Depending on your appetite for plague fiction, the timing of Paul Tremblay’s Survivor Song is either excellent or appalling. In Massachusetts a new strain of rabies has made the jump to human transmission. Symptoms appear within hours of infection, making the infected homicidal and shattering the social infrastructure. In the chaos of the early outbreak we are introduced to the heavily pregnant Natalie, moments before her husband is killed and she herself is bitten. From here we follow Natalie and her paediatrician, Ramola, in their search for medical help.
That everything that follows is predictable is not a problem. Quite the reverse. Survivor Song is the zombie-novel equivalent of classic rock’n’roll, performed with full pomp and the amps turned up to 11. And it’s worth saluting Tremblay for having predicted, with such accuracy, the condition of his haemorrhaging nation. There are speculative passages here about misinformation and federal bureaucracy, a woefully unequipped president and “plain old individual everyday evil” that could have fallen straight out of today’s Washington Post.