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Publisher Description

Featured in Polygon's Best of 2020

“The best kind of dystopian novel: one rooted deeply in the hearts of his characters and emphasizing hope and connection over fear.… Compelling, realistic, and impossible to put down.” —Booklist

Four survivors come together as the country rebuilds in the aftermath of a devastating pandemic. A character-driven postapocalyptic suspense with an intimate, hopeful look at how people can move forward by creating something better.

Six years after a virus wiped out most of the planet’s population, former pop star Moira is living under a new identity to escape her past—until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world for those still too traumatized to go outside, but she never reaches out on her own behalf. Rob has tried to protect his daughter, Sunny, by keeping a heartbreaking secret, but when strict government rules threaten to separate parent and child, Rob needs to prove himself worthy in the city’s eyes by connecting with people again.

Krista, Moira, Rob and Sunny meet by circumstance and their lives begin to twine together. When reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into panic, the friends are forced to finally face everything that came before—and everything they still stand to lose. Because sometimes having one person is enough to keep the world going.

“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

Sci-Fi & Fantasy
January 14
MIRA Books
Harlequin Digital Sales Corporation

Customer Reviews

Furmom2 ,

A beginning in the end

Mediocre- somewhat dragged out

Bodie456 ,

Hope for the Post-Apocalypse

The current crop of apocalyptic sci-fi books shows clearly that fiction is a form of thought experiment and that science fiction is really about the present time. I’ve got at least 4 books stacked by my chair that I’ve had to put down because the authors picked pandemic for their apocalypse and I don’t want to read about them. Chen was coming to the Tucson Festival of Books so I started reading his book with its hopeful title in March, having forgotten—if I knew—that he picked pandemic, too. I was able to keep reading this one. Chen’s book centers around people, not ideas, and that’s why it’s readable and hopeful in the current situation.
A decade after a global pandemic wiped out most of the planet’s population, the survivors are rebuilding the country, split between self-governing cities, hippie communes and wasteland gangs. The poor, as always, are stuck in one place or the other. Tensions are rising again, along with the threat of new outbreaks. The plot centers around Moira, a former child star voice artist who’s been hiding from her domineering stage dad for years; Rob, a single dad who has to keep proving to social services that he deserves custody of his daughter Sunny; and Krista, an event planner with a big heart and radical friends. Their challenges are both personal and communal, with society in such flux, but people of good heart usually find a way to achieve their dreams, especially with a little help from friends—and they do.
There’s definitely a difference between the newer sci-fi authors and the Boomers; Chen is definitely new school. The real feat that Chen pulls off is to embed his hopefulness in an engaging plot, with likable characters, and to keep the politics offstage and out of total war, through compromise. Usually in these books there are clear winners and losers; Chen has written a way into the future that is workable and believable because the only thing that works in our lived reality is compromise: nobody wins everything but nobody loses everything, either. If only the politicians would quit living in the fantasy worlds of total domination and move into the world where the rest of humanity resides. Books like this remind us of what’s really possible. Recommended. (Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the E-ARC to review)

Resa228 ,

A poignant look at what it means to be human

A Beginning at the End. has a unique plot that is disturbingly plausible. Usually, the disturbing part of any post-apocalyptic novel is the description of the apocalyptic event and the immediate aftermath. Yet, A Beginning at the End does not linger on the viral event itself. Instead, it focuses on the emotional consequences that result in a static world. Everyone wears a mask – a real one to help prevent the spreading of germs – and a metaphorical one formed by their fear and lies. People no longer connect, and the mask is a symbolic representation of that barrier that each person forms to protect themselves. But, growth and change require connections, and human relationships can only happen when the wall comes down, leaving them vulnerable.

Favorite character: Moira Gorman

Once a pop star, Moira left the spotlight and her father when the virus reached epidemic proportions. She made a new life for herself, all the while searching for the safety and security that she has always craved. When the story begins, she is planning a wedding to a man who offers just that. His whole family came through the virus without loss and remain a tight family unit. Being part of a family is precisely the life that Moira wants for herself. Her many experiences have made her mature and reflective, and I felt instantly drawn to her.

What I Liked About A Beginning at the End

I felt like I knew the characters. They are well-developed, and I instantly connected to all of them. I sympathized with Rob, who had a hard time saying that his wife was dead even to his daughter. I fought the good fight with Krista and hoped that Moira would achieve her dreams. Even with their masks on, I could recognize them even if they don’t know themselves.

I loved that the story ends on a positive note, with the dropping of masks and connections reforming. Just as it takes till the end of the book and a grown-up Sunny to define the fourth path for me, it also took that long for me to apply the story’s message to my world. It made me feel good that there was hope in this world gone wrong, once people realized that the disease was the common enemy and they must band together not just to survive but to live.

What I Wish

I found it hard to follow the initial scenes. It wasn’t until the stories merged that the plot began to flow for me. I wish that the beginning flowed as well as the rest of the novel.

To Read or Not to Read
A Beginning at the End is a unique story that will make you think and reflect - on your own life and humanity in general - and to that end, I would strongly recommend adding it to your bookshelves as soon as it comes out.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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