Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers, published in 2019, was a huge, satisfying, justly-acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel that immediately vaulted to the top of the post-apocalyptic pile. The word epic quickly comes to mind. It easily earned a spot on the same book shelf as Stephen King’s The Stand and Roberts McCammon’s Swan Song. In a bit of sweet serendipity, it was a pandemic novel released as an actual pandemic ravaged the world. It followed a large and diverse group of achingly real characters as they navigated the harrowing beginning of the pandemic, with Wendig’s trademark storytelling skill in full bloom.

The good news is that Wayward, the sequel to Wanderers, just may be better. While Wanderers chronicled the start of the pandemic, Wayward is set five years later, in a world decimated by what has happened. Many of your favorite characters—Benji, Shana, Marcy—are back, still fighting the good fight, still surviving against nearly insurmountable odds.

Unfortunately, forces of evil have also survived to wreak havoc on what is stubbornly left of civilization, from nazis and white supremacists to Ed Creel, the self-proclaimed president of a shattered country. Also along for the ride—Black Swan, the A.I. intimately involved with the apocalypse.

Wayward is just as epic, just as satisfying as Wanderers. Wendig excels at…well, he excels at many things. He creates fully realized, flesh and blood characters, and then puts both them, and you as the reader, through a harrowing, emotional ringer. He takes the time and pages needed to give a true snapshot of what the pandemic has done to various parts of the U.S., with both the main characters and in small vignettes that only add resonance to his story. Finally, in a novel filled with complex scientific concepts, he makes it easily understandable without dumbing anything down.

Wayward is a novel both grand and intimate in scope, not as easy thing to do, and Wendig accomplishes it with a mastery that’s more than a little awe inspiring. It easily belongs on that same bookshelf I mentioned in the beginning. Don’t miss this one.

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