It's been six years since the MGS pandemic took out much of the world's population. In America, urban areas are rebuilding their culture, but governmental rules have tightened around stabilizing the future of family units, with strong oversight and intervention by the Family Stability Board. In San Francisco, former teen pop star Moira has been building a new life and identity, until her father decides to use the media to find her. Event planner Krista throws herself into helping those who were traumatized to move on with life, whether they want to or not, and avoiding the losses within her own family. Rob raises his young daughter, Sunny, after losing his wife to the pandemic, and tries to keep them a solid, under the radar, family unit. However, when the Family Stability Board threatens to separate Rob and Sunny, he must find ways to connect with other people, crossing paths with Krista and Moira and forcing them all to confront their family issues as a new outbreak threatens to take away everything. VERDICT Sometimes it is not the violent battles of post-apocalyptic stories that pull readers in; it is the emotional connection of humanity finding their way. Chen's (Here and Now and Then) prose lights a brilliant, fragile path through the darkness.—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton
This postapocalyptic slice-of-life novel from Chen (Here and Now and Then) delivers big emotions by keeping the focus small. Six years after a disease known as MGS killed 70% of the world’s population, humankind begins rebuilding. Among the survivors are three San Francisco acquaintances: Rob Donelly, a single parent whose daughter may be taken from him by the Family Stability Board; Moira Gorman, a pop star who was famous before the outbreak but now attempts to live under the radar; and Krista Deal, a consultant helping people to move on from the tragedy. Thrown together by circumstance, the three grow closer as they navigate the imposing new government in a grim, fragile future. As the government warns of another pandemic and panic spreads, Rob’s daughter runs away from home and the three friends set out to track her down. By foregrounding family, Chen manages to imbue his apocalypse with heart, hope, and humanity. Sci-fi fans will delight in this lovingly rendered tale. Agent: Eric Smith, PS Literary. (Jan.)
Praise for A Beginning at the End
"While some readers might worry that picking up a book about a post-pandemic America in the midst of the current COVID-19 crises would feel too relatable, and perhaps even disturbing, the beauty of Chen’s novel is that it doesn’t dwell in the darkness. Though it’s set in the wake of enormous tragedy, it’s ultimately a story about hope, resilience and family—both the one you’re born into and the one you choose for yourself.... An exciting and dramatic tale...that shows the enduring power of hope and community amidst a crisis." —BookTrib on A Beginning at the End
“This postapocalyptic slice-of-life novel…delivers big emotions by keeping the focus small…. By foregrounding family, Chen manages to imbue his apocalypse with heart, hope, and humanity. Sci-fi fans will delight in this lovingly rendered tale.” –Publisher’s Weekly, starred review, on A Beginning at the End
“A Beginning at the End is the best kind of dystopian novel: one rooted deeply in the hearts of his characters and emphasizing hope and connection over fear. Chen has a true gift for making the biggest of worlds center around the most complex workings of hearts, and his newest is compelling, realistic, and impossible to put down.” —Booklist, starred review
“Sometimes it is not the violent battles of post-apocalyptic stories that pull readers in; it is the emotional connection of humanity finding their way. Chen's prose lights a brilliant, fragile path through the darkness.” —Library Journal, starred review, on A Beginning at the End
“A slice-of-life at the end of the world, tender, character-driven, and gentle—which makes it feel all the more terrifyingly plausible…. profoundly subversive and honest… This book is never bleak. Instead, hope reverberates through every character and plotline.” –Tor.com on A Beginning at the End
“An imaginative premise, likable characters, and an uplifting ending…. A refreshingly nondystopian end-of-the-world story.” —Kirkus on A Beginning at the End
"Human beings are the worst, but they're also the best—and A Beginning at the End is a brilliant story about how the best parts of ourselves won't be stopped by a little something like the apocalypse." —Sam J Miller, Nebula-Award-winning author of Blackfish City
"A Beginning at the End is both an apocalyptic thriller and a timely reminder of what is most important in life—family, love, and hope.” —Peng Shepherd, author of The Book of M
"If you're tired of grim, grueling apocalypses with high body counts and bleak horizons, A Beginning at the End offers an intimate, surprisingly gentle vision of post-disaster humanity, less concerned with how we might survive than with why—and for whom." —Alix E. Harrow, Hugo Award-winning author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January
"With beautifully-drawn characters and an intricately imagined future history, A Beginning at the End tells an intensely human story about people reaching out through trauma and loss and discovering who and what to hold on to after the end of the world. Gripping, poignant, hopeful, and heartfelt." —HG Parry, author of The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep
"Strikes the perfect balance of dystopian collapse…and a fresh start for humanity. It's science fiction with heart…you won't be able to put it down." –Meghan Scott Molin, author of The Frame Up, on A Beginning at the End
“[The characters] all grapple with questions of identity and morality, of what it means to be part of a family, of what we’re willing to sacrifice and for whom. This is a story that’s as fun as it is moving…. Mike Chen has richly imagined every detail... A Beginning at the End is truly a special addition to the postapocalyptic genre, and it stands up right alongside heavy hitters like Station Eleven and The Last." –Megan Collins, author of The Winter Sister
A grieving father, a British pop star, and a wedding planner cope with the aftermath of a flu pandemic in this post-apocalyptic novel by Chen (Here and Now and Then, 2019).
Six years after a virus wiped out 70% of the U.S. population, Rob Donelly, Krista Deal, and Moira Gorman are still unable to move forward with their lives. Rob, a news censor at San Francisco-based PodStar Technologies, hasn't told his 7-year-old daughter, Sunny, that her mother died during the pandemic, instead saying she's in "treatment"; Krista, a financially struggling wedding planner, faked her own death to escape her dysfunctional family. Moira, Rob's co-worker and Krista's client, is really Johanna Moira "MoJo" Hatfield, a former teenage pop star who ran away from her controlling father. Rob, Krista, and Moira uncover one another's secrets as they struggle with the consequences of their past decisions. A lot of backstory and confusing subplot told in document fragments detract from an imaginative premise, likable characters, and an uplifting ending.
A refreshingly nondystopian end-of-the-world story that falls short of Chen's smart debut.