The Fervor

Source: Borrowed from the Pasco County Library System
Pub. Date: April 26, 2022
Synopsis: Goodreads
Purchase Link: Amazon

Why did I choose to read this book?

I absolutely love historical fiction, especially when it teaches me more about my own country. The period of WWII when the Japanese internment camps existed is something I am aware of, but I did not know much about the details of how they were formed, how they operated, and how they were dissolved. This book also dealt in racism, white supremacy, how they spread like a disease, and how we might combat them. Timely and terrifying – I had to read it.

What is this book about?

This book is about a Japanese mother and her half-white/half-Japanese daughterwho are navigating life within an internment camp during the WWII years in the United States. Meiko’s husband, James, is a pilot in the Air Force and after he was sent off to war, they were transferred to the camp.

A strange sickness has begun to circulate through the camp, and similar sicknesses have been detected around strange balloon/bombs scattered around the American Northwest. You’ll meet a set of characters that all interact with this sickness separately, but become linked together by the end.

What is notable about the story?

I really enjoy learning about the religions or the traditions of other cultures through fiction. This book is inspired by the Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon and it did not disappoint (I’ve linked them here if you are unfamiliar so you can learn something new too!). A nice addition to the cultural tales is the discovery of the Jet Stream, and she even uses the name Wasaboro Oishi as a character, and the use of Fu-Go balloon fire bombs. I’ve linked to the Wikipedia pages here – the connections between the real life discovery and her story are almost exact. The way Alma Katsu weaves this Japanese culture through American domestic terrorism and fuses them together is horror at its absolute best. This book was terrifying.

Also in the wake of the pandemic this book is meant to shed light on the more recent terrorism enacted upon Asian Americans for no reason other than their appearance. The rhetoric around COVID-19 fueled the fervor around Asian American abuse and targeting that seemed to be reported on a daily basis throughout 2020 and 2021, and The Fervor posits that this behavior is cyclical, if it ever really goes away at all (and I concur).

Was anything not so great?

I read so many books each year, and this year in particular is when all those books written during the pandemic are actually coming out into the real world. While I understand that the spiders in this book are meant to be the spread of mania and hate (especially in white men), it’s another book that presents an unknown source of sickness, shows how fast it spreads, and how slow or inept we are at finding the cure or antidote (or vaccine). This point was not so large that it took away from the overall story, I only mention it here because a LOT of the 2022 releases I am reading have been touched by the pandemic and reflect it back to the reader in different ways. Not a critique of this book but more of this year, and while I would love to get past the pandemic-themed writing, I don’t think we’ll be done with it for a while yet.

What’s the verdict?

I gave this one a full 5 stars on Goodreads because it had me on the edge of my seat right until the very end. When I wasn’t reading this book I was thinking about it and wondering when I could get back to reading it again to find out what happened next. It has so many things to teach you, and yet you’ll still walk away wondering about how any of this will ever get better. This one gets my full endorsement. If you like horror, if you like historical fiction, if you like learning about other cultures, or about how United States culture can be horrifying, go get this one. You won’t regret it.


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