Bonniers, Sweden, 2016, 416 pages
Original Swedish title: Epidemin
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.<
“I read Åsa Ericsdotter breathlessly, and had to struggle to put the book down.”
- Svenska Dagbladet
“well-written and unbearable suspense. I read the final third of the book in one hungry sitting, absorbed by Landon’s search for the kidnapped Helena and the truth.”
“Entertaining and horrifying read, absolutely thrilling.”
- Sveriges Radio Kultur
“stark and totally thrilling dystopia”
- Sydsvenska Dagbladet
“Perhaps the most terrifying thing about the novel is how much of the rhetoric is recognizable in the current political climate. The Epidemic is fascinating as a thought experiment. I devoured the 400 pages in what seemed like an instant.”
“It’s a real page-turner with nerve, and I hardly dared to put the book down. And, above all, it is an important warning sign at a time when health fascism has gone too far, as the politics described in the book are, unfortunately, not totally unthinkable.”