Severance was well reviewed, and rightly so, but like most contemporary, literary novels, I always feel a slight sense of disappointment. It’s a very, very good novel, but it’s no classic for inclusion in the canon. Which is, of course, not a fair comparison, but one that I always go to. Perhaps why I read so much genre fiction. Less weight on the shoulders of reader and writer.
The obvious comparison here is to Station Eleven. Severance has more to say, but Station Eleven says it better. By which I mean that Na is not really writing any kind of science fiction novel. She is trying to make a point about modern life and the traps of routine and acceptance into which we fall. And she makes it well. Mostly.
The protagonist, Candace Chen, is a bit of tabula rasa, for good or ill. Only in the flashbacks to her childhood does she seem more fully realized, as a character.
But, this novel is about a global, airborne pandemic (albeit one spread by fungal spores). And features people wearing masks and empty office buildings. So… a little on the nose right now.