Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
I’ve been hearing buzz about Wanderers for several months now and was thrilled to have Memorial Day weekend to curl up and read it!
Shana Stewart wakes up one morning on her family farm and notices her sister Nessie wandering down the road. When Shana catches up with Nessie, she believes her sister is sleepwalking.
As Nessie walks through town, seemingly unaware of her own actions and unable to be awakened, another person soon joins her.
Shana doesn’t know where her sister and the growing number of sleepwalkers are headed but they are slowly making their way across the country with an intense determination and their number is climbing steadily. The group becomes known as the flock and the friends/family who follow and protect them known as shepherds.
America is soon divided about the meaning of the sleepwalkers. Is it a terrorist attack? The beginning of Armageddon? A disease?
Along their journey, readers meet a vibrant cast of characters, including an aging rock star, a preacher whose family and faith are in crisis, a wealthy businessman trying to escape the shadow of his family’s legacy, and a group of scientists with the CDC; including the disgraced Dr. Benjamin Ray whose involvement is sanctioned by a mysterious piece of artificial intelligence known as Black Swan.
When Black Swan alerts Dr. Ray and his team to a body discovered in the Everglades, it appears at first to be entirely unrelated to the sleepwalkers until an epidemic sweeps the country and everything from government to religion crumbles in the chaos, the only constant being the sleepwalkers steadily moving toward their unknown destination.
It’s up to Dr. Ray, his team, and the shepherds to protect the flock from a violent militia that preys on people’s fear and faith and discover how everything connects before the world as they know it ends.
Wanderers is an epic saga that covers everything from politics, science, religion, good vs. evil, and the power of technology with a rich cast of characters that add to the story sometimes in superficial and other times vital ways.
This book will certainly be compared to Stephen King’s The Stand but it manages to hold its own with a modern message and by focusing on the actual apocalypse rather than its aftermath.
Now for the negatives:
At 800 pages, there is of course a lot of build-up; we’re introduced to so many characters who shape the entire story and that takes time.
Readers are completely in the dark for the entire first half of the book; we know the events but not how or why they’re connected so it can be frustrating to wade through almost 400 pages without any real movement on the plot itself.
The ending. Oh the ending. All that carefully crafted build-up for a mediocre showdown (which was coincidentally my main complaint with The Stand). Everything has been building toward this moment and readers get a few pages of limited action. It just wasn’t enough after that long journey. Annnnnnnd then readers are given a rushed “five years later” catch-up that concludes with an open ending.
I need closure, Mr. Wendig!
All that said, it’s a fantastic journey that I was completely invested in, personally. The plot is heavy but entertaining, the questions raised are both compelling and thought-provoking, and most of the characters are well-developed.
If you enjoyed The Stand, odds are that you’ll enjoy this novel also.
If this 800 page behemoth seems daunting, it’s a coin toss to recommend: on the one hand, it was a highly entertaining saga of an apocalyptic epidemic and I enjoyed the long journey, but on the other hand, the pay-off wasn’t completely satisfying with a rushed finale and frustrating open ending.
Thanks to Del Rey Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Wanderers is scheduled for release on July 2, 2019.