Review by Booklist Review
Just like his debut, Here and Now and Then (2019), Chen's newest sf novel is rooted in deep, realistic human emotion. This postapocalyptic tale features a world recovering from an epidemic-level flu outbreak that left entire adult populations paranoid, shy, and traumatized. Chen imagines a unique dystopia: one of hypochondria, yes, but within a world that hasn't ended, only paused, trapped in a stagnant state of alienation as the government strictly maintains quarantined metro areas and reinforces the nuclear family as it tries to ensure the children of the next generation can grow up without the trauma of their predecessors. As the main characters, from the well-meaning father Rob and his daughter, Sunny, to stability-seeking runner Moira, to hardened wedding planner Krista, struggle to find any kind of normalcy, their lives begin to merge. A Beginning at the End is the best kind of dystopian novel: one rooted deeply in the hearts of its characters and emphasizing hope and connection over fear. Chen has a true gift for making the biggest of worlds center around the most complex workings of the heart, and his newest is compelling, realistic, and impossible to put down.--Leah von Essen Copyright 2019 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
This postapocalyptic slice-of-life novel from Chen (Here and Now and Then) delivers big emotions by keeping the focus small. Six years after a disease known as MGS killed 70% of the world's population, humankind begins rebuilding. Among the survivors are three San Francisco acquaintances: Rob Donelly, a single parent whose daughter may be taken from him by the Family Stability Board; Moira Gorman, a pop star who was famous before the outbreak but now attempts to live under the radar; and Krista Deal, a consultant helping people to move on from the tragedy. Thrown together by circumstance, the three grow closer as they navigate the imposing new government in a grim, fragile future. As the government warns of another pandemic and panic spreads, Rob's daughter runs away from home and the three friends set out to track her down. By foregrounding family, Chen manages to imbue his apocalypse with heart, hope, and humanity. Sci-fi fans will delight in this lovingly rendered tale. Agent: Eric Smith, PS Literary. (Jan.)
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Review by Library Journal Review
It's been six years since the MGS pandemic took out much of the world's population. In America, urban areas are rebuilding their culture, but governmental rules have tightened around stabilizing the future of family units, with strong oversight and intervention by the Family Stability Board. In San Francisco, former teen pop star Moira has been building a new life and identity, until her father decides to use the media to find her. Event planner Krista throws herself into helping those who were traumatized to move on with life, whether they want to or not, and avoiding the losses within her own family. Rob raises his young daughter, Sunny, after losing his wife to the pandemic, and tries to keep them a solid, under the radar, family unit. However, when the Family Stability Board threatens to separate Rob and Sunny, he must find ways to connect with other people, crossing paths with Krista and Moira and forcing them all to confront their family issues as a new outbreak threatens to take away everything. VERDICT Sometimes it is not the violent battles of post-apocalyptic stories that pull readers in; it is the emotional connection of humanity finding their way. Chen's (Here and Now and Then) prose lights a brilliant, fragile path through the darkness.--Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
A grieving father, a British pop star, and a wedding planner cope with the aftermath of a flu pandemic in this post-apocalyptic novel by Chen (Here and Now and Then, 2019).Six years after a virus wiped out 70% of the U.S. population, Rob Donelly, Krista Deal, and Moira Gorman are still unable to move forward with their lives. Rob, a news censor at San Francisco-based PodStar Technologies, hasn't told his 7-year-old daughter, Sunny, that her mother died during the pandemic, instead saying she's in "treatment"; Krista, a financially struggling wedding planner, faked her own death to escape her dysfunctional family. Moira, Rob's co-worker and Krista's client, is really Johanna Moira "MoJo" Hatfield, a former teenage pop star who ran away from her controlling father. Rob, Krista, and Moira uncover one another's secrets as they struggle with the consequences of their past decisions. A lot of backstory and confusing subplot told in document fragments detract from an imaginative premise, likable characters, and an uplifting ending.A refreshingly nondystopian end-of-the-world story that falls short of Chen's smart debut. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.