This book had everything going for it, including multiple comparisons to The Stand, and a massive recommendation from the mothership. I started it back in August, thinking I could whip through it for the Pajiba Says bingo square, and well, I just finished it yesterday. I was…not a fan. I didn’t hate it, but I was incredibly let down by it.
The story starts out strong: across the world, sleepwalkers start marching toward an unknown destination. Their numbers start off small, and as the group (and the “shepherds” who are traveling with them) starts to grow, the world starts to ask questions: Where are they going? What’s wrong with them? How do they know what they’re doing? Why do they EXPLODE when you try to stop them? Meanwhile, a virus slowly makes its way into the population, and seems to be undeniably lethal and unstoppable. The CDC sends their best (and former best) scientists to the scene to try and figure out what’s happening with the walkers and if they have anything to do with the virus — now called White Mask — before its too late.
Here’s what I liked:
I’m down for any book that attempts to emulate The Stand. I’m always curious to see how another author interprets the potential apocalypse and the breakdown of society. I liked the idea of a specific destination (in Colorado, no less! With a special cameo by Las Vegas as the home for the worst of us at the end of days) for society to be rebuilt after the world that we know has come to an end. And I liked that the bulk of the story took place on the road — as the group of walkers and shepherds grew, we met more and more characters. I loved how they became a tight-knit community of RVs and trucks, following their loved ones into the unknown. I really liked Marcy, the ex-cop with a special connection to the walkers; Landry, who started out as a minor love interest but over time became quite a hero; and Dove, the mayor of Ouray, Colorado. I could have spent many more pages with them.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Pretty much all of the main characters. ESPECIALLY Pete the rock star. UGH.
The quickly wrapped up ending where we find out how the virus really started and how many actually survived.
All of the action that took place within the computer program.
And most of all, I hated everything that was about Christianity and MAGA-veiled white supremacy. Basically, the author chose to make all of the villians members of a militia group that used the reach of the church to poison the minds of as much of society as it could get its hands on. I understood where it was coming from, as clearly the end of the world has to have some anarchy, and that the story needed clear-cut good guys and bad guys, but it was painted with such broad, stereotypical strokes that it was pretty insulting to the reader. And I’m confident saying that as neither a Christian nor a MAGA supporter in any way, whatsoever. If I wanted to be lectured about politics and the state of the world, I would have asked for it. I did not need to have Wendig’s opinions (which really were not opinions, as he is pretty sure he is right about everything) shoved down my throat, page after tedious page.
Did I mention that this book was long? Like 800 pages. It could have used a 300 page trim and wouldn’t have suffered for it. This was my first Chuck Wendig, and I can’t imagine I’ll be reading a second.