Wanderers – Chuck Wendig

Where do I even begin with this one?

Seemingly without reason, men and women venture out of their homes and begin walking.  They exhibit no signs of awareness, just a blank stare coupled with a slow and steady cadence.  If grabbed and made to stop, they heat up like hot water bottles, shake and explode in a violent mess of blood and bone.

Friends and family of the walkers – dubbed shepherds – walk alongside their “flock” in an effort to take care of them as well as offer safety and support for the afflicted.  The story doesn’t just stay here though.  Wendig puts a spotlight on a “Trumpian” style candidate running against a Democrat incumbent in the upcoming presidential election.  Ed Creel, the GOP dark horse, uses much of the same rhetoric as Trump in seeking to sow discontent among those he claims have been “forgotten” by giving a newfound relevance to white nationalists.  He frames the walkers as a threat that need to be dealt with.

Also drawn into the story is Matthew, a man of the cloth suffering from a crisis of faith as well as Pete, a decadent rock star struggling with who he is at his core.  Both men play a big role in the story and are fully drawn out characters necessary to showcasing the plot on an even bigger level.

While the men and women sleepwalking across the country is the early focus of the book, a horrifying turn of events on the horizon will take the story to a whole other level.  One that will change humanity and the world forever.

It’s been about a week since this tome dropped and there have been plenty of reviews written for Wendig’s Wanderers.  I’ve read a baker’s dozen of them just to see how everyone feels about it.  The majority I’ve read have been overwhelmingly positive with only a small amount being particularly negative.  One thing they all seem to share is the penchant for comparing Wanderers with Stephen King’s The Stand.  For a long, long time The Stand was my favorite book.  Depending on who you ask, King’s 1150 page doorstopper is a towering achievement so any book that gets compared to it has some big shoes to fill.

Do I think Wanderers is as good as The Stand?  No.  However, that doesn’t mean that Wendig hasn’t written something spectacular in his own right.

If you want to write a book about the end of the world and you want to make it eight hundred pages, you’re not going to spend all your time with just a handful of characters in one location – it has to be sprawling.  Wendig introduces a wide cast of players and several themes that deal with the misuse of religion, divisive politics and the looming threat of climate change.  It’s like taking the current state of America and injecting it with steroids.

Wendig pulls no punches when it comes to depicting the collapse of civilization.  Honestly, I found a few moments were even too raw for me.  But when it comes down to it, there’s no beauty in the end of the world.  Wendig knows this and he isn’t here to sugar coat anything.  Humanity likes to believe it’s altruistic and kind and maybe it can be for the most part, but when the chips are down and we’re all staring down the barrel of a loaded shotgun – do we really know what we’re capable of?

So, I’ve gushed unabashedly about the book for the majority of this review, but was it perfect?  No, I don’t think so.  The ending will likely end up being divisive.  I’ll admit, it’s hard to end these massive stories on a note that everyone will enjoy but the journey kind of makes up for it?  Maybe? There’s also the whole thing about artificial intelligence that while interesting, sort of lost me near the end.  However, it’s not like it didn’t fit the story – things don’t go off the rails – but it goes to a place I wasn’t thrilled with.

Chuck Wendig is without a doubt, one of my absolute favorite authors.  I am a huge fan of his Miriam Black series and I’m not sure there’s a writer alive today with a style similar to his that jitters and crackles with an electricity on the page.  Writing a book of this size and scope is an achievement for sure and I expect big things for this novel.

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