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Severance by Ling Ma
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Severance (2018)

by Ling Ma

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5112831,720 (3.87)28
Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she's had her fill of uncertainty. She's content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend. So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies cease operations. The subways screech to a halt. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost. Candace won't be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They're traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers? A send-up and takedown of the rituals, routines, and missed opportunities of contemporary life, Ling Ma's Severance is a moving family story, a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale, and a hilarious, deadpan satire. Most important, it's a heartfelt tribute to the connections that drive us to do more than survive.… (more)
  1. 30
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Tmyers526)
  2. 30
    My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (jtoneill0)
    jtoneill0: Also about post-millennial New York, similar sardonic and detached tone, similar sense of ennui
  3. 10
    Zone One: A Novel by Colson Whitehead (susanbooks)
    susanbooks: Ma takes Whitehead's neoliberal zombie narrative further, making for a more satisfying read, but I'm not sure I'd have appreciated Ma's without Whitehead's.
  4. 10
    The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker (Anonymous user)
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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Dreary and unoriginal. Modern life and capitalism are alienating and deadening, immigration can be self-alienating, male/female relationships can be alienating and objectifying, and ooh look it's all illustrated by a disease that is really just a shallowly explored metaphor. ( )
  being_b | Jan 8, 2020 |
This is hands down one of the best book I've read this year. Candice is found asleep in an abandoned taxi in the deserted streets of New York city by a small dysfunctional gang of survivors. Having mysteriously survived the fever, which has desolated the United States, the group travels together towards "the refuge" under the guidance of their self appointed leader Bob. As they travel, Candice reminisces about her family, her childhood and her misguided attempts at adulthood. Severance tells a very dark. very funny story with a protagonist you really care about, despite some of her questionable choices. ( )
  hheather | Dec 9, 2019 |
Part Chinese immigrant story, part the reality of the modern workplace, and part dystopian apocalypse. I don’t think Severance breaks a lot of new ground in any one of those areas, but the combination is intriguing, as is the writing of Ling Ma. Through her main character Candace Chen, we see a sophisticated, feminine, and youthful yet somewhat world-weary voice. In the story of her family, we see the transition from her parents’ worldview to her own, as well as her dealing with her father’s death. In the story of her work, we see program management in the era of globalization, a glimpse of office politics, and working dutifully and hard, long after others have gone. In her personal life, we get lots of references to beauty products and clothing, relationships, and some incredibly honest and well-written bits of sex. And in the dystopia she finds herself in, we see a tale of survival and struggle against being subordinated in a group led by a paternalistic, religious guy who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, which is perhaps symbolic. It’s both entertaining and intelligent, and would make a good movie.

Just this quote:
“The Russian told them an anecdote about the film director Andrei Tarkovsky. Upon seeing Utah for the first time, Tarkovsky remarked than now he knew Americans were vulgar because they filmed westerns in a place that should only serve as a backdrop to films about God.” ( )
2 vote gbill | Oct 10, 2019 |
Station Eleven meets My Year of Rest and Relaxation - or, perhaps more accurately, Dawn of the Dead meets Office Space. An incredibly powerful satire which I would recommend heartily to everyone, this book is brilliant on our sense of belonging, be it in a relationship, a workplace or a city, while having all the pulpy enjoyment of a post-apocalyptic thriller. I’ve deducted one star for the ending, which I wasn’t wild about, but that’s really nitpicking. ( )
  alexrichman | Oct 7, 2019 |
For me, this book was like a famous abstract painting or sculpture. I can appreciate the talent and technical prowess of the artist, but I can't see the purpose. In the case of this book, I can appreciate the authors ability to write evocatively and convey how people think and feel, but I just don't see the point of the book. From my point of view, the main character just wanders and stumbles through her life and struggles without ever finding a direction or purpose. ( )
  grandpahobo | Sep 26, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
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to my mother and father
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After the End came the Beginning.
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