Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Wanderers - Chuck Wendig

I’ve found myself these last few months being more and more drawn to dystopian pandemic books than I have in a long time, and I’ve read several of them. One of the best of them - and at almost 800 pages, by far the longest - is Chuck Wendig’s 2019 novel Wanderers. Too, despite its science fiction elements, it is also probably the scariest of the ones I’ve read since the beginning of our own real-world pandemic because of how by the time anyone figures out that something very wrong is happening to people, it is already too late to stop the spread. Way too late.


It all starts one morning when Shana wakes up to find that her little sister is nowhere in the house, and spots her walking toward the highway leading away from their isolated Indiana farm. At first, the little girl appears to be sleepwalking, but as Shana soon learns this is no ordinary sleep-walk. There is no way to wake her up, turn her around, or even minutely change the direction in which she’s walking. And soon enough, she is not alone. Other “sleepwalkers” will join her, so many of them, in fact, that the media come to call them “the flock,” just as they begin to call those who follow the flock to care for them, as Shana does, “the shepherds.” 


But where is the flock heading, and how is it possible that they can continue walking west (all the while gathering new members) from Indiana for weeks without stopping to rest, eat or drink anything, or communicate with anyone around them? Maybe they really are a flock, but no one can figure out what they have in common other than their ability to endlessly sleepwalk toward some unknown destination for an equally unknown purpose. And then people begin to die…and with a push from a radicalized radio preacher, the flock starts to get blamed for their deaths.


Bottom Line: Wanderers is a long book, but Chuck Wendig does not waste many pages in this accounting of how quickly the civilized world is capable of losing its civility and its soul. What Wendig has to say about humanity and the ties that bind us is sometimes horrifying, sometimes inspirational. This is a book that perhaps owes a tip-of-the-cap to Stephen King’s The Stand, but in my estimation, it is the better book of the two.


Chuck Wendig


(This review is a bit shorter than I like them, but I'm rushing this morning. I finished the book two days ago, but this is my first opportunity to write and post a review. The rolling blackout that is affecting the entire state of Texas this week has not spared us here. We regained power only 90 minutes ago, after having had power shut down for exactly, to the very minute, 17 hours. That means that it got down to 49 degrees in our bedroom last night, and that we are now having to boil water before using it - and that's hard to do without power. So we have all of our charging stations plugged in right now so that we will be ready for the next round, the heaters are working hard to get us back to a temperature in the neighborhood of seventy degrees, and we are boiling pots of water for later use. My daughters live about six miles from us, and both were down for five hours last night before the lights came back on for them around two a.m. They are down again, so it's obvious that we are nowhere near the end of the "rolling" yet.)

14 comments:

  1. Hope things get back to normal as soon as possible, Sam. It can be miserable living under those conditions. I well remember a series of blizzards and ice storms that left our village without power for almost two weeks. My grandparents had to move in with us because they had an all-electric house. Fortunately, I was quite young and thought it was quite the adventure. I built a massive snow fort to which my dog added his own tunnels. Looking back, I know I wouldn't enjoy it if I had a do-over at this stage in my life.

    As for the book, it sounds quite interesting, but I'd have to save it for when I was in the right frame of mind to read it.

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    1. We have been between 34 and 36 degrees for the better part of 24 hours now, Cathy, so new problems are popping up everywhere around us with leaks...but so far at least, not in our house, so I'm fairly optimistic. Even the power seems to have stabilized.

      The book is a real saga...but the length allows what happens to take place at slow enough a pace to make it all seem more reasonable. Have to admit that this may not be the time to read this one, though.

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  2. Poor Texas :( How awful. I hope things get better soon for all of you.

    On a brighter note, WANDERERS sounds like a good read, even if it is LONG.

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    1. Thanks, Susan...it's better today for most of us, those not fighting plumbing problems. Some of my neighbors are out there right now doing that, and it's still cold...

      It's been a long time since I've read anything this long, but it encouraged me to pick up Lonesome Dove again, one I haven't read in a number of years. I figure two or three chapters a day could get me to the end of that one in just over a month while I read three or four others at the same time. At least that's the plan...

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  3. Yes, we've been hearing about Texas over here. Sounds horrendous... you take care.

    As to the book, no I don't think so, intriguing as it sounds. LOL

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    1. Thanks, Cath. The book is not for everyone...especially right now, that's for sure.

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  4. I've been wondering how you're faring out there in Texas. I'm glad you have power again for a little while just so that you can warm your house up. There's nothing worse than being without electricity, except maybe being without water. I hope things get back to normal soon. And I like the sound of the book. I just wish it wasn't quite so long. :)

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    1. The only thing worse than not having water is having an inch or two of free-flowing water inside your house. Thankfully, we haven't had to face that one.

      Yeah, it really is a long book, but worth it if you can find the time to work it in to your reading plans.

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  5. Texas has been suffering--it has sad to watch the situations of so many. So sorry, Sam, and hope things will improve soon. Given the events of this last year, reading dystopian novels feels almost like preparation.

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    1. You're right, Jen...dystopian novels are just training manuals these days. 2021 is shaping up to be every bit as demoralizing as 2020 was.

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  6. I do hope your power isn't out too long- or is back on soon if so. Keep warm!! We are having 24 hours of ice/rain/snow right now- I'm crossing my fingers we don't have part of a tree come down or loose power for more than a few hours. Us humans in the house would be okay snuggled under layers of blankets and sweaters, or in front of the fireplace- but I do have tender plants and aquarium fish I'd probably loose if it went on too long. Luckily books are a good way to pass the time under said blankets, as long as daylight comes through the window.

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    1. Good luck, Jeane. I hope that you and yours, including the plants and fish, weather the cold in good shape. Speaking of plants, I think we are going to have to do a whole lot of re-landscaping of plants that have been in the ground for over 20 years. They look miserable right now, to the point that I don't expect some of them to have survived the long periods of temps in the teens we've had. The people across the street have three huge palm trees that are probably goners. I'm sure they are sick about that because those things are at least fifteen years old and stand well above the rooflines of their two-story house.

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  7. Glad to hear you enjoyed Wanderers so much, but have to admit a dystopian/pandemic novel might not be a hit for me right now. I'm so sorry for all Texans are having to endure ... stay safe and I hope this doesn't go on too much longer.

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    1. Houston made it all the way up to 46 degrees today...and the thaw was completed. Now people are scrambling to keep their homes from flooding from pipe breaks in their attics and walls. Thankfully, we seem to have avoided that problem. Now, I have to get out there and test the sprinkler system for broken lines and heads. But if that's all I end up with, I'm blessed.

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