I’ve read a post-apocalyptic novel or two in my day, and a common thread that runs through them is that when the bomb drops or the plague hits or whatever apocalyptic thing it is that happens happens, people stop going to work. The apocalypse, it seems, is an unimpeachable reason to play hooky.
Not so in Ling Ma’s entertaining, thought-provoking debut novel, Severance. In Severance, when the apocalyptic thing happens — in this case it’s a disease called Shen Fever — the unaffected minority keep going to work. For some, it’s a coping mechanism. For others, it’s the promise of a hefty bonus, or the idea that their loyalty to the company will get them ahead when this all blows over.
For Candace Chen, it’s a case of not knowing what else to do.