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Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

book cover of Wanderers

I feel a bit guilty rating this so low, because there were some aspects of this book that I did like. Mostly the actual science fiction aspects: the plague, the scientists trying to get to the bottom of it, and the ultra-powerful AI Black Swan. The last 40% of the book or thereabouts is a lot more eventful (and interesting) than the first 60%. If this novel were like, 400 pages shorter, it could have been an enjoyable read.

The problem is that the things I liked were vastly outnumbered by the things I did not like. The far-right villains are absolutely the most boring pieces of shit imaginable; there is nothing intriguing or compelling about them or the fight against them. Most of the “good” characters weren't very interesting either (except Benji, I didn't mind him). Shana is just grouchy to everyone and I didn't buy the fast and furious progression of her romantic subplot. The Christian preacher guy… I mean, he's so excruciatingly dim that he gets sucked in by the far-right's chicanery (and Wendig is NOT able to suppress his contempt for them long enough to make it even remotely plausible that they, as depicted in this book, would appeal to anyone), and by being around them constantly in his chapters he forces me to have to read about them. The gay rock star past his prime is just kinda padding, he doesn't really do much except emerge from absolutely nowhere to run over and kill the villain boss. I guess Marcy was OK, although I don't know that it was conclusively explained why being around the flock makes her headaches ease up.

So overall, no, I would not recommend this. There was a kernel of a good story in there, but it got buried under mounds and mounds of pointless subplots and cartoonishly evil villains. It is pretty easy reading if you just need something unsophisticated to fill up hours upon hours of your time in a hospital bed or something… but in pretty much any other situation there are much better choices.

★½

photo of Jessica Smith is a left-wing feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also very interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.