In a world of James Pattersons, Janet Evanonviches, and Stephen Kings, it can be hard to get noticed. Believe me. I know. So, when I have the opportunity to read and showcase a debut author, I take it.
Severance, Ling Ma.
At its core, this book is a satire. A satire on our lives and our routines, with a smidgen of family connection stuff thrown in.
Severance was a pretty quick. easy read. I liked the pace of the story, for the most part. My one gripe about the style is the lack of dialogue punctuation. It's a pet peeve of mine and why I'm giving this book three stars instead of four. Candance Chen is pretty much alone in the world. Her family is gone or in China. Her roommate moves out and her boyfriend has very recently decided to leave the city. Candace Chen also loves routine. She enjoys going to work at Spectra, working in the Bible department. Her job is securing supplies to print Bibles at the lowest cost possible. One of my favorite story lines in this book happens when Candace goes to China to meet with suppliers and Ling Ma, the author, does a little commentary on worker conditions and the human price that is paid to ensure the end customer gets that cheap retail price. Look, I'm a sucker for a low price. I buy things ALL THE TIME from sites with discounted prices. Severance made me a little more aware, though. So, I'm going to try to do that less frequently. Goodbye cheap yarn from Wish. It's been real.
Oh, and then there's the Shen Fever. An epidemic spread by spores that causes people to go in to a zombie-esque state without all the brain eating. The Fever originated in China and quickly spread because literally everyone imports from China. As the Fever spreads, Candance is not bothered at all. She has no family to check in on; has no friends, really; she and her boyfriend have split up; she's alone. So, she goes about her normal day. She is dedicated to her weird Bible job and stays until the very end. She does, eventually, flee the city, stealing a cab and driving until she finds people. She is taken in by a small group of survivors led by a total weirdo who leads them to The Facility. Which is a a mall. Malls are popular destinations in the apocalypse and it makes total sense to me. Malls are full of stuff. Where else can you get new bedding and Manic Panic hair dye? I'm not a mall person at all, if there's ever an apocalypse, that's where you'll find me. It's the only reason I would ever to go to the mall.
Now for the ending, I won't give it away. All I'll say is, it's open. I'm sure a lot of people aren't down with that, but I love a good open ending. It allows the reader to consider and decide what happens and I think that's fun.
Don't be afraid to give newbies a chance. Literally the worse thing that can happen is, you read a book you don't really like. Take the risk. More often than not, it's worked out for me.