Wanderers by Chuck Wendig is really the novel not to read during a pandemic. That’s because it’s about a pandemic.
One day, somewhere in the United States, a young girl gets out of bed, and starts walking. She has a dazed look in her eyes, and when her sister Shana tries to stop her, she doesn’t respond. Forcibly trying to stop her seems to cause her harm, so Shana can do little but follow her and call the cops. Then a second person joins the girl. And a third. Soon, a flock of wanderers walks through the rural US landscape and the Center for Disease Control takes over.
Disgraced former CDC member Benji Ray should not be involved. But he has been hand-picked by an AI computer that assists the CDC in predicting outbreaks. Benji doesn’t really believe he should help, but when he hears of the wanderers, he cannot resist the mystery.
Meanwhile, a presidential election is on the horizon and white supremacists stir in the US, and the flock of wanderers is just the thing to rile them up.
Shana is a bit of a hick. She says so herself. She lives with her father and sister on their dairy farm, her mother having abandoned them a few years back. Her future is a job on the farm. That is, that’s what was going to happen before her sister Nessie got up and started the flock of walkers.
Benji has made mistakes. He’s arrogant, and has a bit of a hero complex. He also has his heart in the right place. He wants to prevent new diseases from getting out into the world. And, well, given the current Covid Pandemic, I think that’s a noble goal.
Father Matthew Bird is a pastor in a small southern town. When the flock passes his small town, a man called Ozark Stover convinces him the end times might be coming. Matthew gives a fiery sermon about the hell that the flock will bring. That sermon and others that follow propel him to fame. But a fame tied to evangelicals and white supremacy, not the fame a preacher of God should want.
And then there is Ozark Stover. He’s a local scrapyard owner. A big man, with fists that can pound a man into the ground. But he is more than that, and as the story progresses you see who he really is. He’s a very disturbing man. As villains go, Chuck Wendig had outdone himself.
Then there’s a host of side characters, but you’ll have to read the novel yourself to learn more. They are important, but I don’t want to reveal too much, and the characters above are really the most important, in my opinion.
The Stand, but good
I hate Stephen King’s The Stand. A lot of people love it, and it’s supposedly a great work of sacrifice and good versus evil and bla, bla bla. To me, it’s a story about a bunch of really annoying people surviving the apocalypse, then milling around and getting overrun by assholes. Then they walk around some more and a deus ex machina saves them.
Big whoop. It was long, boring, and had a terrible ending. I hate The Stand, in part because the seed of a really cool novel was there. A world brought to apocalypse by a pandemic, that has potential.
Wanderers, though, is everything I would have wanted The Stand to actually be. It’s bloody awesome. Not the best book to read during a pandemic caused by a bat-based disease, because it’s about a pandemic caused by a bat-based disease, but awesome nonetheless.
The book really dragged me in, and I have to say, Ozark Stover is really one of the most disturbing people I’ve read about in a while. I also loved Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black novels, but Wanderers is something else entirely, if equally good or better.
If the pandemic isn’t getting to you yet, or if you wait until we reach some kind of light at the end of the tunnel, then I can highly recommend Wanderers.
If you hate apocalyptic stories with scifi/fantasy undertones, then this is not for you, though — but what are you doing in this blog then?