In Wanderers an unknown pathogen wreaks havoc across the United States. The virus makes a zoonotic jump from bats to humans resulting in a pandemic, civil unrest, and pandemonium.

While all this sounds familiar to what we’ve just experienced with Covid-19, Wendig actually began devising the novel in 2016–four years before the Covid 19 outbreak.

In addition to the pathogen, characters also grapple with an AI that becomes sentient and autonomous, Black Swan.

Sadie explains how discomfiting the technology can be:

“Imagine that you create this thing, this quantum computer mind, and you begin to train it, and you realize it has a mind of its own. And then, on day, it tells you something: It has been speaking to itself in the future, and it believes that civilization will one day end.”

Though she believes she controls it, the AI begins to act independently. Predicting the pandemic, Black Swan takes control of a nanotech company and its swarm of nanotech bots. Black Swan’s actions ensure that a portion of humanity will survive albeit at a great cost.

The lives of a disgraced scientist, an aging rock star, a teen-aged aspiring photographer, and a preacher intersect in this trenchant novel. As they become personally drawn into the crisis, each of them grapples with the politicization of the pandemic and the moral uncertainties of AI.

If you enjoy The Last of Us, you may enjoy this novel.

Chuck Wendig has also written Star Wars: Aftermath (2015), Invasive (2016), and The Book of Accidents (2021).

Review by Chantal Walvoord