severance seems ever more relevant. What if we are already losing cultural and familial connection to our world before the zombie apocalypse (or global pandemic)? If that's the case, what would we have to fall back on? Severance is a zombie book with a lot going on just below the surface. In Ma's take, zombies aren't going after humans. Instead, t “The past is a black hole, cut into the present day like a wound, and if you come too close, you can get sucked in. You have to keep moving.” Ling Ma's Severance seems ever more relevant. What if we are already losing cultural and familial connection to our world before the zombie apocalypse (or global pandemic)? If that's the case, what would we have to fall back on? Severance is a zombie book with a lot going on just below the surface. In Ma's take, zombies aren't going after humans. Instead, their existence mirrors what they did before they were struck with Shen Fever. These reenactments actually empty their actions of significance (both before they became zombies and after). Ma's protagonist, Candace Chen, tries to make sense of a New York City emptied of people before she strikes out for a place called the Facility where she can presumably start over. Ma, however, makes it clear how difficult starting over can be. It's not just about survival. “A second chance doesn't mean you're in the clear. In many ways, it is the more difficult thing. Because a second chance means that you have to try harder. You must rise to the challenge without the blind optimism of ignorance.” I really enjoyed Ma's smart and dryly humorous take on zombies! 4.5 stars. Fantastic to have LIng Ma in Wyoming!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sanne | Booksandquills

    Yes, yes and yes. This was exactly what I was looking for. Just enough apocalypse to make this an eerie pandemic read, but also lots of introspection and commentary on the daily grind of office life. Read the second half in one sitting. Would recommend for lovers of Station Eleven. *This copy was sent to me by the publisher for review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Not your standard zombie post-apocalypse. I liked the humor and Candace's detail-rich backstory, immigrated as a child from Fujian province to Salt Lake City, most of all. Her trip to Shenzhen for her book publishing job alone was worth the read. Not your standard zombie post-apocalypse. I liked the humor and Candace's detail-rich backstory, immigrated as a child from Fujian province to Salt Lake City, most of all. Her trip to Shenzhen for her book publishing job alone was worth the read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    So I think this book is a case of the sum being greater than its parts. If you take it apart too much all it is is pieces that have been done before, apocalypse cliches, etc. But somehow the arrangement of the parts and the point of view make it a more enjoyable read for me than I would have expected if someone like Bob had mansplained it to me (ugh his character is so annoying and not even charismatic to pull of leading a group at the end of the world.) Still I'm not sure it's likely to stick wi So I think this book is a case of the sum being greater than its parts. If you take it apart too much all it is is pieces that have been done before, apocalypse cliches, etc. But somehow the arrangement of the parts and the point of view make it a more enjoyable read for me than I would have expected if someone like Bob had mansplained it to me (ugh his character is so annoying and not even charismatic to pull of leading a group at the end of the world.) Still I'm not sure it's likely to stick with me. My favorite scene is the moment Candace realizes there is nobody left, that she can't remember the last time she saw one of the guards. The combination of that with her NY Ghost blog is captivating. The journey to Illinois is rather uninteresting to me although it reveals more about the fever. Yes, it's satire, but sometimes that trumps the actual writing of a solid story with a plot, and this book suffers a bit from that lack. I'd still look forward to reading what the author did next, and because of the way she organizes the pieces, the "ending" doesn't matter as much.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    Who knew that a book about a fever outbreak crippling civilization could be SO dull? Ling Ma has talent, but this book was so haphazard and incredibly boring. It was so infuriating reading about Candace's naivety; there were multiple instances where I uttered, "she is so dumb!" while reading about her motives and inner dialogue. All the characters were mere sketches, I honestly couldn't tell you anything more than the role they play in advancing the narrative (the 'survivors' had no distinguishi Who knew that a book about a fever outbreak crippling civilization could be SO dull? Ling Ma has talent, but this book was so haphazard and incredibly boring. It was so infuriating reading about Candace's naivety; there were multiple instances where I uttered, "she is so dumb!" while reading about her motives and inner dialogue. All the characters were mere sketches, I honestly couldn't tell you anything more than the role they play in advancing the narrative (the 'survivors' had no distinguishing characteristics other than Bob being the 'evil leader', and even that is never given any explanation). There are some hilariously awful sex scenes in this book (references to a "Schwarzenegger dick" and describing a penis as a "sea cucumber"). Oh, and the ending is a complete eye-roll inducing cliche. The premise and opening were promising, but unfortunately for the reader Severance never finds it footing. A big let down. 2/5

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    This was a slow burn for me, but once I got to the last 100 pages I couldn't stop. This is the first time I've connected personally with a protagonist in a long time, and whether or not you're a "millennial" this book is more important than the trendy book cover color would lead you to believe. This was a slow burn for me, but once I got to the last 100 pages I couldn't stop. This is the first time I've connected personally with a protagonist in a long time, and whether or not you're a "millennial" this book is more important than the trendy book cover color would lead you to believe.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    There are a lot of elements from Severance that we've all seen before - the global pandemic which brings an abrupt halt to civilization as we know it, the few survivors trying to forge ahead in the absence of a structured society, the juxtaposition of before and after narratives. But the similarities to Station Eleven or Bird Box end there, because what Ling Ma does with Severance is fuse the post-apocalyptic survival genre with anti-capitalist satire, and it works almost startlingly well. Both w There are a lot of elements from Severance that we've all seen before - the global pandemic which brings an abrupt halt to civilization as we know it, the few survivors trying to forge ahead in the absence of a structured society, the juxtaposition of before and after narratives. But the similarities to Station Eleven or Bird Box end there, because what Ling Ma does with Severance is fuse the post-apocalyptic survival genre with anti-capitalist satire, and it works almost startlingly well. Both wry and meditative, Severance offers a positively haunting commentary on corporate greed and what that means for the individual, and that awful paradox of being trapped inside a system that you feel guilty having any part of. The fictional Shen Fever was pretty awful; rather than offering a quick death it would essentially turn people into zombies who performed rote tasks ad infinitum - it's heavy-handed but it works - but the most horrifying part of this novel was probably how much of the directionless millennial narrative resonated, and the amount of decisions these characters had to make at the detriment of their happiness just to survive, both before and after. I did think the book's structure could have been more cohesive as a whole, and I felt like Ling Ma didn't really know what she wanted to do with the ending, but ultimately I loved this strong and unexpected debut. I can't wait to see what Ling Ma does next.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elle (ellexamines)

    Alright so for the first time so far in my English major (yes, I'm surprised too) I will be fully not finishing a book assigned. This is objectively a very good book and I think that it's probably worth reading. However, hear me out: I physically cannot take finishing a novel about a virus that comes from China that everyone initially downplays, and before they can avoid the spread, it has slowly turned the entire planet into living zombies, but really the villain all along was capitalism? I hav Alright so for the first time so far in my English major (yes, I'm surprised too) I will be fully not finishing a book assigned. This is objectively a very good book and I think that it's probably worth reading. However, hear me out: I physically cannot take finishing a novel about a virus that comes from China that everyone initially downplays, and before they can avoid the spread, it has slowly turned the entire planet into living zombies, but really the villain all along was capitalism? I have never had such a viscerally bad reaction to a book in my life. This is TOO oddly specific. I love my English professor so much, that man's Twitter is my only source of serotonin on this earth, that being said. Was it really the move to assign a novel about a pandemic right now? Personally, I don’t think I will be able to engage with pandemic content ever again in my life. Love and light

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Think of Severance as a stack of matryoshka dolls—an office satire inside a post-apocalyptic road trip inside an immigrant experience inside a millennial coming-of-age story inside an anti-capitalism tale. And if that sounds complicated – well, it isn’t. It all works together beautifully and the book seems eminently credible, even when it’s pushing the limits of fantasy. So here are the “bones” of the story: a millennial named Candace Chen has fallen into a monotonous job, coordinating the produc Think of Severance as a stack of matryoshka dolls—an office satire inside a post-apocalyptic road trip inside an immigrant experience inside a millennial coming-of-age story inside an anti-capitalism tale. And if that sounds complicated – well, it isn’t. It all works together beautifully and the book seems eminently credible, even when it’s pushing the limits of fantasy. So here are the “bones” of the story: a millennial named Candace Chen has fallen into a monotonous job, coordinating the production of Bibles with China-based sources. After work, she and her boyfriend Jonathan watch movies in his shoddy apartment. Into this numbing routine comes the Shen Fever, a fungal infection that threatens – and then nearly succeeds – in wiping out the entire population of New York and indeed, much of the globe. Candace hooks up with a foraging group of survivors, headed by a controlling leader named Bob. They make do by foraging for goods in abandoned houses (or houses with fevered inhabitants) and in chain stores. But Candace is holding back a secret. Ling Ma is a natural story-teller. The book sparkles with intriguing set-ups and an original premise that doesn’t put all its eggs in the dystopian basket. There is a palpable sense of suspense, a deep feeling of nostalgia, and an undercurrent of over-the-top capitalism hilarity. I have discovered that the author has written what she knows: like Candace, she is a first-generation immigrant who once worked in Bible production and later at Playboy headquarters. From time to time, I felt this tinge of suspicion that some of the scenes were authorial immersion with a distinctive millennial perspective. Having said that, I still enjoyed the book a great deal and, in fact, read it on and off in a 24-hour period. Definitely recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carol (Bookaria)

    This is an introspective, character-driven novel. I was hesitant to pick it up, but I’m glad I did. The story follows Candace Chen as she navigates life in post-apocalyptic America. The world has succumbed to the “fever” and those who have caught it are called “fevered” A large part of the story takes place in NYC, where Candace used to work for a publishing company, and it alternates between present post-apocalyptic America and the time before the epidemic arrived. The novel moves at a slow pace b This is an introspective, character-driven novel. I was hesitant to pick it up, but I’m glad I did. The story follows Candace Chen as she navigates life in post-apocalyptic America. The world has succumbed to the “fever” and those who have caught it are called “fevered” A large part of the story takes place in NYC, where Candace used to work for a publishing company, and it alternates between present post-apocalyptic America and the time before the epidemic arrived. The novel moves at a slow pace because it takes its time describing details of Candace’s life and relationships, both in the present and in the past. At times I was confused when reading because the novel does not include quotation marks when the characters are having a dialogue. Still, even with this issue, I was able to follow the story easily. Overall, I enjoyed it and recommend it to those who enjoy sci-fi and contemporary fiction.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Emily B

    This didn’t live up to the hype for me. It was interesting and well written, some observations were sad but beautiful. Each main character was interesting and distinct. However I wasn’t hooked, instead I made my way slowly but surely through about 5% at a time to begin with.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    🌟 ⭐ 🌟⭐ 🌟⭐ 🌟⭐ 🌟⭐ "After the End came the Beginning. And in the Beginning, there were eight of us, then nine—that was me—a number that would only decrease." In our modern world with antibiotics, anti-viral drugs, anti-fungicides, and vaccines, we sometimes forget that for most of human history, people routinely died of illnesses that today we can easily treat and cure. People used to die all the time from an abscess tooth! However, we now feel quite comfortable that in the event of an epidemic, 🌟 ⭐ 🌟⭐ 🌟⭐ 🌟⭐ 🌟⭐ "After the End came the Beginning. And in the Beginning, there were eight of us, then nine—that was me—a number that would only decrease." In our modern world with antibiotics, anti-viral drugs, anti-fungicides, and vaccines, we sometimes forget that for most of human history, people routinely died of illnesses that today we can easily treat and cure. People used to die all the time from an abscess tooth! However, we now feel quite comfortable that in the event of an epidemic, scientists will quickly discover a cure. But what if they can't? In Severance, a new and mysterious illness originates in China, quickly spreading across the world. It is caused by microscopic fungal spores in the air and is called "Shen Fever". People with the disease soon lose all awareness and instead function in a zombie-like state, doing the same tasks over and over again. They lack consciousness, do not know they need to eat or bathe or do any of the normal things we humans do. They get stuck on one routine task and mindlessly repeat it until they eventually starve to death. Our heroine Candace has survived, and is one of the last people to leave New York City. She is found by a group of other survivors who accept her into their group. The book is told from Candace's POV, and she switches back and forth between the "current" time and her life leading up to this pandemic that has decimated her world. Ling Ma writes exquisitely! I fell in love with her writing style on the very first page. She is an incredible storyteller, the novel so believable, the characters so real. I highly recommend this book; it's an absolutely brilliant debut!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    Boy howdy, I ripped right through this little piece of dystopian apocalyptic romance(?) coming-of-age story. I liked a lot of what was going on here. It took what could have been your basic, run-of-the-mill end of the world story, and it added some depth and layers to it. Well, the author did that. I should say she added those things. The story bounces around in a nonlinear format so sometimes I found myself in a small band of Walking Dead-like survivors trying to... survive. Sometimes I jumped Boy howdy, I ripped right through this little piece of dystopian apocalyptic romance(?) coming-of-age story. I liked a lot of what was going on here. It took what could have been your basic, run-of-the-mill end of the world story, and it added some depth and layers to it. Well, the author did that. I should say she added those things. The story bounces around in a nonlinear format so sometimes I found myself in a small band of Walking Dead-like survivors trying to... survive. Sometimes I jumped back to the past and learned about the Asian history of the main characters. Other times she was meeting new guys or starting a new job or something. The book also has a lot of New York stuff in it, and, like its protagonist, I have this infatuation with New York because of Seinfeld or Manhattan or something. I’ve never even been there, but I feel like it must be cool, but probably dirty, too. The setting and characters and the whole New Yorkness of it was extra special for me. While it ultimately didn’t leave much of a lasting impression on me, I still flew through it and enjoyed the time I got to spend with it. It didn’t rise to the level of Station Eleven or something like that for me, but it was a solid end of the world as we know it book that had a lot more going on within its pages.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Winner of the Kirkus Prize for Fiction 2018 Ever wondered about the connection between globalization, your office job and the zombie apocalypse? Well, no worries, Ling Ma figured that out for you. Her debut novel is a mixture between immigrant family story, corporate satire, and a dystopia about a global health crisis - and while the text might not be flawless, it sure is addictive and intriguing. Twentysomething Candace Chen, who immigrated to the US with her family as a child and is now orphane Winner of the Kirkus Prize for Fiction 2018 Ever wondered about the connection between globalization, your office job and the zombie apocalypse? Well, no worries, Ling Ma figured that out for you. Her debut novel is a mixture between immigrant family story, corporate satire, and a dystopia about a global health crisis - and while the text might not be flawless, it sure is addictive and intriguing. Twentysomething Candace Chen, who immigrated to the US with her family as a child and is now orphaned, works at a publishing company where she is overseeing the production of Bibles. As the fabrication of books is much cheaper in China, it is her task to work with contractors there, making sure the materials and the quality of the merchandise meet the clients' standards. When Shen Fever spreads from the Shenzhen area in China to New York, turning its inhabitants into zombie-like creatures who cumpulsively repeat their everyday routines while they start to rot until they finally die, Candace flees and, in order to surive, joins a group which is dominated by a religious radical named Bob - you got to love this weird set-up. Ling Ma cleverly interweaves her ideas: Candace's immigrant parents became religious in the US in order to finally make friends at church, while their daughter now makes sure that the production of the holy book is as cheap as possible in their old homeland - at the expense of the Chinese workers. Shen Fever seems like a biblical plague, taking revenge for the health issues the Chinese workers are suffering in order to keep Western goods cheap, and it spreads from the workers to the consumers. Bob's fever is his bigotted religiosity that he instrumentalizes to ruthlessly oppress his group of survivors - it doesn't become clear whether he himself actually believes what he preaches. And then there are the zombies - or wait, are they really zombies? At the core, they are an extreme version of an office drone: Just like Candace repeats the same routines over and over again as part of her work schedule, the zombies cumpulsively do the same until they die. There is no cure for Shen fever, but is there a way out of the uniform lifestyle? Candace's parents have dreamt of the promises of Western capitalist culture when they came to the States, while her boyfriend Jonathan tried to opt out of it - their stories are also told in the book. The novel is told in fragments, jumping between narrative strands and timelines, but it is very easy to follow. I had a lot of fun reading the book, which tackles a rather common topic in an uncommon, smart and creative way. I'm curious what Ling Ma will do next.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Oriana

    A couple of weeks ago, just before everything went completely crazy, I was about to fly to Texas for a conference and I had just finished the book I was reading. I grabbed this literally on my way out the door to the airport—it had been recommended by a friend whose tastes I trust, but I knew almost nothing about it. So imagine me, a few minutes after takeoff, having made it to the airport amid churning fears and national uncertainty about a looming global pandemic flu that had originated in Wuh A couple of weeks ago, just before everything went completely crazy, I was about to fly to Texas for a conference and I had just finished the book I was reading. I grabbed this literally on my way out the door to the airport—it had been recommended by a friend whose tastes I trust, but I knew almost nothing about it. So imagine me, a few minutes after takeoff, having made it to the airport amid churning fears and national uncertainty about a looming global pandemic flu that had originated in Wuhan, China, realizing that I had just cracked a book about.... a looming global pandemic fever that had originated in Shenzhen, China. What the absolute fuck. So setting aside Ling Ma's absolutely staggering prescience, and how terrifying of a reading experience this turned out to be, it's a really excellent book, right up my alley. It takes place in my city, and our heroine works in my industry, or one of them. So we toggle between fascinatingly detailed looks at the book production business and lamentations and loving explorations of New York City, from Times Square to Bushwick. Plus, of course, the apocalypse and its discontents—the scenes in the "present," after some 90% of the world's population seems to have succumbed to Shenzhen Fever, are as harrowing and bleak as any dystopia I've read, up to and including Atwood's MaddAddam books. But in between all that, there's all the pieces of a modern tragicomedy: love and lust, family and loss, the first-generation immigrant experience, shark fin soup dinner parties and electric one-night stands, domestic dramas and professional crises, broad socioeconomic trajectories and tiny beautiful moments of companionship. It's a really wonderful book, and a really sobering cautionary tale.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Dnf at 20%. Probably me, just not feeling this. Lacking the patience or will to continue.

  26. 5 out of 5

    jenny✨

    this was not as good as i hoped, and not as bad as i feared. candace chen is a millennial living in new york city, and the first-generation daughter of chinese immigrants. for 5 years, she's worked at a book production company as the senior product coordinator for... bibles! severance alternates chapters to describe her life in new york, but also what happens after the world comes to a pandemic-induced standstill—after the city is ravaged by a fungal infection called shen fever. we follow candace this was not as good as i hoped, and not as bad as i feared. candace chen is a millennial living in new york city, and the first-generation daughter of chinese immigrants. for 5 years, she's worked at a book production company as the senior product coordinator for... bibles! severance alternates chapters to describe her life in new york, but also what happens after the world comes to a pandemic-induced standstill—after the city is ravaged by a fungal infection called shen fever. we follow candace as she navigates her relationship with a former neighbour, the ascetic and anti-capitalist jonathan; as she flies between shenzhen and nyc to coordinate the production of various bibles ("gemstone bible" targets preteen girls and comes with a precious stone!); as she remembers her parents, zhigang and ruifang, immigrants to salt lake city from fuzhou; and as she traverses a (quietly) post-apocalyptic america with a band of autocratic survivors. several aspects of shen fever feel like a prescient echo of covid-19. though the former is caused by fungal spores, it also began in china (in shenzhen, where it gets its name) and spread through the surge of travel around chinese new year. like covid-19, shen fever has induced organizations to implement work-from-home orders; candace's company hands out n95 masks and instructs everyone to go home—but only after shen fever's presence in nyc has become undeniable. in other words, only after it's too late. thank god, though, that covid-19's symptoms are nowhere as bizarre and perturbing as those of shen fever! the fevered victims never recover: instead, they fall into patterns of rote behaviour, following old routines even as their bodies begin to emaciate and decay. a saleswoman at juicy, missing half her jaw, continues to fold clothes and polish windows. an older woman repeatedly sticks her key in a lock she no longer knows how to work. a suburban family cycles through the motions of endless dinners: setting out plates, clinking cutlery, making nonsensical conversation—their mouths no longer have the capability for speech, yet they persist. the rote routines of the fevered call to mind candace's mother in her last days: By that point, she had grown dreamy, her brain flea-bitten by an early onset of Alzheimer’s. at the same time, the fever reads like a backhanded critique of consumer culture and capitalist productivity, a meditation on the roteness of contemporary urban life. the book draws attention to the routines we find ourselves inhabiting and carrying out, intentional or not. each of candace's anecdotes illustrate how she relinquishes agency, consciously and subconsciously, to the various routines that subsume her life. she passes 5 unremarkable years at the book production company, following an ingrained pattern of behaviours: wake, coffee, work, movie with jonathan, sleep, repeat. after the onset of the pandemic, with new york crumbling around her, these same habits structure her days. i found the pre- and post-apocalypse chapters a little disjointed. it was hard for me to connect the candace of Before with the candace of After. in terms of tone, the book is clearly literary fiction, clearly dystopian, with the sort of sardonic irreverence that reminds me of ottessa moshfegh's my year of rest and relaxation, which also features a (somewhat nihilistic) female protag inhabiting the glimmering bustle of new york city. but at times severance will also eschew its dark—almost campy—humour in favour of seriousness, particularly in scenes that involve candace's parents; i was reminded of white ivy by susie yang. unfortunately, the erratic literary tone further contributed to my sense of disjointedness. at the end of the day, this book felt like a love letter to new york. a kind of moldy and crumbling love letter, but appreciation nonetheless. the way ling ma writes about this city makes my heart hurt for a place i've never lived— New York is possibly the only place in which most people have already lived, in some sense, in the public imagination, before they ever arrive. ... I have always lived in the myth of New York more than in its reality. It is what enabled me to live there for so long, loving the idea of something more than the thing itself. But toward the end, in those weeks of walking and taking pictures, I came to know and love the thing itself. ... To live in a city is to take part in and to propagate its impossible systems. To wake up. To go to work in the morning. It is also to take pleasure in those systems because, otherwise, who could repeat the same routines, year in, year out? ... The first place you live alone, away from your family, he said, is the first place you become a person, the first place you become yourself. and: New York has a way of forgetting you.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michael Ferro

    SEVERANCE is a very well-balanced novel, seamlessly blending dry wit, apocalyptic end games, and a unique character study. Following a young woman as she travels by caravan from a deserted New York City to the outskirts of Chicago, this book deftly blends different tones from the dark and dreary, to the heartwarming and hilarious. The humor is certainly not for everyone and tends to bend towards the bone dry, but it perfectly matches the main character of Candace, a young Chinese immigrant who a SEVERANCE is a very well-balanced novel, seamlessly blending dry wit, apocalyptic end games, and a unique character study. Following a young woman as she travels by caravan from a deserted New York City to the outskirts of Chicago, this book deftly blends different tones from the dark and dreary, to the heartwarming and hilarious. The humor is certainly not for everyone and tends to bend towards the bone dry, but it perfectly matches the main character of Candace, a young Chinese immigrant who apparently seems immune to a fever that has taken out much of the world's population. There are some incredibly tender and heartbreaking moments within this novel, but also some enduring aspects of resilience and survival. Ping-ponging between the past and present in each successive chapter, the reader is treated to a pleasing story of just how this all happened without slogging through a vanilla linear trail—instead, author Ma knows just how to capture our attention by dolling out important details in small spoonfuls to keep feeding our imaginations. By the novel's end, we have a full picture of just who we're dealing with, for better or worse, and the larger picture of how a world after the world's end might be seen. Bitterly funny, achingly tender, and starkly apocalyptic, SEVERANCE is a brilliant offering from a fresh new voice.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Book of the Month

    Why I love it by Siobhan Jones Look, I want to be a good book-mom here and say that I love all our selections equally. But the truth is, there are a few reads from this year that I absolutely adored— For Better and Worse and An American Marriage come to mind—above all the others. And the book I loved most of all in 2018, the queen of the stack (if you will), is Severance. The story has two plotlines, a Before and After. Before: Candace Chen, a twenty-something year old in New York City, toil Why I love it by Siobhan Jones Look, I want to be a good book-mom here and say that I love all our selections equally. But the truth is, there are a few reads from this year that I absolutely adored— For Better and Worse and An American Marriage come to mind—above all the others. And the book I loved most of all in 2018, the queen of the stack (if you will), is Severance. The story has two plotlines, a Before and After. Before: Candace Chen, a twenty-something year old in New York City, toils at a totally unglamorous book production job, so mired in the details of Bible manufacture (polyurethane and sateen, anyone?) that she doesn’t realize a sudden pandemic is ringing in the apocalypse. After: Candace and a ragtag group of survivors flee west, trying to avoid encounters with the 99% of the world that the plague has reduced to (harmless) zombies—and scavenging for food, pills, and marijuana. I don’t normally dig post-apocalyptic books because they always seem to devolve into the same stomach-turning quagmires of lawlessness and starvation. But in Severance, the end of the world is signaled not by tribes of fearsome cannibals, but by the gradual dismantling of corporate life; emails go unanswered, office branches are closed, and one by one, the great tentpoles of capitalism fall. That’s why I loved this book—it’s not so much scary as absurd, and more thoughtful than action-driven. It’s I Am Legend for the plugged-in, globally conscious, thinking woman. I could not be more obsessed. Read more at: https://www.bookofthemonth.com/severa...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Trudie

    4.5 I can't get enough of these Millennial Malaise novels at the moment. So much so, I really want to host a dinner party with Candace, Janice ( The Ice Shelf) and the unnamed protagonist from My Year of Rest and Relaxation . These are my kind of women. Candace a child of Chinese immigrants is a disaffected New York millennial, college educated with no career in sight, she spends her days in coffee shops, or wandering directionless, pessimistic about life and considering the impending apocaly 4.5 I can't get enough of these Millennial Malaise novels at the moment. So much so, I really want to host a dinner party with Candace, Janice ( The Ice Shelf) and the unnamed protagonist from My Year of Rest and Relaxation . These are my kind of women. Candace a child of Chinese immigrants is a disaffected New York millennial, college educated with no career in sight, she spends her days in coffee shops, or wandering directionless, pessimistic about life and considering the impending apocalypse she is wise to be so. A note on this book as dystopia - is this the most laid back, hipster style apocalypse novel ever written ? A disease that essentially has you doomed to endlessly repeat one of your daily routines (no Ebola style virus here, this is truely a millennial era nightmare - folding Juicy Couture T shirts on repeat until someone relieves you of your misery). No one seems especially concerned about how to survive the apocalypse or even very aware there is an apocalypse. Candace keeps turning up for work to make Bibles ( oh the irony ). Reading Severance is like watching some time-lapse photography of New York morphing slowly into a scene from a Step Lawless image. Side note : the photography theme running through this book is great - Nan Goldin, Robert Polidori and Candaces own New York Ghost blog really added a visual element to my reading. I would also direct readers to the incredible images from photographer Aurelien Villette as a good accompaniment to any novel about society in decay. Severance defies an easy classification - my mental notes look like this : New York, New York ! Nan Goldin / the immigrant experience / being an outsider / the Swiss make Bible paper ? / rampant consumerism / how long should you stay at work for when apocalypse is nigh / would I select L'Occitane as the shop to bed down in during a crisis ? Was that a good ending ? ( I decided I liked it ) Well done Kirkus Prize people for giving this an award.

  30. 5 out of 5

    ALet

    ★★★★ /5 This book was a pleasant surprise. I tucked some important topics I didn’t expect it to explore. The main character was enjoyable to read about, her thought process and action motivations were interesting to follow.

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