#Review: WANDERERS, by Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers is one of those books that could have been very disappointing. To start, I have been waiting for this book for what seems like a very long time. I actually pre-ordered it, which I don’t do with books all that often– I am generally backlogged enough in my reading that even books that I’ve been looking forward to and whose authors I’m big fans of have to wait for a while for me to get to them. Not this one. I not only preordered it, I specifically timed the books I was reading before it so that I would be free and clear and able to start something new immediately when it showed up in my mailbox. So if it had been bad, there is a strong possibility that I might have cried. Actual book-nerd tears. It woulda been a problem.

Let’s not bury the lede any further: Wanderers is Wendig’s best book, and by a pretty large margin– and, again, remember that this is a guy who I am fond of and whose work has shown up in my end-of-year top 10 before. So this is way better than a bunch of books that I really liked. What’s fascinating about it is how different it is from all of Wendig’s other work. His previous work– which includes multiple Star Wars novels, books that have always sort of had a house style– has always been instantly recognizable: short sentences, present tense, visceral detail, and a certain disregard for strict grammar conventions in favor of impactful language. You can show me a single paragraph from any of Wendig’s previous books and I’d be able to tell you it was his. That recognizable.

Wanderers throws all that out the window. This book must have been a beast to write– not only is it markedly longer than any of his previous books (it’s probably close to twice as long as its closest competitor) but the style of the writing is completely different. I would never have guessed Wendig wrote this from a paragraph or even a chapter, although you certainly see his humor and his themes come through– it is, if this makes any sense, a Wendig book made up of nearly 800 not-very-Wendig pages.

That probably doesn’t make any sense.

So, the plot, and this will be spoiler-free, for the most part: the elevator pitch for this book is “What if Chuck Wendig wrote The Stand,” and those seven words were more than enough to earn my money. To be clear, The Stand is one of Stephen King’s two or three best books, and while I’ll need to read Wanderers a couple more times over the next decade or so to see if it lives up to that book’s very high standard, the comparison is not remotely unfair to either book. This book is about a plague, and the end of the world, and a presidential election, and white supremacists, and it’s about all of those things before we mention the titular Wanderers, people who are locked into their own bodies and sleepwalking … somewhere. The world doesn’t even start ending until like halfway through the book, and the omnipresent sense of dread and horror is thick enough to drag your fingers through, even before the book gets around to one of the scarier human villains I’ve read recently. The book is not stingy with its mysteries, and the way they unfold over the course of its somehow-still-fast-paced 780 pages is immensely satisfying.

I have read 74 books so far this year, and of those 74, 17 are on my shortlist for the end of the year. It’s been a good year for reading! But this is the first book that I’ve read and known beyond a shadow of a doubt that yeah, this one’s gonna be top three. You should read Wanderers, and you should start now.

In which I almost die because I’m stupid but then I don’t so it’s okay

I have made a number of very bad driveway-related decisions in the last 48-72 hours, guys.

BAD DECISION THE FIRST: I did not get up at five this morning to clear the driveway before going to work. This ensured that a day and night’s worth of wet, heavy snow was on my driveway– the type of snow that doesn’t basically disintegrate back into fluffy snow when the snowblower tosses it, but limply splats back onto your driveway a few feet away, ensuring that you just have to move the same snow over and over again and that the job gets harder and harder the closer you get to being done.

BAD DECISION THE SECOND: I did not clear the driveway of the relatively small amount of snow that had fallen in previous days either– basically I should have hit the driveway at least twice instead of zero times in the last four or five days– which ensured that under the wet, heavy snow is now a layer of hard-packed, days-old, repeatedly driven-on ice, meaning that at least twice I got a split-second holy shit I’m about to break my leg and die out here scare while clearing the driveway. Now, neither time did I fall and break my leg, but another inch or so of sliding either way and something really shitty woulda happened.

BAD DECISION THE THIRD: I had on my beastcoat. Understand that I have two articles of cold-weather outerwear: a “winter coat” and a Winter Coat. I wear my “winter coat” most of the time and I rarely button it. I am Of the North and the cold generally does not bother me very much, but all of the talk of fifty below wind chills over the next couple of days has somewhat thrown me off of my game. My Winter Coat is rated to sixty below zero, and I need you to understand that in the most literal sense possible my Winter Coat possesses no chill whatsoever. It’s a Carhartt, for those of who who will understand that. And I need to be careful when I wear it, because most of the time it’s way too goddamn much coat for what I need. For example, if I’m going to wear it in the car I cannot have the heat on. I’ll be sweaty by the time I get out of the car, even on a short drive. Opening the windows is actually not a bad idea.

Wearing this motherfucker outside, with a sweater on underneath, on what isn’t really that cold of a day (yet) while performing strenuous work– another disadvantage of the ice is that the wheels on the snowblower don’t work at all and I’m basically just ceaselessly shoving it through 6-8″ of, again, heavy wet snow– meant that I realized halfway through the job that I was feeling kind of woozy because of, no shit, impending Goddamn heatstroke.

Yeah. My wife wasn’t home yet and my son was inside by himself doing who knows what, so if I break a leg and then die in the driveway I’mma stay leg-broke and dead in the driveway until she gets home, because it ain’t like he can move me, or that he’d even look up from the iPad long enough to notice my dead ass out there. So I went inside for a few minutes, let my heart rate slow down, took off the sweater and the beastcoat, and swapped my soaked-in-sweat knit winter hat for a regular baseball cap. And then made …

BAD DECISION THE FOURTH, which was going back outside before mopping my stupid, covered-in-sweat body off. Because what with all of the sweating and dying from roasting myself alive inside my fucking Beastcoat I’d forgotten that, while not much by historical standards, it was actually fucking cold outside, and that you really do not want to be outside on even moderately cold days if you are soaking fucking wet. And while I can’t be trusted to say whether the temperature had actually dropped while I was inside– it’s not like I was feeling the actual air temperature anyway– I can sure as hell state with certainty that the wind picked up pretty substantially while I was inside, meaning that any residual body heat I had left was gone, gone gone within minutes of getting back outside, and I still had half the damn driveway to do. Eventually I had to come back inside and put a third hat on, and the first thing I had to do when I finally came back inside for good was mop off my beard, which is super fun.

On the plus side, now that I’ve survived all this stupid bullshit, warmed up and cooled off and dried off, I’m going to go take a shower and then change into sweatpants and a sweater and I am not going outside under any circumstances for the next three days, whether work calls off or not. Chicken soup time, motherfuckers.

One way or another

…nevertheless, we persist.

giphyI had a stunningly easy day at work today, to the point where I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and it never really did.  No drama, no nonsense, I had time to get shit done, which blows my mind– that never happens– and now I have tomorrow off.

My wife has to work and my son has school.  So I’m at home, by myself, on Election Day, trying my good Goddamnedest to keep myself distracted.  If there was some sort of drug I could take that could guarantee I could just wake up Wednesday morning and have the carnage already dealt with, I’d already have taken it.

I mean, I could make predictions, but I was literally the wrongest I’ve ever been about anything two years ago, so I’ve got no room left for optimism right now.  I also think I’m probably not capable of being surprised, but the world has a way of proving me wrong about that too.  I considered finding something, anything to volunteer for tomorrow, but to a certain extent I question my own ability to keep my shit together in scenarios where people are talking politics around me, and if I go volunteer for something it’s gonna be kinda difficult to avoid politics.   Better for my mental health to spend the entire day stuck in 1899 robbing caravans and hunting bears.  I gotta stay the hell off Twitter until at least 7 or 8:00; I will fail utterly in this goal.

More tomorrow, I suppose, if the world doesn’t end.


18lp8jstacc0xjpgThe new hotness for the boy lately has been Teen Titans Go!, which works for me because as it turns out I enjoy the program quite a lot.  It’s of that genre of cartoon where at the end of every episode the slate is wiped clean for the next episode, so literally anything can happen and the next episode they just pick up and move on.

To wit: there is an episode where one character blows up the moon.  And they do not all immediately die.  In fact, the blowing up of the moon is more or less passed over a few minutes later once the “YOU BLEW UP THE MOON?!?” moment is over.

“Would that really kill us all?” my wife muses.  “The moon’s awfully far away.”

“I think it would,” I say.  And then I start trying to figure out exactly how bad that might be.

Feel free to correct my math or my thinking if I’ve made a mistake.  HOWEVER:

  • The average distance from the Earth to the Moon is approximately 385,000 kilometers.
  • Assuming that the moon, once blown up, exploded evenly in all directions, by the time the debris field reached the earth it would form a sphere.  That sphere would have a surface area of 1.86 x 1012 square kilometers– or 1,860,000,000,000 square kilometers if you don’t like scientific notation.
  • This is a slight oversimplification, but we shall assume that the Earth presents as a flat disc for this scenario.  The Earth’s diameter is roughly 13,000 kilometers, so the disc has an area of 133,000,000 square kilometers.  That represents .00715054% of the total surface area of the sphere that the moon has exploded into.
  • The mass of the moon is 80,994,200,000,000,000,000 tons.  Or so.
  • Excel tells me that that means that the Earth would be hit by (calculating .00715054% of 80,994,200,000,000,000,000) approximately 5,791,523,012,258,060 tons of broken moon.
  • I don’t even know how to say that number.

Most of those numbers came from Google one way or another and were copy-pasted into Excel or figured out with online calculators.  The mass of the moon, in particular, seems to have a fairly wide range of accepted values.  I can imagine a universe where I ended up off by a factor of ten somewhere but something tells me it doesn’t make a difference.  

I’m still trying to figure out if anyone has estimated the mass of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, or if I have an easy way to kludge that (I actually can think of one way) but I suspect the following is true:


The generally accepted diameter of the Chicxulub asteroid is six miles.  This means that, assuming a perfect sphere (which isn’t true, I know), it was composed of 113.1 cubic miles of (assuming, assuming, assuming) iron.  That’s 16,648,088,371,200 cubic feet of iron.

A cubic foot of iron weighs 491.09 pounds.

Multiplying, we get an asteroid that weighs 8,175,709,718,212,610 pounds.  Divide that by 2000, and we get an estimate of 4,087,854,859,106 tons for the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.

The amount of moon hitting Earth would be 141,676% of that amount.

So yeah.  We’re fucked.