Alma Katsu wields research like a scalpel, deftly flaying open your tender parts with surgical precision, leaving your nerves quivering, exposed. I first discovered this talent of hers when I read The Hunger, which uses the meticulously researched story of the Donner party as scaffolding on which to build a supernatural horror novel that was equal parts terrifying and heartbreaking.
Now, with The Fervor, Katsu uses as her foundation one of the most shameful occurrences in U.S. history—the imprisonment of those of Japanese descent, the majority of them U.S. citizens, in internment camps during World War II. With painstaking detail she describes the very real horrors our government committed, interning men, women and children, entire families, stealing their property, destroying countless lives. Katsu starts with those raw materials, then weaves in supernatural horror steeped in Japanese folklore.
Katsu follows the lives of several characters—a young Japanese girl and her mother, a Japanese woman interned even though her husband is a white pilot off supporting the war effort, a white small town pastor, and equally small town reporter—as a mysterious, horrific sickness descends on an internment camp, causing the victims to become violent before succumbing to death. The sickness soon spreads beyond the confines of the camp. There’s a secret government plot, evil doctors, and breathless escapes and chases. All of it with a virulent, and sadly historically accurate, racism as a constant backdrop.
Katsu is a richly descriptive writer. She’ll make you squirm in the more horrifying supernatural passages, but you’ll also feel a righteous anger during the parts that are all too human, and no less horrifying.
If you don’t ordinarily read afterwords, please read this one. Katsu explains, with passion and fury, what led her to write this extraordinary novel.
The Fervor releases April 26, 2022. Don’t miss this one.