• A Beginning at the End

  • By: Mike Chen
  • Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller
  • Length: 11 hrs and 39 mins
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars (61 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Featured in Polygon's Best of 2020

“The best kind of dystopian novel: one rooted deeply in the hearts of his characters and emphasizing hope and connection over fear.... Compelling, realistic, and impossible to put down.” (Booklist)

Four survivors come together as the country rebuilds in the aftermath of a devastating pandemic. A character-driven post-apocalyptic suspense with an intimate, hopeful look at how people can move forward by creating something better.

Six years after a virus wiped out most of the planet’s population, former pop star Moira is living under a new identity to escape her past - until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world for those still too traumatized to go outside, but she never reaches out on her own behalf. Rob has tried to protect his daughter, Sunny, by keeping a heartbreaking secret, but when strict government rules threaten to separate parent and child, Rob needs to prove himself worthy in the city’s eyes by connecting with people again.

Krista, Moira, Rob, and Sunny meet by circumstance, and their lives begin to twine together. When reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into panic, the friends are forced to finally face everything that came before - and everything they still stand to lose. Because sometimes having one person is enough to keep the world going.

“A slice-of-life at the end of the world, tender, character-driven, and gentle - which makes it feel all the more terrifyingly plausible...profoundly subversive and honest.... This book is never bleak. Instead, hope reverberates through every character and plotline.” (Tor.com) 

©2020 Mike Chen (P)2020 Harlequin Enterprises, Limited

What listeners say about A Beginning at the End

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Read his first book instead

The book got better as it went along but it had issues. First the narrator (usually good) who reads in a Marilyn Monroe type breathy voice--no idea why.

Second the basic premise: 70 percent of the world has been killed by the flu. After two years in voluntary quarantine (most chose that option instead of remaining on the outside), people are released. The flu appears to be gone but not because anyone found a cure. Now most people are concentrated in "Metros," where people are legally required to be "socially normal." But the definition of such is ridiculous. You're supposed to get married and start a family (same sex couples can adopt orphans) but nobody talks to each other--are in fact afraid of each other. They wear masks to work and nobody, nobody, nobody talks about anything real. And if you do, everyone thinks there's something wrong with you and are afraid of you, so I had trouble suspending disbelief about what was supposed to be socially normal.

Third: the characters. The main character, Rob, does something years ago that he's in danger of losing his daughter to the state. He's had 6 years to rectify the situation with his daughter but doesn't. Given all the reasons he has to tell the truth, not the least of which is the damage he's doing to his daughter by lying...again, trouble suspending disbelief because in all other aspects, he's a great dad. Same with the character of Krista who is sometimes so over the top nuts, I would have just skipped those parts if I had been reading instead of listening. Moira and Sunny were characters I could root for. Well, I rooted for all of them (Rob is a likable guy, and Krista does have redeeming qualities), but Moira was the most interesting and easiest to relate to.

8 people found this helpful

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yes, I bought this before the coronavirus

... and, even though it is not a scary book, it scared the hell out of me because of current events

2 people found this helpful

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our future?

The story that unfolds throughout this book is interesting. All the characters are likeable and well fleshed out. Each comes with their own baggage and somehow they all come together for the sake of a child.

What I found most fascinating about this book, though, was the society portrayed after a global pandemic. Was Mike Chen psychic when he started writing this book? Obviously, this is not a record of the current COVID pandemic, but there are definitely ideas about how society functions post pandemic that provide food for thought.

The narration was generally good, with different characters clearly distinguished, although Moira's British accent wanders around a little, but not so much that it is is disturbing. I'm not sure about the breathiness in the general narration- that became a little grating, and is the reason for 4 out of 5 stars.

1 person found this helpful

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A different sort of dystopian novel.

A different take for a dystopian novel, about what happens after a global flu pandemic that wipes out 95% of the world's population, and how society rebuilds. But this story is more about the emotional ties that bind the survivors, how families cope with this new world, and how new families are created from complete strangers out of necessity.

Like Mike Chen's last book, Here and Now and Then, which I also thoroughly enjoyed, this book sucks you in from the get go, and you find yourself getting heavily invested in his characters, a pop star, a widowed father and his precocious child, and a snarky punk girl, all doing their best to survive in the new world reality while coping with life and the decisions they have made to get them through the end if the world. A very well written, and a refreshing take for a dystopian book. A solid 4.5 out of 5 star read!

1 person found this helpful

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A thoughtful take

Mike Chen gets full marks for this. It’s both prescient, and a nice callback to some of my favorites in the long tradition of post -apocalyptic, -pandemic, - alien contact world building.
Emily Woo Zeller is usually a spectacular narrator, and this is not an exception.

The characters were perfect examples, in all the flawed foibles of humanity. and in their resolution of Self.
If A Beginning at the End looks even vaguely interesting you’ll probably enjoy this unexpected gem.

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Great story

Great story. Amazing that it was written precovid. Rings true... only worse. But still believable and uplifting.

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Bland

The narrator was the highlight of this audiobook, as the story was middling, at best. Characters were well-developed, but the overall story felt a bit bland and uninspired. After listening, I feel like it just sort of exists without any reason.

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  • C. Regan
  • 02-14-20

Worst apocalyptic story ever!

If you are looking for a thrill apocalyptic book, well, this isn’t it! I nearly gave up on finishing it! The narrator doesn’t do it for me either. Seriously, don’t waste a credit on it. There are better stories out!