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A Beginning at the End: 02/07/20
A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen is set in near future San Francisco. A pandemic has swept the planet and society is doing its best to function with only a fraction of the post disease population. The story's told from the points of view of a handful of survivors: Krista, Rob, Sunny, and Moira.
Rob works for a media distributor, deciding which stories to broadcast into the San Francisco metro. Sunny is his daughter, a child too young to remember pre-pandemic life. Krista is an events planner. Moira is a coworker of Rob, a former overland survivor, and once upon a time, an idol.
The first event that sets everything in motion is the bounty placed on information on Mojo's location. It's ten grand, an astonishing amount of money in this post-pandemic economy. Krista needs the money and Sunny knows what Mojo looks like. Rob needs someone to help him and Sunny look like a normal, healthy family before he loses custody of his daughter. But everything changes when Sunny easily recognizes Mojo.
The second event that adds urgency to the unfolding events is the return of the virus. Roadblocks between states go up. Travel is restricted. But it's in all of this chaos that the novel takes its place in the road narrative spectrum.
The travelers, even though they are going in separate vehicles and sometimes in different directions, are collectively working as a family (33). Rob and Sunny are actual family but Krista and Moira are helping to make sure they are reunited. Their destination is the Metro (or former city) of Seattle (00). Their route, while it follows the former interstate and sometimes the former Blue Highways, the roadways are falling into disrepair and sometimes they have to make their own way across the land — an offroad (66) one. All together A Beginning at the End is a road narrative about a family traveling to the city by offroad means to make sure they stay a family (330066).
In all of this, Mike Chen spins a near future tale that is hopeful even in the face of horrific tragedy. In the unfolding events of the novel coronavirus and the chartered flights from China and quarantines on military bases, A Beginning at the End is eerily timely.
Chen's next novel is We Could Be Heroes (2021).