Quick Book Review: “Severance” by Ling Ma

A really great debut novel by Ling Ma. It’s a post-apocalyptic zombie novel about a millennial workaholic, Candace Chen, who works for a book publisher in Manhattan.  When Shen Fever (a fatal plague that causes people to become non-violent zombie versions of themselves) begins spreading throughout the world, Candace, one of the fortunate few who manages to not become infected, joins up with a small group of other survivors, led by a power-hungry religious nut named Bob.  The story weaves from Candace’s life before Shen Fever hits, to her childhood, to her complicated situation with the other survivors.  The book tackles a lot of subjects along the way: the love-hate relationship millennials have with capitalism, the Chinese immigrant experience, the vicious ladder-climbing corporate experience, and Candace’s own coming of age, all deftly woven into a really good plot.  The book is hard to put down.  I sat in a diner for two hours and read about a hundred pages, completely absorbed, until they kicked me out.   Equal parts serious and satirical.  A real winner. (Last year, I read another millennial novel that received a lot of acclaim, Sweetbitter, which I didn’t like at all.  Severance puts it to shame.) 

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