Wanderers by Chuck Wendig


Future Publication Date: July 7th, 2019

Execution: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
Enjoyment: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Applicable /r/Fantasy Bingo Squares: Slice of Life (HM), Published 2019, AI Character

“You designed Black Swan.” Of course. It’s why she took any criticism of it so personally. It was her creation. Not just a program, or a design, but something that existed interstitially between artwork and entity.”

. . . 

“It helped up predict a multi-state measles outbreak that could’ve decimated the West Coast: It saw what we did not, which was that local vaccination rates had dipped – all thanks to parents falling prey to misinformation about vaccines.”

. . .

“It’s not some app on your iPhone, Benji. Machine intelligence is, like people, imperfect. It has to be trained. . . Black Swan is a tool, and we must wield it. . . Black Swan wants you, Benji. And that’s why I’m here.”

I am running a giveaway for a signed ARC copy of this book! Please check me out on Twitter for instructions on how to enter. 

As someone who rarely reads novels which are set on modern day Earth, this was a change of pace for me. Oddly, it can take me out of a book a bit when I see references to Twitter, Instagram, or other social media sites, despite them being a part of my daily life. Once I got past this and adjusted my mental framework, I very much enjoyed Wanderers. It has some excellent commentary on the current political landscape that is highly relevant to modern life while also having just enough science fiction in it to keep me hooked. 

Wanderers is a slow burn that builds up to a solid, satisfying conclusion. Loose ends are tied, character arcs have appropriate ends. A few moments are a bit heartbreaking – but that, I would argue, is to be expected in a book dealing with a mass outbreak of mysterious plague. The destruction is twofold: first, an unknown illness causes individuals to begin walking, almost like sleepwalkers or zombies. If someone attempts to stop them from reaching their goal, they become human bombs – exploding in a mass of sharp bone and blood, killing those around them. Second, there’s a mysterious fungal infection spreading. Whether this is related to the walkers is unknown, but Benji, a member of the CDC, has his suspicions.

Surrounding those who are afflicted by the walking disease is a caravan of their loved ones. Known as Shepherds, all they can do is watch the flock of walkers and do their best to protect them as they may. Watching Shana care for her sister, Nessie, as she mindlessly walks endlessly towards an unknown destination is painful. She brushes her hair, keeps her clean, and makes sure that Nessie has someone on the outside who loves and cares for her. 

While the overall plot was revealed slowly, this allowed Wendig plenty of opportunity to dive deep into current social issues such as white supremacy, cult tactics, vaccinations, et cetera. Although the political leaders in the novel were fictional, they had clear parallels with our current elected officials (especially a certain someone who enjoys Tweeting quite a bit). 

“Politicians were always keen to try to “bring back coal,” but you might as well try to bring back the buggy whip. Talk about coal was never about coal, though: It was always code for making promises to blue-collar America about their blue-collar ways of life.”

Megachurch religion and how it can corrupt was another theme – as was how one can be redeemed after falling into that trap. One of the storylines follows a small town preacher who becomes drawn in to a large megachurch-style personality. He thrives on the attention and publicity he receives, but gradually becomes more and more distant with his family and the original tenets of his faith. As the racism and bigotry of the church is revealed to him, he finds it more and more difficult to extricate himself. It’s a humanizing tale, and shows how decent people can be corrupted and turned towards toxic platforms. 

“Racism was a little like that. Sometimes the initial symptoms were small: microaggressions here, simmering resentment there. If you dealt with it head-on, maybe you could keep it contained. If you didn’t deal with it, though, it came back with a vengeance: just like that little bacterium. Came back worse. Entrenched. So entrenched, in fact, the longer you let it go, the harder it was to control, and soon everything started to break down.”

I definitely enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in “build up to the apocalypse” style novels. 

Wanderers can be found on Amazon and Goodreads.

Recommended for fans of:

  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood


7 thoughts on “Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

  1. I enjoyed it as well. When I first saw that it was 800 pages I wondered what I had gotten myself into but the book’s pacing was pretty quick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was shocked by how long it was! I read it on my Kindle, and I was surprised by how slowly the percent complete seemed to be moving. I didn’t look up the page count until after I finished it.

      Liked by 1 person

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