Frankenstein, or Ling Ma’s Apocalypse

Where Severance fails, however, is not in its satirical “take-down” of contemporary life. The satirical element of the novel is great.

Candace’s sardonic sense of humor — “Something something Rousseau something” — is a true pleasure throughout the novel, and her pre-pandemic life is lush and well-developed. Instead, Severance fails to deliver on the actual apocalypse; it is in the post-pandemic pages that the novel falls apart.

At the novel’s end, Ma leaves much unresolved — for me, the lack of clarity regarding the mechanism of becoming fevered was especially frustrating — but the bigger issue is that the post-pandemic plot, which constitutes fully half of the novel, feels like something you’ve consumed before.

If you haven’t seen The Walking Dead or have a more literary bent, it might feel like Colson Whitehead’s Zone One or Laura van den Berg’s Find Me. But regardless of what Severance reminds you of, I suspect it reminds you of something — which is another way of saying it just doesn’t feel wholly original. As much as I liked Candace’s voice and perspective (and I really, really liked Candace’s voice and perspective), I don’t have it in me to love a novel that feels like a Frankenstein of everything that came in the genre before it. If you don’t have something new to say, don’t say anything!

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Wynter K Miller

Wynter K Miller

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Wynter K Miller is an editor and writer in California. @wynterkm