Severance by Ling Ma
Updated: Feb 14, 2020
Summary: Shen Fever is devastating the world, turning people into routinist zombies. Candace Chen joins some of the remaining survivors in the search for the safety of The Facility.
Review: I have to admit this book was a huge disappointment. Normally, when it comes to Book of the Month Club books, I try to preserve credits and only order books that sound like I would really enjoy them, and this one seemed like a hit. It had satire, zombie-like apocalypse, and more. Unfortunately, as soon as I finished, it went onto my pitiful To Donate book pile.
First, Ma used a type of writing style that has simplified punctuation...which is my nice way of saying, choosing not to use quotation marks for dialogue. It is annoying, to say the least. As themillions.com stated in a 2015 article, "Quotation marks can be insidious little creatures. They have immense, unacknowledged power." (See how wonderful they are just there?) In this case, it was occasionally an annoyance to get to the end of a sentence or paragraph questioning if that what you just read was dialogue or narration. Or worse, starting by believing it was narration only to run across a ", she said" half way through or at the end.
The story itself had such potential but did not feel fully developed. It was a mix of Candace's backstory leading up to the end days with the journey to the facility, sprinkled with a few chapters of her parents' immigration. While the one chapter focused solely on her parents' first experiences in America was one of my favorite chapters, it didn't really do anything to add to the plot. It was just a bit of exposition tossed into the middle.
Even the satire was like the toy at the bottom of the cereal box that breaks two seconds after you finally stomach all the junk to get to it; disappointing. A fungal plague takes over the brain basically turning people into zombies who can continue to complete mindless, repetitive tasks, even after death. A fantastic take on the daily mediocrity of the human race. The only reason Candace seems immune is because she is so stuck to routine already that she is already practically a zombie. At least, that's what I started to get until it completely crumbled once the infection set in and she began changing her behaviors. Plus, the other survivors, although never fully explored, did not seem to fit this same pattern.
While Candace was explored, and it went into a bit about her family, it often felt as though characters were introduced only to be tossed aside and forgotten. I would have liked to have known more about the other survivors, co-workers, and more.
The ending was also a bit of a letdown. There are times when open-endings are a wonderful literary device, but, since nothing else felt developed, the end just felt like Ma got tired of writing and was like, "Good enough. It can end there."
I'm sure there were positives in it, I mean I did like the bit about her family immigrating, but I can't pull out anything else specific. True, it wasn't the worst that I've read, but it just did not interest me.
Hey, Book of the Month, can I get my credit back?