A mysterious sleeping sickness hits a small town in California. This is the first act of an apocalyptic novel that doesn’t quite get off the ground, or at least, doesn’t get off the ground in the way I have come to expect from an apocalyptic novel. I couldn’t put this down and read the whole thing in two days because I was excited to see what happened. I picked it up to begin with because the front cover has praise from Emily St. John Mandel, the writer of “Station Eleven,” an excellent apocalyptic novel. That might have prejudiced me though.
Walker takes the commonalities of this genre and flips the script a bit, leaving more questions than answers. I would say that up until the book ended I would have given this a 5, but now I’m thinking 3 or 4 because I was left wanting more. It’s a bit of a head scratcher and I’m hoping I know someone else who has read it to have a chat about it.
Instead of saying big things about humanity, which is often the case of the apocalyptic novel, she tends to keep the reflection and development focused on small character moments. Young love, having a new baby, a sick partner. All of these smaller things are almost bigger than the sickness as we see the people in these situation pushed to the brink. It’s almost as if the sickness is an afterthought, to a certain extent.
She is a good writer and uses foreshadowing cleverly to keep you guessing, dropping little bits of information about future events along the way. I’m happy I picked it up and don’t consider it time wasted, I just wish she’d done more with it in the end.