A Review of: Wanderers, by Chuck Wendig

I’ve taken a couple days to think about this book, after finishing the read. It’s a lot to digest. It’s a big book at nearly 800 pages [one of my favourite kind] – as I thoroughly enjoy a big, long, read; as it gives you a lot to sink your teeth into, and a nice span of time to sink into the story and reside within in it. The unexpected strings that weave their way into your mind, of a big, long, read. 

I didn’t make any notes while reading Wanderers, as I often do… I just read it. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure this book was going to stick for me. It took a couple days of reading to warm up to it, before I was hooked. It’s a slow burn. But the way the plot unfolds within, the 800 pages is perfectly synced with the content. It Wanders. It’s a slow progress, filling in many, minute details, seemingly unimportant to the story. You wonder often: why is the story telling me this stuff? Eventually, every little scrap of thread gets pulled into its place, and all the parts weave together., tying it up in a tight knot. 

It took me a bit to buy in to the plot, because I couldn’t foresee where the story was going… or if I was interested, even. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

About the story itself: the Author, I feel like – took a look around at our current society in time/space; and pulled every single horrible thing that is happening around us – into one tidy plot of a novel. Which in itself is a feat. And did so in an [eventually] coherent story line. It’s also horrifying. I felt [and still feel] repeatedly traumatized from this book. [Like it should have had a large and bold preface of Trigger Warnings, including ‘this is a fictional story, but every part is true: welcome to the real life around you in big, bold , unwavering, terrors.’ ] 

Triggers include (for those of you who might want to swerve away): Rape, abduction, torture, violence, murder, conspiracy theories, white supremacists, religious cults, apocalypse, viruses, extinction event pandemic, and more that I’m surely I’m missing. 

The hardest part of this read for me – was reading it right now, in the middle of the Covid-19 Pandemic , one year on and going. Being that a large portion of this story is a pandemic – with multitudes of eerily similar symptoms and similarities to Covid-19; it was a challenge to keep my own anxiety from rising as a result. Not very successfully; I might add- many a bad dream filtered into my nights while reading Wanderers. 

So the plot [mild spoilers ahead] is about first: a girl who seemingly falls into a sleepwalking trance, walks out of her house, and down the road. Can’t be woken, or stopped. Interfering with her path causes alarming reactions, potentially fatal. As learned later when another such sleepwalker is hindered by his family, and self destructs. As time passes – every few hours, another somnambulant person joins the group. This goes on for months. What are they asleep? Why are they walking? Where are they going? How are they continuing to persist in this state for days, weeks, months? 

 Quite soon, the CDC [center for disease control], and other disease control type agencies are drawn in. Then, the military. Is the is biowarfare? Or a Pandemic? Or divine retribution for our societies’ less than pious ways? 

Religious zealots decide the Walkers are being punished by god, with the help of key celebrity figures speaking out; then a Preachers’ rant about it gets picked up by media and run with. How they’re devils spawn, etc. Naturally some citizens decide it’s their duty to exterminate this evilness. Enter the white supremacist factor, and their civilian army. 

Many things are getting messy, and complicated. And the Walking flock… continue to grow and walk. Most of our questions remain unanswered for a long time. Eventually, the strings of various seemingly unrelated plot stories start tying together; slowly, so slowly. 

There is a futuristic element also inside the story – the single part that [actually] makes it fiction, not a fact-like accounting of today’s reality. There is an AI consciousness that predicts patterns. It has been covertly created, and interfaces with various government agencies, tipping them to be able to prevent many events before they happen, or become problematic. Ranging from Criminals, to terrorists, to weather patterns, to disease outbreaks, and so on. A very useful tool, that very few people know exists. (This is fiction… or is it? I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this were actually true today, as it is.) 

The AI, known as Black Swan, is a tool that becomes intertwined with a Doctor who has for many years been involved in the CDC, but recently lost his job, due to an error in judgement [supposedly] where he tried to prevent an outbreak he could guarantee about to happen, in a pig slaughter factory – by pushing the line a little forward on what had already happened vs what was about to happen – in order to attempt to stop the looming outbreak. Noble reasons, but fraudulent actions. Still, in the end his actions were , in my mind 100% right – stop it before it happens. He knew, [and this I how it works these days in reality] that if he went through the right channels and reported the incidents, it would never get stopped. Big business would throw money at the government to hold their validity in actions, cover their wrongdoings, and push the issues away, allowing the slaughter situation to continue as is, and the outbreak to sure happen. 

In any case, Black Swan identifies the Doctor to its people, and they bring him in to consult, which he initially resists. He ends up on site with the Walkers, and not long after the CDC types accept him being there, as he is a leader in the minds, and a valuable asset, past mistakes aside. He is one of our main characters thru the book, and the main interface between Black Swan… And everyone. 

Black Swan is the unexpected, undefinable plot line. We don’t know what to expect, because we have no personal experience with how these things should play out. So we’re just carried along, being fed tiny little bits of data, at a time, to draw us more deeply into the story. 

In the end, I did ‘enjoy’ this book aside from being 1500% traumatized by it. Even if I had read it before the time of Covid-19, it would still be a bone chilling story of horror, bound to cause restless nights. I would hesitate to actually recommend it though, unless you feel you are hardened to the situation of raised anxieties it’s definitely bound to cause. 

The book is extremely well written, the Author clearly is an expert writer. The characters are all deeply developed and varied with many layers to peel back to know their wants, needs, history, personalities, etc. The plot lines are many, varied, complex, winding; and all eventually end up together with the details concluded in a tight bow on the worlds’ worst present; no detail forgotten. Top stars on the intricacy and details exceptionally concluded on all fronts. 

Now, if this story could just get out of my mind and my dreams, that would be great. The lingering taste of pandemic extinction events and heightened anxiety can just F* off now. 

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