I'd read the rave reviews, saw the Clarke award and the National Book Award Finalist, and finally sat down to read Mandel's novel of the aftermath of a rather nasty epidemic (as opposed to, I guess, all the nice epidemics?). And, so, even though it wasn't nominated for a Hugo, I'm including it in my list.
The story follows several characters whose paths intertwine throughout the book, all linked by the self-published titular comic. Large portions of the book concern a Canadian actor's life and loves before the epidemic, with the remainder mostly focusing on a traveling theater/music group that plies the areas around Toronto. There they face the usual post-apocalyptic threats: religious extremism, the elements, hunger, despair, etc.
- Mandel's prose is beautiful and her descriptions of the comic made me want to see it
- The pacing and mood in the post-epidemic world is excellent. There's a strong sense of dread as the group slowly falls apart.
- Several story threads are hinted at early on, and gradually develop. And several are left dangling, which added to the mood of being part of a world,.
- The increasingly implausible series of coincidences that link the characters eventually reaches absurd levels. Almost every survivor has multiple links to the aforementioned actor.
- The religious leader and his minions are underdeveloped. And, of course, part of the series of coincidences.
- The book often feels like a series of of barely-connected short stories, similar to Khaled Hosseini's And The Mountains Echoed. One character, in particular, feels shoehorned in.
I enjoyed it and recommend it
Where I rank it in my Read of the Hugos:
The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman (Not a nominee, but amazing)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Not a nominee, but very good)
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
No Award (this is an option in the rather complicated, but logical, voting process)