I thought I had already reviewed this guy but apparently not. Unfortunately it’s been a bit since I read it so this review may not be as specific as I would normally like. Oh well, I liked it and good books stick with you pretty well, so this should still be pretty good.
How long do you think it would take for the average person to notice Armageddon had come? For Candace, way longer than most folks would like to think.
Candace is a millennial office drone in New York. She works in book manufacturing in the Bible department; not publishing, the more boring, but necessary, world of book manufacturing. It isn’t thrilling, but she’s good at it, the pay is decent, and she doesn’t hate it. Both of her immigrant parents have recently passed away, so she doesn’t have a lot of family ties and her boyfriend has told her he can’t handle New York anymore so he’s leaving and basically leaving her as well. She half heartedly dabbles in photography, but, while she enjoys it, she knows she isn’t going to be a great artist. Basically, Candace is average, just like most of us, and her life is ruled primarily by her routine.
Then the first case of Shen fever is reported in Asia. The factories that produce her bibles are closing for health reasons and her publisher clients want answers and demand their books delivered in time for Christmas, health scare be damned (but they are, of course, very concerned for the workers). Then the fever comes to the US, then most of the world… the End of Everything is in full swing. Meanwhile, Candace just gets up every morning and goes to work, because, well, what else is she going to do? She has also started taking pictures again, wandering the all but abandoned New York streets and posting the pictures on her blog.
This is a really great story of what it means to be a grown up, what it means to ‘get your shit together,’ and also what it means to be human and why we might actually try to keep going even when there really doesn’t seem to be much reason to do so.
The story jumps from the present day, when society has all but broken down, and then back to Candace’s past and the events leading up to this point. The language is straightforward and the story moves quickly. I really like Candace, she’s a person I recognize and she has realistic foibles and strengths. I just sorta get her, which works well for this kind of story.
Ling Ma is a very strong writer, and this is a great premise. It’s very realistic, that an indiscriminate plague comes and humanity doesn’t go out with a dramatic bang, but slowly expires with a whimper and the last few stragglers need to figure out where to go from here. So, where do you go from here? Your routine can’t help you anymore.