Severance by Ling Ma


An offbeat office novel turns apocalyptic satire as a young woman transforms from orphan to worker bee to survivorCandace 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...

Details Severance

Release DateAug 14th, 2018
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux
GenreFiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Apocalyptic, Post Apocalyptic, Literary Fiction

Reviews Severance

  • Thomas
    4.5 starsThis book stopped me right in my tracks - literally. I read it in the span of five hours; I could not put it down. In Severance, Ling Ma shares the story of Candace Chen, a self-described millennial worker drone who spends much of her life sequestered in a Manhattan office tower. With both of her parents recently deceased and no other family or close friends, she has little else to do, aside from going to work and watching movies in a Gr...
  • Michael
    My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.An apocalyptic satire about the global onset of Shen Fever, a plague that turns people into mindless drones, Severance follows Candace Chen as she attempts to navigate a world stripped of choice and feeling. In the main plot, Candace joins a group of survivors trying to reach a safe haven from the fever in Chicago. Along the way, Candace struggles to conceal a secret...
  • Jessica Sullivan
    I feel like this book was written just for me. It’s a post-apocalyptic anti-capitalist office satire that explores so many of the themes that resonate with millennials like myself. Candace is one of the few survivors of Shen Fever, an epidemic that turns people into non-violent zombies condemned to repeat rote tasks over and over again until they slip into fatal unconsciousness. (You can sense the metaphor already, I’m sure.) For a few months...
  • Meike
    Winner of the Kirkus Prize for Fiction 2018Ever wondered about the connection between globalization, your office job and the zombie apocalypse? Well, no worries, Ling Ma figured that out for you. Her debut novel is a mixture between immigrant family story, corporate satire, and a dystopia about a global health crisis - and while the text might not be flawless, it sure is addictive and intriguing. Twentysomething Candace Chen, who immigrated to th...
  • Jill
    Think of Severance as a stack of matryoshka dolls—an office satire inside a post-apocalyptic road trip inside an immigrant experience inside a millennial coming-of-age story inside an anti-capitalism tale. And if that sounds complicated – well, it isn’t. It all works together beautifully and the book seems eminently credible, even when it’s pushing the limits of fantasy.So here are the “bones” of the story: a millennial named Candace ...
  • OutlawPoet
    So, when I started reading this one, I wasn’t sure. I was getting shades of Station Eleven (a.k.a the book most of the world loved and I did not a.k.a. 2 Pretentious Apocalyptic Fiction). I actually stopped reading it for a bit and almost deleted it. But, I returned to it and I’m glad I did.There’s an art to this one that takes a bit to kick in. The story is told both pre and post apoc – all from the POV of Candace Chen. She’s a self -d...
  • Marianne
    Severance is the first novel by Chinese-born American author, Ling Ma. When the End comes, Candace Chen is still in New York. She is employed by publishing consulting firm, Spectra, “working” from (and living in) their building on Times Square, but most days she roams the streets taking photos for her NY Ghost blog. The city is almost deserted; only the very old, the fevered (infected and dying from Shen Fever) and the random solitary types (...
  • Tasha
    I must be in the minority because this book fell flat for me and the ending was a huge let down.
  • Robin Bonne
    3.5 Stars. I have conflicting feelings about this book. The beginning was exciting, then the story slowed down during the flashbacks from before the fever epidemic. The action picked up again towards the last third of the book, and the flashbacks were significantly better. The ending was unfulfilling for me, and I was left wanting more resolution. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an unbiased revi...
  • Jaclyn Crupi
    Structurally breathtaking, SEVERANCE is a very clever, humane satire about the global economy, the meaningless nature of contemporary life, consumption and survival. A recent past dystopia where an epidemic sweeps the world, this book questions consumerism, connection and life itself and it’s completely brilliant. I feel suddenly disconnected from my life – what more can we ask of fiction?! How is this a debut novel? I could say a lot more bu...
  • Elaine
    As usual, I'm in the minority about Severance, a plodding dystopian story about a millennial drone named Candace Chen. ** Spoilers ahead ** When Shen Fever sweeps through the country, killing off most of the population, Candace continues to go to work at the publishing office because she signed a contract. What else is there to do?Her boyfriend has moved away. Her parents are dead. Eventually, she meets up with a small group of survivors led by...
  • Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
    "I have always lived in the myth of New York more than in its reality."Severance is one of those surprising whip-smart novels that come out of nowhere.  I had a tough time putting this book down once I started because it covers a wide range of heavy topics in a satirical way that is easy to relate to.Candace Chen is doing her best to live up to the expectations her parents had for the American Dream.  Her mom and dad immigrated from China when...
  • Judith E
    I’m a fan of the post apocalyptic platform as it allows authors to run the gamut in creating new societies and their ensuing problems. Ling Ma’s skilled structure of old and new worlds has her protagonist (Candace Chen) severed from her Chinese background, from the repetitive behaviors in her bible publishing job and from her New York City’s lifestyle. In her pre-apocalyptic world, Candace is motivated and under the thumb of the ‘Man’. ...
  • Katie Long
    A haunting post-apocalyptic novel about the survivors of deadly fever outbreak. I know, I know, you think you've heard all of this before, but you haven't. This one is distinctive because it has more to say about how we live now, than how we will live if zombies, epidemics, etc... wipe us out. Running under all of it, is an exploration of the ways that personal freedoms and desires are sacrificed for security, and the complacency that security pr...
  • Andre
    This novel is difficult to categorize. I’m still not sure what to label it. I’ll just call it good. Candace Chen is the narrator of this very different, slightly satirical, coming-of-age end-of-days story. A fever has overtaken NYC, indeed it is breaking out worldwide. Candace is an only child and both her mother and father are deceased. She came to the USA from China when she was six years old and eventually settled in NYC. When the Shen fev...
  • Chad
    Who knew that a book about a fever outbreak crippling civilization could be SO dull? Ling Ma has talent, but this book was so haphazard and incredibly boring. It was so infuriating reading about Candace's naivety; there were multiple instances where I uttered, "she is so dumb!" while reading about her motives and inner dialogue. All the characters were mere sketches, I honestly couldn't tell you anything more than the role they play in advancing ...
  • Kathleen
    "Your father is an ambitious man. He wanted a better life for you, and it is only possible in the United States. You are the only child. You must do better or just as well as him. But what do you want me to do? I asked, afraid to admit how much I didn't know.She closed her eyes. For a moment, I thought she had gone to sleep. But then I heard her breathe, a long, shaky exhalation that rattled her frame.I just want for you what your father wanted: ...
  • Mary Lins
    “The end begins before you are even aware of it. It passes as ordinary.”“Severance”, by Ling Ma, throws some wit, some sparkle, and some delicious satire into a post-apocalypse story! Oh sure, there is the requisite darkness, the inevitable “we should have seen it coming”, and the unexpected twists and suspense that are required in any post-apocalypse landscape, but “Severance” was also a ton of fun to read!Candace Chen is one of ...
  • Jennifer
    Personally, I loved this book--everything about it. For me, it hit all of my sweet spots. There are great scenes in a post-apocalyptic world that our society kind of slowly slid into, a trip to "the facility" where a group of survivors hope to flourish, some looming menace and small acts of violence, and (my favorite) banal scenes that walk us through how one gets through the business of living in the midst of everyone else dying. Interspersed wi...
  • Jessica Woodbury
    3.5 stars. The literary-slash-genre novel is a tricky balancing act. It attracts two sometimes disparate sets of readers, but lean too far one way you alienate one set, lean too far the other way you lose the rest. I prefer a very specific balance in this kind of book, and this one wasn't quite my particular preference. Nevertheless I stuck with it because I was intrigued by its meditations on modern working life for millennials. It was accurate ...
  • Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)
    An apocalyptic coming-of-age novel for millennials. With themes of anti-consumerism, the immigrant experience, the meaninglessness of office jobs, and a darkly satirical tongue-in-cheek narrative style poking fun at the lackadaisical nature of our generation, Ling Ma manages to write a compelling story that still has a lot to say about the nature of our modern day society.Candace is your everyday twenty-something who has little ambition but striv...
  • Diane Hernandez
    A literary take on a post-apocalyptic novel sure to be nominated for a literary award or two. Severance is the story of Candace, a Chinese immigrant and millennial, who is trying to just live her dull life when a real apocalypse hits. At first, Candace is in denial and continues to live in an eerily empty NYC. Eventually, she leaves in an old NYC taxi and collapses by the side of the road. A group of other NYC survivors take her on a trip to the ...
  • Jill
    I love me a good post-apocalyptic story, but they do tend to feel same-same. Where they often differ is in cause—a supervirus here, an environmental catastrophe there—while the consequences remain remarkably similar: It seems like every post-apocalyptic novel ends with the survivors coming together to build a new society. In Severance, Candace Chen, survivor of the Shen Fever epidemic, simply keeps going to work as the world as she knows it c...
  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    The first 2/3rd of this book was very disjointed, jumping around in time a lot and to different parts of the story that didn’t seem relevant. There were longish sections that seemed added just because the author wanted to write about them even though they weren’t important to the story. The last 1/3rd, however, was quite good. Glad I stuck it out.
  • Ylenia
    Reached the last page and had to fight the need to start this book all over again. This book was a true gem.
  • Michael Livingston
    A wonderful combination of a satirical look at late capitalism and a post-apocalyptic collapse of society. The structure flits back and forth from Candace's life working in a fairly meaningless book production job to her scrounging to survive in the aftermath of a massive epidemic. The book is scathing about 'work' in late capitalism - it's brutal, sad and funny - a fine, fine debut.
  • Marc
    This novel exceeded my wildest expectations. I highly, highly recommend it. Candace Chen is a character I won't soon forget and this end of humanity story is incredibly deep and layered. A thought-provoking and gripping book that I hope everyone reads. I think this is going to be my favorite novel of 2018.