by Emily St. John Mandel
This is the story of the end of civilization and what came after. It’s a pandemic flu, but that’s not the point: the point is the people who keep going, and where they go.
Planetary romance is the a problem for all Armageddons; if civilization becomes the central character of the story, then the story becomes simple a pathetic deathbed scene or, if life marches on, a hospital melodrama. Here, Mandel uses avant-garde fragmentation to straightforward and evocative narrative effect: frequent time shift and changing points of view leave us in little doubt with regard to the Great Questions of whether civilization is saved and whether everyone is wiped out, and this leaves us space to build a moving novel of small achievements and small (but pressing) desires amidst the universal wreckage.