Survivor Song is an eerily relevant horror novel following on the heels of Paul Tremblay's story collection Growing Things and his masterful The Cabin at the End of the World. Tremblay excels at short, breathless novels that pack a visceral and emotional punch, and Survivor Song is no exception. It is, essentially, Tremblay's grounded spin on zombie fiction, with the undead replaced by an outbreak of "super rabies" in Massachusetts. Tremblay's virus works like rabies, albeit dramatically sped up: within an hour, those infected become animalistic and violent. At eight months pregnant, Natalie is forced out of quarantine when a rabid man breaks into her house, kills her husband, and bites her on the arm. In a panic, she calls on her close friend Dr. Ramola (also known as "Rams") to help her get to a hospital.
Tremblay's scenario feels surprisingly realistic, especially in the Covid-19 world, where references to PPE and hospital capacity are all too familiar. Tremblay also has a great deal to say about the human and governmental failures that enable the virus's spread, including "a myopic, sluggish federal bureaucracy further hamstrung by a president unwilling and woefully unequipped to make the rational, science-based decisions necessary." More than that, though, the book is a story of survival. Rams and Natalie are constantly meeting new obstacles, from violent outbreaks in hospitals to a foolhardy militia, all with the ticking-clock that is Natalie's possible infection pushing them forward. Unsettling parallels aside, Survivor Song is a breakneck, frightening test of what two people can overcome. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine