While you’re busy stocking up on canned goods and hand sanitizer (if you can manage to find any!), consider stocking up on these reads too!
STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel
STATION ELEVEN revolves around the Georgian Flu, a virus that spreads rapidly to become a full-blown pandemic. Mandel’s novel alternates between the flu outbreak–“Year Zero”–and twenty years later, when a nomadic troupe of actors and musicians travel throughout the Great Lakes region as few survivors remain. STATION ELEVEN is beloved by many and a National Book Award finalist; with an HBO adaptation expected later this year and Mandel’s follow-up novel coming out later this month, now is the perfect time for a read (or re-read)!
SEVERANCE by Ling Ma
SEVERANCE is one of my absolute favorite novels, and one I cannot recommend enough- I recently chose it as my March staff pick at my bookstore, and it was gone the next day. Like STATION ELEVEN, Ma’s novel gives us a before-and-after narrative, this time of a virus called Shen Fever, which begins slowly in Asia and erupts worldwide, resulting in devastating loss. SEVERANCE is less science fiction and more social commentary; Ma speaks to our dependence on technology and our relationship with memory, among many other topics. An important book no matter the time, SEVERANCE is absolute genius.
ZONE ONE by Colson Whitehead
I haven’t read ZONE ONE (2011) and it has mixed reviews, but I love Whitehead so I thought I’d include it here! It’s been described as a literary take on the horror novel, a different approach to genre fiction by a master of literature. Heavily inspired by Stephen King, ZONE ONE involves a virus that transforms humans into zombies, after which survivors of the virus–called “sweepers”–must patrol New York to make the city inhabitable again. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of zombie stories, but, again, this one is told on two timelines, before and after, and supposedly has a pretty killer twist at the end.
THE DREAMERS by Karen Thompson Walker
THE DREAMERS first caught my eye as a Belletrist pick last January. Walker’s novel starts with a group of young, fatigued college students who fall asleep into a coma-like state without warning, their brain activity signifying intensely vivid dreams. What follows is mass hysteria that results in quarantine and isolation for the infected. Just like the current COVID-19 hysteria, THE DREAMERS involves an airborne virus that is especially threatening to schools and nursing homes, a dangerous situation in which quarantine only makes things worse.
Also worth mentioning for the pandemic vibes: (1) Stephen King’s THE STAND, in which a powerful strain of influenza, initially created as biological warfare, releases and kills 99% of the world’s population, and (2) Michael Crichton’s THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, in which a satellite falls to Earth and unleashes an alien virus that threatens to overtake the planet.
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