As a fan of post-apocalypse fiction who cut her literary teeth on Stephen King, it was nearly impossible for me not to compare this book to The Stand. Both tell the story of a worldwide global Armageddon and its aftermath. Both follow the forces of good and evil as they converge for a final confrontation. Despite those very big similarities, they are very different books. In fact, I could probably write a short essay comparing the two. But since this review is supposed to be about Swan Song, I won’t.
This book, written during the Cold War, begins when the world ends with an all out nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The few who are not killed by the blast or the ensuing radiation poisoning are left to survive in frozen, dead wasteland. Heading up Team Good is Sue Wanda “Swan” Prescott, a young girl who has a seemingly empathic ability to commune with plant life. Heading up Team Evil is The Man With Many Faces or The Man With the Scarlet Eye who, it is implied, is The Devil or some sort of demon. Though the themes are certainly biblical, very little of the book is overtly Christian. In fact, imagery from the tarot deck is sprinkled throughout the story.
This was a great story, that I probably should have read many years ago. After over a decade of true crime and post-apocalypse fiction, I found myself mentally screaming at the characters as they walked into what I knew to be an obvious trap. I forgot that this was the first time the world had ended for them, whereas I had experienced it multiple times.