This book terrified me. Not in the way a twisty thriller would. Wanderers isn’t a psychological thriller. It’s not horror, even though it is horrifying. It’s not a mystery, even though there is the mystery of the walkers. That mystery takes up the first part of Wanderers. And yes, you do find out what caused their zombie-like walking. (No, they aren’t zombies a la The Walking Dead.)
No, the real terror here is the reaction to the walkers. How would this country react if something like this actually happened? Right now. Ponder on that for a minute.
This is the epic, post-apocalyptic novel I’ve waited to read. Wanderers lived up to my hype for it and then some. In reviews, it has been compared to Stephen King’s The Stand. I read The Stand many years and it solidified my love for King and for post-apocalyptic fiction. The Stand is even referenced in Wanderers. What makes Wanderers different is that it felt like something that could really happen. Not just with the reason that the walkers exist. But in the reaction to them. The modern-day reaction. This is an epic for today’s world, today’s America. It’s frightening. What would the collapse of our society look like in 2019?
For all that is terrifying in Wanderers, it also has wonderful characters and heart. There are the shepherds, those who follow the walkers, (the flock). People like Shana Stewart, who refuses to leave her sister, Nessie, the first walker. Benjamin Ray, a doctor who worked for the CDC, who is trying to figure out the mystery of the malady that affected the walkers. There is Matthew Bird, a pastor who falls down the rabbit hole and into the violence, racism and xenophobia of white supremacists. There is Marcy, an ex-cop with a traumatic brain injury, who joins up with the shepherds to protect the flock. She is one of my favorite characters, who is responsible for one of my favorite quotes. Hint: Read the book! There is an aging rock star, Pete Corley, who finds a place to hide among the shepherds and the flock.
Word of warning: this book gets into political themes, religious themes. What happens when a society denies science and climate change? There is violence and rape. Racism, guns. Violent political divisions. I noticed in some reviews that people either love or hate this book. I’m not surprised. Chuck Wendig does not hide his political views.
Yes, this book is long. Yes, you could use it as a doorstopper. Yes, it can be slow at times. I wasn’t in love with the ending and it did drag in parts for me as a reader. Doesn’t matter though. I loved Wanderers. I want to thank NetGalley and DelRey Publishing for my copy. All opinions are my own.