Wanderers A novel

Chuck Wendig

Book - 2019

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world's last hope. In the tradition of The Stand and Station Eleven comes a gripping saga that weaves an epic tapestry of humanity into an astonishing tale of survival. Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and are sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other "shepherds" who follow the flock t...o protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead. For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them--and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them--the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart--or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.--

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1st Floor SCIENCE FICTION/Wendig Chuck Due May 31, 2024
Science fiction
Fantasy fiction
Apocalyptic fiction
Dystopian fiction
New York : Del Rey [2019]
Main Author
Chuck Wendig (author)
First edition
Physical Description
xii, 782 pages ; 25 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

In rural Pennsylvania, a teenage girl sleepwalks away from her family farm and begins heading west. Her family and experts from the government attempt to follow, but so do other sleepwalkers, and the pack slowly traverses an America that's divided in its response to the phenomenon. In pockets of the nation already shaken by paranoia, the reaction is violent, raising doubts that the group will survive long enough for its ultimate purpose to be revealed. Already well-established through his work in series fiction, Wendig (Star Wars: Aftermath, 2015) charts a new course with this pre-apocalyptic standalone. This is a sprawling work and, though some scenes are stronger than others, it's to Wendig's credit that the reader's attention never drifts, even as disparate plotlines unfurl and medicine and technology are added to the mix. Though there is plenty of technical content, the novel never loses contact with the human and allows its characters plenty of space to build family and romantic relationships. An imaginative and absorbing work of speculative fiction that's sure to please genre fans.--Craig Lefteroff Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Wendig (the Miriam Black series) pulls no punches in this blockbuster apocalyptic novel, which confronts some of the darkest and most divisive aspects of present-day America with urgency, humanity, and hope. The day after a comet blazes over the west coast of North America, Benji Ray, a disgraced former CDC epidemiologist, is summoned to meet Black Swan, a superintelligent computer designed to predict and prevent disasters, which has determined that Benji must treat an upcoming pandemic. That same morning, Shana wakes up to find her little sister, Nessie, sleepwalking down the driveway and off toward an unknown goal, one of a growing number of similar travelers who are unable to stop or to wake. Shana in turn becomes one of many shepherds, protecting the travelers from a crumbling American society that's ravaged by fear, dogma, disease, and the effects of climate change, while Benji grapples with his daunting assignment and questions about Black Swan's nature and agenda. Wendig challenges readers with twists and revelations that probe issues of faith and free will while crafting a fast-paced narrative with deeply real characters. His politics are unabashed-characters include a populist president brought to power by neo-Nazis, as well as murderous religious zealots-but not simplistic, and he tackles many moral questions while eschewing easy answers. This career-defining epic deserves its inevitable comparisons to Stephen King's The Stand, easily rising above the many recent novels of pandemic and societal collapse. Agent: Stacia Decker, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

When Comet Sakamoto passed over Earth, no one thought much about it. But the next morning, the sleepwalking began. At least it seemed like sleepwalking, as 18-year-old Shana discovers her little sister gone from her bed. However, those caught in this malady cannot be woken, and those who try to stop them experience horrifying consequences. As Shana follows her sister and the others who come together on the way, she emerges a "shepherd," along with other friends and family members, who watch over their loved ones on their unknown journey through America. In the meantime, the response across the country ranges from religious zealotry to endtimes fear, which may not be too far from reality. With the addition of a government AI called Black Swan, a disgraced scientist, a charged election, and a growing radical militia, this story of a search for answers and survival moves beyond political or moral choices to the light and dark in everyone's minds and hearts. VERDICT A powerful story about humanity, technology, and the survival of the world. Comparisons to Stephen King's The Stand are warranted, as Wendig (Zeroes) shatters the boundaries of speculative and literary fiction in a saga that will touch every reader. [See Prepub Alert, 1/23/19.]--Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

What if the only way to save humanity was to lose almost everyone?This was kind of inevitable: Wendig (Vultures, 2019, etc.) wrestles with a magnum opus that grapples with culture, science, faith, and our collective anxiety while delivering an epic equal to Steven King's The Stand (1978). While it's not advertised as an entry in Wendig's horrifying Future Proof universe that includes Zer0es (2015) and Invasive (2016), it's the spiritual next step in the author's deconstruction of not only our culture, but the awful things that wehumanityare capable of delivering with our current technology and terrible will. The setup is vividly cinematic: After a comet passes near Earth, a sleeping sickness takes hold, causing victims to start wandering in the same direction, barring those who spontaneously, um, explode. Simultaneously, a government-built, wickedly terrifying AI called Black Swan tells its minders that a disgraced scientist named Benji Ray might be the key to solving the mystery illness. Wendig breaks out a huge cast that includes Benji's boss, Sadie Emeka; a rock star who's a nod to King's Springsteen-esque Larry Underwood; a pair of sistersone of whom is part of the "herd" of sleepwalkers and one who identifies as a "shepherd" tending to the sick; and Matthew Bird, who leads the faithful at God's Light Church and who struggles with a world in which technology itself can become either God or the devil incarnate. Anyone who's touched on Wendig's oeuvre, let alone his lively social media presence, knows he's a full-voiced political creature who's less concerned with left and right than the chasm between right and wrong, and that impulse is fully on display here. Parsing the plot isn't really criticalWendig has stretched his considerable talents beyond the hyperkinetic horror that is his wheelhouse to deliver a story about survival that's not just about you and me, but all of us, together.Wendig is clearly wrestling with some of the demons of our time, resulting in a story that is ambitious, bold, and worthy of attention. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

1 THE FIRST SLEEPWALKER JUNE 3 Maker's Bell, Pennsylvania Shana stood there looking at her little sister's empty bed, and her first thought was: Nessie ran away again. She called to her a few times. Honestly, after Nessie had stayed up late last night to watch the comet through Dad's shitty telescope, Shana  figured the younger girl would still be in bed, snoring up little earthquakes. She wasn't sure where the hell else Nessie could be--Shana had been up for an hour already, making their lunches, finishing the laundry, putting the trash and recycling together so she could haul it up the long driveway for tomorrow's pickup. So she knew Nessie wasn't in the kitchen. Maybe she was in the upstairs bathroom. "Nessie?" She paused. Listened. "Nessie, c'mon." But nothing. Again the thought: Nessie ran away again. It didn't make much sense. First time Nessie ran away, that made sense. They'd just lost their mother--lost her in a very literal way. The four of them went to the grocery store, and only three of them came back. They feared Mom had been taken and hurt, but eventually security cameras from the Giant Eagle showed that nobody kidnapped her; she strolled out the automatic doors like nothing was wrong and then walked out of their lives for good. Mom became a big question mark stuck in their cheeks like a fish-hook. But it was clear that their mother didn't want to be a part of their lives anymore. That, Shana knew even then, had been a long time coming, but the realization did not hit Nessie--and still had not reached her, even now. Nessie believed then that it was Dad's fault. And maybe Shana's, too. So two years ago almost to the day, after school was done for the year, Nessie packed a backpack full of canned goods and bottled water (plus a couple of candy bars), and ran away. They found Nessie four hours later at the wooden bus shelter on Granger, hiding from a sudden rain squall. Shivering like a stray puppy. When Dad picked her up she kicked and thrashed, and it was like watching a wrestler try to pin a tornado. But then he gave up, said to her, "You want to run away, you run away, but if you're thinking of going after your mother, I don't think she wants to be found." It was like watching a glass of water tip in slow motion. Nessie collapsed in his arms and wept so hard she could only catch her breath in these keening, air-sucking hitches. Her shoulders shook and she pressed both hands under her armpits as if hugging herself. They got her home. She slept for two days and then, slowly but surely, came back to life. That was two years ago. Today, though, Shana could not gure out why Nessie would want to run away again. Girl was fifteen now and hadn't hit the wall like Shana had at that age--as Dad put it, Shana "went full teenager." Mopey and mad and hormones like a kicking horse. Shana was almost eighteen, now. She was better these days. Mostly. Nessie was still all right, hadn't turned into a werewolf. Still happy. Still optimistic. Eyes bright like new nickels. She had a little notebook, in which she wrote all the things she wanted to do (scuba dive with sharks, study bats, knit her own slippers like Mom-Mom used to do), all the places she wanted to go (Edinburgh, Tibet, San Diego), all the people she wanted to meet (the president, an astronaut, her future husband). She said to Shana one day, "I heard that if you complain it reprograms your brain like a computer virus and it just makes you more and more unhappy, so I'm going to stay positive because I bet the opposite is true, too."  That notebook sat there on her empty bed. Next to the bed was an open box--Nessie had gotten some package in the mail, some science thing she must've ordered. (Shana borrowed a part of it, a little test tube, to hold weed.) Her daffodil-yellow sheets looked rumpled and slept-in. Her pink pillow still showed her head-dent. Shana peeked at the notebook. Nessie had started a new list: JOBS I MIGHT LIKE?? Included: zookeeper, beekeeper, alpaca farmer, photographer. Photographer? Shana thought. That's my bag. A weird are of anger lanced through her. Nessie was good at everything. If she decided to do the thing that Shana wanted to do, she'd do it better and that would suck and they'd hate each other forever. (Well, no. Shana would hate Nessie. Nessie would love her unconditionally because that was Nessie.) Shana called out for her again. "Ness? Nessie?" Her voice echoed and nothing but the echo answered. Shit. Dad was probably already in the so-called milking parlor (he said if they're going to be part of the artisanal cheese movement here in Pennsylvania they needed to start talking like it, damnit), and he would be expecting Ness and Shana to staff the little shop up by the road. Then eventually he'd come get one of them to head into the cheese barn to check the curds on that Gouda or get the blues draining--then mix the silage and feed the cows and ah, hell, the vet was coming today to look at poor Belinda's red, crusty udders and-- Maybe that's why Nessie ran away. School was out already and summer vacation wasn't much of one: Everything was work, work, work. (Shana wondered if Nessie had the right idea. She could run away, too. Even for the day. Call up her buddy Zig in his Honda, smoke some weed, read comic books, talk shit about the seniors who just graduated . . .) (God, she had to get out of here.) (If she didn't get out of here soon, she'd stay here forever. This place felt like quicksand.) Of course, Nessie was too good a girl to have run away again, so maybe she got the jump on Shana and was already out in the shop. Little worker bee, that one. What was the song on Dad's old REM album? "Shiny Happy People"? That was Nessie. Shana'd already eaten, so she went in search of the little clip-on macro lens she used over her phone's camera to let her take photos of things real close-up, magnified. Little worlds revealed, the micro made macro. She didn't have a proper camera, but she was saving up to get a DSLR one day. In the meantime, that meant using the phone. Maybe she'd nd something in the stable or in the cheesemaking room that would look cool up close: flaking rust, the red needle in the thermometer, the bubbles or crystals in the cheese itself. It hit her where she'd left the lens last time--she was taking pictures of a house spider hanging in her window, and she left the lens on the sill. So she went there to grab it-- Something outside caught her eye. Movement up the driveway. One of the cows loose was her first thought. Shana headed to the window. Someone was out there, walking. No. Not someone. Little dum-dum was halfway up the driveway in her PJ pants and pink T-shirt. Barefoot, too, by the look of it. Oh, what the hell, Nessie? Shana ran to the kitchen, forgetting her lens. She hurriedly popped on her sneakers and ran out the door to the back porch, nearly tripping on the one sneaker that wasn't all the way on yet, but she quick smashed her heel down into the shoe and kept on running. She thought to yell to her little sister, but decided against it. No need to draw Dad's attention. He'd see they weren't out in the shop yet and give them a ration of hot shit about it, and Shana didn't want to hear it. This was not a morning for nonsense, and already the nonsense was mounting. Instead she ran up along the driveway, the red gravel crunching underneath her sneaks. The Holsteins on the left bleated and mooed. A young calf--she thought it was Moo Radley--stood there on knock-knees watching her hurry to catch up to her tweedledum sister. "Nessie," she hissed. " Nessie, hey!" But Nessie didn't turn around. She just kept on walking. What a little asshole. Shana jogged up ahead of her and planted her feet like roots. "God, Nessie, what the hell are you--" It was then she saw the girl's eyes. They were open. Her sister's gaze stood fixed at nothing, like she was looking through Shana or staring around her. Dead eyes, dead like the at tops of fat nails. Gone was the luster of wonder, that spark. Barefoot, Nessie continued on. Shana didn't know what to do--move out of her way? Stand planted like a telephone pole? Her indecision forced her to do a little of both--she shifted left just a little, but still in her sister's inevitable path. The girl's shoulder clipped her hard. Shana staggered left, taking the hit. The laugh that came up out of her was one of surprise. It was a pissed-off laugh, a bark of incredulity. "That hurt, dummy," she said, and then grabbed for the girl's shoulder and shook her. Nothing. Nessie just pulled away and kept going. Excerpted from Wanderers: A Novel by Chuck Wendig All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.