Survivor Song – Paul Tremblay

Have you ever given any thought to pre-exposure rabies vaccination? As you travel at a safe distance alongside Ramola and Natalie it may very well cross your mind, probably more than once. You see, this timeline is pretty bitey.

Natalie is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. She’s 38 weeks pregnant. Her husband has just been murdered. By a zombie. She’s been bitten by the zombie. And that’s just the beginning of her story.

Natalie, A.K.A., Nats, A.K.A., Rabies Yoda

Strengths:

  • Has read all YA novels featuring an apocalypse, so she’s probably absorbed some useful survival tips
  • Fluent in sarcasm

Weaknesses:

  • Was very recently bitten by an infected person
  • Grieving the death of her husband, so there’s potential for distraction

Pre-apocalypse attitude to apocalyptic scenarios: the system will definitely fail.

Now Ramola, a paediatrician and Natalie’s friend, is in a race against time to seek medical treatment for Natalie and her unborn child before it’s too late. If it’s not already.

Ramola, A.K.A, Rams, A.K.A., Doctor Who

Strengths:

  • Doctor
  • Loyal to her friends

Weaknesses:

  • Bad liar
  • She’s consistently within biting range of someone who is infected

Pre-apocalypse attitude to apocalyptic scenarios: “Life finds a way.”

With the story more The Walking Dead than Zombieland, you know early on that you’re not here for the laughs. There’s going to be blood, gore and frothing at the mouth.

The first kill happens early; props to the author for killing off their namesake! Poor Paul never had a chance (not a spoiler – it’s in the blurb) and “from here on out, anything can and will happen.”

This is a stressful read. The kind of stressful where, whenever Natalie wanted to check her temperature I wanted to check my blood pressure. What can I say? Paul Tremblay books are stressful.

Okay, so maybe this is only the second one I’ve read but the first one I read was The Cabin at the End of the World and I own the rest, so that counts as somewhere adjacent to being an authority on the subject, doesn’t it? It’s like how I intuitively know that John Marrs is going to bring terrifying women into my life and Courtney Summers is going to devastate me with the ugliest of ugly cries.

These zombies –

“There are no zombies! This is not the apocalypse! You must stop saying that. It’s not helping.”

Okay, technically not zombies. Even though that’s what they’re called for most of the story. They’re infected with rabies, but not your garden variety rabies. This strain has seriously levelled up!

All of the biting aside, this is a story about friendship. Doctor Who struggles to maintain her confidence in her ability to save her friend but she’s going to do everything in her power to ensure Rabies Yoda survives the worst day of her life. Rabies Yoda trusts Doctor Who with her life (literally) and that of her soon to be born child.

I found it interesting to observe, from far enough away that I couldn’t be bitten, the different ways characters coped with what may or may not be the apocalypse. Some were determined and focused on their goal and some were more emotional. Conspiracy theorists came out to play while others tried to sort through misinformation for snippets of facts that could mean the difference between life and death. Then there was this stellar coping mechanism …

It would be easier to pretend they are in a zombie movie. He will still pretend.

I’m with denial guy! Even though there’s a lot of ‘everything’s going to hell in a hand basket’ going on, there’s still enough time left to discuss the important things in life. Like what movie everyone loved but you and what Disney’s problem is with mothers.

I found Josh and Luis fairly interchangeable but really warmed to them, despite their insistence on annoying me with their constant companion, the catchphrase “You are the bad.” I actually became more emotionally invested in their lives than with Doctor Who and Rabies Yoda’s.

I absolutely loved the inclusion of an asexual character; this was never going to be the focus of the story but its mere mention made my heart happy.

For those who need to know ahead of time, rabid animals were most definitely harmed within the pages of this story. So were rabid humans. It was bound to happen and although I usually avoid stories where animals die, this story wouldn’t have been believable if it wasn’t included.

On reading about a potential apocalypse during our own apocalypse pandemic: It’s weird. Some passages are so prescient that they could easily be written about our current reality. If I’d read this book in 2019 I would have had an entirely different reading experience:

  • I would have had to Google what an N95 was. Pre-COVID I was blissfully unaware of both their name and importance.
  • I wouldn’t have nodded at some of the scenarios that now feel familiar rather than fiction.
  • I wouldn’t have been wondering if the people I met here also encountered toilet paper hoarders.

To add to the ambience of my reading experience today, the sounds outside (or lack thereof) were eerily appropriate. The birds that usually chatter and chase one another through the neighbourhood almost entirely disappeared. It was hard not to wonder if they might know something I don’t. Hopefully they’ll come back tomorrow and their behaviour today isn’t actually a harbinger of doom.

Sassafras and lullabies.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In a matter of weeks, Massachusetts has been overrun by an insidious rabies-like virus that is spread by saliva. But unlike rabies, the disease has a terrifyingly short incubation period of an hour or less. Those infected quickly lose their minds and are driven to bite and infect as many others as they can before they inevitably succumb. Hospitals are inundated with the sick and dying, and hysteria has taken hold. To try to limit its spread, the commonwealth is under quarantine and curfew. But society is breaking down and the government’s emergency protocols are faltering.

Dr. Ramola “Rams” Sherman, a soft-spoken pediatrician in her mid-thirties, receives a frantic phone call from Natalie, a friend who is eight months pregnant. Natalie’s husband has been killed – viciously attacked by an infected neighbour – and in a failed attempt to save him, Natalie, too, was bitten. Natalie’s only chance of survival is to get to a hospital as quickly as possible to receive a rabies vaccine. The clock is ticking for her and for her unborn child.

Natalie’s fight for life becomes a desperate odyssey as she and Rams make their way through a hostile landscape filled with dangers beyond their worst nightmares – terrifying, strange, and sometimes deadly challenges that push them to the brink. 

Paul Tremblay once again demonstrates his mastery in this chilling and all-too-plausible novel that will leave readers racing through the pages … and shake them to their core.

One thought on “Survivor Song – Paul Tremblay

  1. Pingback: Book Haul – 3 to 9 July 2020 – Schizanthus Nerd

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