Within just a few days, the state of Massachusetts is gripped by the spread of an extremely aggressive form of the rabies virus. Those who become infected quickly turn violent as they seek out to attack and bite the healthy. Seeing as the virus is spread through saliva – this is a very bad development. Can the state close its borders and successfully contain the epidemic or will it overrun the country and turn into a full blown pandemic?
Why did I choose to read a book like this in the middle of a world-wide pandemic? Who knows. Maybe I like punishing myself.
While COVID-19 is certainly something to take seriously, it has nothing on Paul Tremblay’s 100% fatal super-rabies virus. This thing is an absolute killer. You’re looking at an incubation period of about 1 hour before it takes hold and begins to destroy its host. There’s a belief that if you can get the regular rabies vaccine shortly after exposure, you’ll be fine, but with society in Massachusetts quickly falling by the wayside, finding quick and effective treatment is proving difficult.
The novel follows Natalie, a heavily-pregnant, recently infected woman as well as her friend and pediatrician Ramola as they race to find help to prevent Natalie from falling victim to the virus. Along the way, they run into roadblocks, several infected, a few people willing to help and a group of weekend warriors fueled by Facebook conspiracy theories hell-bent on overthrowing the local government.
What a mess. Sadly, this feels all too real. It’s not like it’s hard to find idiots, nearly nine months into our current pandemic, who still do not believe COVID-19 is “real”. The gaggle of beer-gut laden, camo-wearing, heavily armed morons patrolling the streets of Massachusetts in Tremblay’s novel feel ripped out of today’s headlines. Tremblay doesn’t overstay his welcome with a brisk three hundred twenty pages that rarely gives the reader time to catch his or her breath. The violence is realistic and visceral, so maybe make sure you can handle a good level of gore – especially that last scene.
Survivor Song isn’t my favorite Tremblay novel I’ve read to date (that belongs to A Head Full of Ghosts), but it’s well-constructed and tailor-made for 2020. Will you enjoy this one? It’s hard to say. It comes down to your willingness to dive head-first into a novel about one highly contagious virus while you’re currently quarantining yourself from another just outside our door.