Published by MIRA, Harlequin Audio on January 14, 2020
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller
Length: 11 hours and 39 minutes
Cover Artist: Elita Sidiropoulou
My content rating: Adult (Written for an adult audience, but there's nothing more than kissing and no excessive violence or anything, just some swearing)
How do you start over after the end of the world?
Six years after a global pandemic wiped out most of the planet’s population, the survivors are rebuilding the country, split between self-governing cities, hippie communes and wasteland gangs.
In postapocalyptic San Francisco, former pop star Moira has created a new identity to finally escape her past—until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world on behalf of those too traumatized to go outside, determined to help everyone move on—even if they don’t want to. Rob survived the catastrophe with his daughter, Sunny, but lost his wife. When strict government rules threaten to separate parent and child, Rob needs to prove himself worthy in the city’s eyes by connecting with people again.
Krista, Moira, Rob and Sunny are brought together by circumstance, and their lives begin to twine together. But when reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into panic, the friends are forced to finally face everything that came before—and everything they still stand to lose.
Because sometimes having one person is enough to keep the world going.
I don’t review many adult books on the blog anymore, but I couldn’t resist spreading the word about this one. Just read the synopsis and you’ll see why this is either a perfect read for these times or an absolutely horrible one—depending on your personality. If you’re like me, and you’re more than a little fascinated by all things pandemic and can’t get enough, you should read this book immediately. However, if you get stressed out by the mere thought of the damage a worldwide pandemic might do, you might want to skip this one (or at least wait to read it until the worst of COVID-19 has passed).
I actually started listening to this book at the end of January, not knowing that talk of an actual pandemic was right around the corner. By the time I got to the end of the book (I listen in the car, so it usually takes me a week or two to get through an audiobook), Coronavirus was just starting to become a big news topic, so listening to the end of the book was more than a little surreal!
I should mention that this book describes the aftermath of a devastating global pandemic that is much more deadly than our current one will ever be (even compared to estimates of worst-case outcomes). So you can rest assured that I’m not trying to suggest this is where our world will end up post-COVID-19. In this alternate version of reality, a good portion of the population has been wiped out, and those still living are left with serious PTSD from having lived through the horrors of seeing so many of their loved ones die, not to mention the breakdown of society. Needless to say, not everyone has handled these transitions well.
The story follows a former pop star who used the chaos of the pandemic to escape her controlling father—but she still finds herself running, a wedding planner who is living at the edge of her means, and a father who has been lying to his six-year-old daughter for years about her mother (she thinks she’s still alive!). The lives of these three collide right when news of a possible new virus hits.
I don’t even know how to do this book justice, honestly. It’s truly a character study—one of three people making desperate (sometimes very poor) choices because of the extraordinary circumstances they’ve been put in. Moira (the former pop star) and Rob (the father) have obvious plot arcs since Moira is trying to stay out of her father’s clutches and Rob is dealing with the aftermath of the lie he’s been living with his daughter. It would be easy to assume that Krista (the wedding planner) is less important since her story revolves around her trying to help Moira and Rob (in an unplanned sort of way). But Krista’s internal struggles are just as compelling as her counterparts’: she has spent her life pushing people away due to her traumatic upbringing by a drug-addicted mother.
In the end, the book gives us hope in the midst of tragic and chaotic circumstances and it highlights the resilience of the human spirit. Moira, Rob and Krista find that human connection and empathy are the true cures for the hopelessness of a pandemic. We might just be able to learn from that.
About the Author
Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. He has contributed to major geek culture websites (The Mary Sue, The Portalist), covered the NHL for mainstream media outlets, and ghostwritten corporate articles appearing in Forbes, Buzzfeed, Enterpreneur, and more. A member of SFWA and the Codex Writers group, Mike calls the San Francisco Bay Area home, where he can often be found playing video games and watching Doctor Who with his wife, daughter, and rescue animals.