Severance is a beautiful book with a lovely pink cover and a mysterious title. It opens and unfolds slowly as you read and then it just stops. It jumps backwards and forwards in time in a slow, meandering pace that feels like it ultimately amounts to nothing.
We begin by meeting Candace in a post-apocalyptic world where most of the population has succumbed to Shen fever. Candace has joined a small band of survivors, but she spends most of her time reminiscing about the time before, what her life was like, and her family.
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.
It is very much a book for the quarter life crisis generation, yet I felt it lacked strong themes. For a while there seemed to be an exploration of religion. Candace used to work in publishing producing bibles. She is good at her job, but doesn’t really love it. The survival group’s self-appointed leader is oddly religious and cultish. For a while I thought it would be a look on religion as a survival tool in the post-apocalyptic world and a consumer item before. However the book slowly meanders away from this and keeps coming back to Candace’s bleak and uninteresting life.
“I wake up. It is so silent. I could fall through the cracks of such silence.”
Candace rarely makes decisions and it’s hard to tell what her emotions are. The whole novel is told from her point of view, her memories, but at the end of it I did not know how she actually felt about anything. The book then centers on her relationship with her mother, yet this also becomes slightly pointless and serves only as a plot device. Once again Candace fails to make her own choices and then the final battle is way too easy and anticlimactic.
“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.”
The prose was ethereal and lovely, if somewhat detached, but ultimately not enough to keep my attention. The ending is ambiguous, but it does not seem like it could end in any other way. Candace hasn’t thought of the questions that follow her actions, but the reader has. Unfortunately, I left the book wholly uninterested in answering them.