You would think that in the midst of a pandemic, nobody would be interested in pandemic fiction. Paul Tremblay’s new novel Survivor Song, released just last month, is about a pandemic (still trying to figure out if that’s coincidence or if Tremblay knew COVID-19 was on its way and wrote the story in response). And yet I, and many others, picked it up as soon as we could, and devoured it. I got it done in about a week, reading through the last half today. So yes, even in the midst of a pandemic, there’s an appetite for pandemic fiction. And Survivor Song is a welcome addition to the fold.

Survivor Song follows Dr. Ramola Sherman, a pediatrician experiencing a pandemic of her own in her state of Massachusetts. This one is a fast-moving form of rabies, one that affects its host within hours instead of days or weeks. As fear, anger, and conspiracy swirls around the state, Ramola gets a call from her best friend, Natalie, who is eight months pregnant and ready to burst. An infected man killed her husband and bit her. Thus begins a saga to find someplace to get Natalie treated, to save her and her baby. But with rabid humans and animals everywhere and time running out, can Ramola help anyone, let alone her friend and her friend’s baby?

A pandemic story with a slash of zombie thriller (though Dr. Sherman will remind you, none of the infected are zombies), Tremblay’s novel offers a stark, believable story of a disease running rampant through the state and the problems that come up in such a situation. That said, there are plenty of twists and unexpected turns, and they add to the tension of a clock running out of the story. Quite a few times I read something and was like, “Oh no!” or “Well, that’s a complication.” I also loved how Tremblay managed to hit on a lot of what we’re seeing in our current situation, including but not limited to: hospitals fighting an uphill battle; people not obeying health guidelines or employing easy “solutions” that are actually problematic; and crazy, convoluted conspiracy theories.

Also, that ending! Guy knows how to write a tense climax.

At the same time, there’s a deep-running love story here. Not a romance story or romantic love, but love between friends and a mother and child. Through Ramola and Natalie’s interactions, and the messages Natalie leaves to her child, you really come to care for these characters and hope for the best despite the threat of the worst.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for and would’ve liked to see changed, it’s the ending of the story for Josh and Luis, two teens whom Ramola and Natalie meet while trying to get to the hospital. They were in the story for only a short time, but I really grew to like those goofy nerds and would’ve liked to see more of them in the story, or maybe in a story of their own. And not just because they were Doctor Who fans (Whovians, unite!).

All in all, Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay is a thrilling and emotional read and perfect for these mad times. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the book a 4.5. Stay inside, grab a bite, and get ready for one roller-coaster of a story. Just hope the bite you grab isn’t something biting your arm off while you’re at it.

And while I still have your attention, guess what happened last night? Stephen King tweeted about this book, and I replied mentioning my progress in it and when I hoped to have it finished. He retweeted it. King retweeted it! And I’ve been fangirling ever since (while at the same time daring to hope this isn’t the last time I end up on his radar). What a world, right?

Comments
  1. Hello fellow Whovian! Survivor Song sounds really good. Tremblay must have been asked a bazillion times as he was writing if it was a zombie virus . . . so Dr. Sherman had to spell it out. Not zombies, rabies!

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