Bonniers, Sweden, 2016, 416 pages
Original Swedish title: Epidemin
Genre: fiction

It’s election year in Sweden and the rising political star, Johan Svärd, has assumed power after a historic victory. The electoral pledge of the new Health Party: to eradicate the obesity epidemic.

Meanwhile, postdoc war-history student Landon is seeking refuge from political propaganda in the remote countryside. There he meets a neighbor, Helena, an overweight nurse who has lost her job due to the government’s new rules on employment. She’s been hiding from the authorities since her eight-year-old daughter was placed in a special class for the obese and the school nurse suggested her child should have lap-band surgery.

But where do all the other fat people go? And what is actually happening at the Health Party’s fat camps? When Helena suddenly disappears, Landon sets off to search for her. The quest turns into a scary journey through the ever-harsher Swedish social climate, where everything from the weight of the employees to the intake of carbohydrates is strictly controlled. Landon soon becomes aware of the threat that surrounds him, as the methods of the Health Party become more and more spine-chilling.

The Epidemic is a dark depiction of a future not far over the horizon where hysteria about diets and political propaganda have turned discrimination into the norm. This is a violent political allegory of rising right-wing extremism in Europe, and about prejudice and scapegoats, food addiction, and political personality cults. A scary vision of how discrimination becomes normalized and how easily we can be deceived.<