Review: Severance by Ling Ma

SeverenceAuthor: Ling Ma
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released: August 14th, 2018
Received: Own
Warnings: Illness & disease
Rating: 3 1/2 kitties

Severance is the debut novel of Ling Ma, and it is perhaps the quirkiest apocalyptic novel I have ever read. It is one part doomsday and one part satire. And the end result is something totally original.

A plague is spreading across the globe. If you catch it, you’ll find yourself in a cycle of behavior. Every day, every hour, every minute, you’ll continue to do the same thing. You’ll repeat this single action until you wither away into nothing.

Candace Chen recently lost her parents, and now she’s faced with the apocalypse. Not ideal, by any standards. But she’s a survivor through and through, and that means she’s going to find a way to keep herself alive (or healthy, however you want to look at it) for as long as possible.


“The past is a black hole, cut into the present day like a wound, and if you come too close, you can get sucked in. You have to keep moving.”

Spoiler Warning

Warnings: This one should be fairly obvious: there is an illness infecting the world. It involves graphic descriptions of bodies wasting away.

Severance was a totally unique and utterly clever read. I honestly mean it when I say that I’ve never read anything like that. It was a satirical form of an apocalypse novel, which until now I didn’t realize was a thing!

Candace is an interesting character. She doesn’t react to tragedy or loss the way you might expect, but perhaps that is the reason why she was so capable of surviving this horrible event. Her life before said event was fairly run of the mill, but her personality made her standout, even then.

While there were parts that fascinated me about this novel (such as the core plot) there were other parts that I just found myself scratching my head about. I’m okay with the source of the disease never being answered – that fits in okay (after all, a scientist would have to survive in order to make any discoveries on the matter). But in the end it felt like Candace hadn’t actually come all that far. Actually, it didn’t feel like there was much of an ending at all. More like the story simply…stopped.

In a way, maybe that ending is completely appropriate for Candace’s story. But it did leave me feeling like I was left hanging. Perhaps that is just me and the mood I was in at the time of reading this. I think the real reason I’m disappointed by the ending is that I saw so much potential in this novel. Like I said, it’s seriously unique. Oh well. I will be curious to see what Ling Ma comes out with next.

About Liz (AKA Cat)

I am an avid animal lover, photographer, reader, and much more. While my photography blog is feeling a bit neglected at the moment, the other sites I'm involved in are going strong. ✧I review books, comics, and basically anything else in the literary world over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks (of Books). ✧I review comics and books, as well as write content for Word of the Nerd. ✧I review comics for Monkeys Fighting Robots. ✧I write content for Screen Rant and CBR. ✧I write book reviews for The Review Crew.
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