Survivor Song – Paul Tremblay

Survivor Song
Paul Tremblay

It’s often been said that writers are almost psychic when it comes to the horrors they imagine, and have predicted remarkable inventions, wars, discoveres or in this case, viruses. I’m writing this review amidst lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic 2020. Rather ironic then, that this novel, first talked about by the publisher well overa year ago, brings us on a journey with Paul and Natalie during a virus curfew. Natalie is heavily pregnant and reliant on best friend Ramola, a doctor, to ensure she gets support for the impending birth.Though the people in the journey might change, swap over or start other stories, it is the connections between them and the sense of growth that pervades throughout the novel.
Epistolary in nature and set/written in real time – think the Keifer Sutherland show ’24’ – it includes social media comments, which reflect the innate stupidity of some people, with risque jokes – if this were real, but in the context of fiction they are actually light relief – anti-vaxxer commentary, real human concerns and a great sense of humanity. Much like now, we are aware of a virus but at first that belongs to other people. The worries start with quiet rumbles.Via a group message between paediatrician Ramola and her group she says “I realise it’s an emergency but we should have proper PPE regardless as a safeguard.”
Scattered dialogue or comments on social media are scarily prescient;
“—the quarantine will help get the spread of the illness under control—” “—and it … dove right at my front tire.” “—everyone will be all right as long as we don’t . . .”
I don’t know to what extent, if at all, Tremblay edited in aspects of the current pandemic, but it contributes to the escalating horror. Amidst that though, and some very visceral scenes, are the poignant and harrowing moments that are beautifully written.”After shared, restrained laughter, they drive in silence, passing through this new ghost town, where the ghosts are reflections of what was and projections of what might never be again.” This, more than anything, encapsulates the burgeoning tension that Ramola and Natalie experience as they’re on their road trip to help Nat give birth safely. Terrifyingly, it also feels very much like ‘now’; the now of the pandemic, the feeling of fear mixed with cold shock at the drastic changes to the world we live in.Without spoiling the end, it is a good ending in so far as it can be, in a fictional world of a vicious strain of rabies.
It’s not always an easy read, but it’s timely, poetic and brilliant.

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