cover image Wayward


Chuck Wendig. Del Rey, $29.99 (944p) ISBN 978-0-593-15877-7

Wendig’s sequel to 2019’s Wanderers disappoints, with the sprawling postapocalyptic epic hobbled by heavy-handed political satire­—at one point, U.S. President Ed Creel, a cartoonish Trump stand-in, fights with a man calling himself White Jesus—that overwhelms the more thoughtful elements of the plot. In an alternate present, a Hillary Clinton–like figure, President Nora Hunt, was assassinated during the 2020 White Mask pandemic, which killed millions. Creel then assumed power, but in the wake of the virus, his domain is initially limited to a Kansas bunker. Outside the bunker, those not killed by White Mask struggle to survive, among them former CDC epidemiologist Benji Ray, who is stunned to discover the disease’s true origins. Other of the myriad plotlines feature Shana Stewart, whose pregnancy may give some sense of what future humanity can expect; violent political intrigue surrounding Creel; and Matthew Bird, a pastor trying to reconcile his faith with what he’s learned about an über-powerful AI called Black Swan. There’s not much that feels fresh; both the plot twists and the characters’ inner journeys are predictable and familiar. This is best suited only for diehard fans of the previous volume. (Nov.)