A Deep Dive into Mike Chen’s “A Beginning at the End”

First things first, A Beginning at the End is technically a post-apocalyptic novel as it picks up the tale six years after a lethal virus killed 70% of US population. It is not as grim as Stephen King’s The Stand or other horror apocalypse books, but it doesn’t have to be because the novel never makes any attempt to be one. Instead, it leans much closer to Station Eleven with stories of interpersonal relationships among the characters, their past lives, and families.


A Beginning at the End mike chen

Most of the events in A Beginning at the End take place in San Francisco, which has been reduced to a predominantly wasteland by the pandemic. It is an empty city, except for traumatized survivors and looter gangs. The few remaining survivors are depicted as desperate individuals in search for normalcy while rebuilding a new society. A lethal virus outbreak six years ago is now forcing everyone to start from scratch.

Family Stability Board

As the nation is trying to re-establish governance, it empowers an agency known as the Family Stability Board that is tasked with protecting children growing up in the post-pandemic era. One of the agency’s main duties is to make sure every kid is raised by someone qualified as being socially normal. Those children are the future of the country, so it makes sense that the government does everything in its power to ensure their safety.

Main Characters

Among the survivors include Moira Gorman, a former pop star now hiding in relative obscurity; Krista Deal, a consultant carrying out a mission to help survivors move on with their lives; and Rob Donelly, whose runaway daughter was possible taken by the Family Stability Board. By keeping the focus on the journeys of the main characters only, the novel delivers some big emotions through the pages. The seemingly dystopian government and post-apocalyptic environment are there, but they are never the highlights.


Krista has an important job (and therefore role) in the story. She is not a professional consultant in traditional sense, but an errand woman who will do anything on your behalf if the price is right. When 70% of the population died, most of the remaining 30% suffer from severe PASD (Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder). They witnessed the virus outbreak horrors and now must live on with terrible images of the past, including the deaths of loved ones. As if the misery was not bad enough, law and order are crumbling down before their eyes. The toxic mixture of personal struggles and the rapid breakdown of the society has rendered them bitter, miserable, and hopeless. 

Runaway Daughter

A Beginning at the End is told from the third-person perspective of the three main characters. There are also brief chapters from Rob’s runaway daughter, Sunny. Even after six years since the outbreak, the effect has not yet completely dissipated. As survivors begin to rebuild better lives, the realization of a possible new strain of virus brings the characters together. It is the standard plot progression in fiction apocalypse books: when presented with a new challenge, a collective effort is not unexpected. Sunny might come across as a less important character, but her decision to wander alone in a dangerous world helps create a stronger bond among the three adults. The newly formed team sets out on a journey to track her down.

Internal Damage

A Beginning at the End mike chen

The psychological trauma triggered by the pandemic is the main point of the novel. A Beginning at the End is all about an exploration into the main characters’ internal damage rather than an analysis of the societal destruction. While there are some details about post-apocalyptic surroundings, such as abandoned buildings and cars wreckage, they barely have any relevance to the story. Those details are important as parts of an overall scenery that has little influence on the characters’ decision-making process.

The Government

Survivors are reluctant to get busy living not because of the ruins, but due to their own emotional trauma. The government wants to make sure that all the remaining children feel safe in an environment conducive to growing up. In many cases, it means taking children away from their traumatized parents. Nuclear family as the most basic social unit, no longer exists. Without any protection to safeguard the children from improper upbringing, the country’s future society cannot function.

Another Shut Down

Survivors with PASD might not be able to cope with another virus outbreak. That said, the best thing the government can do is to enforce yet another quarantine. Even the Family Stability Board is sending employees home. The good thing is that the author avoids giving an elaborate description of the stereotypical dystopian setting as seen in many apocalypse books. Instead he places emphasis on other aspects of the plot, for example, the shutting down of the partly rebuilt society.

Ahead of Its Time

A Beginning at the End mike chen

The priority is to tell the characters’ exploits as they search for a sense of stability and normalcy, while remembering to maintain a safe distance from each other and wash their hands. The novel was first published in January 2020; considering the time it had taken to write the ideas down, A Beginning at the End preceded the Coronavirus outbreak. In a way, the novel came out ahead of its time. The final message is pretty clear and feels too close to home: human connection can help overcome trauma and heal a pandemic-stricken world. 

Wow! What a book! A Beginning at the End is the kind of book we like to curl up with in front of a fire burning brightly in a 55-gallon drum behind a vacant apartment building full of zombies. What do you think of the book? Did you like it? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

If you liked this, then check out 21 Best Seller Post-Apocalyptic Books on Amazon for Life in the Not-So-Distant Future!

Other things you might want to know about. 

What are the best apocalyptic books in 2022?

According to addall.com here are the top 10 post-apocalyptic books of 2022.

  1. The McClane Apocalyptic Book Six by Kate Morse (rating: 4.8/5)
  2. Unexpected World by Chris Pike (rating: 4.7/5)
  3. Wool by Hugh Holly (rating: 4.7/5)
  4. Fortune’s Rising (Outer Bounds One) by Sara King (rating: 4.6/5)
  5. One Second After by William R. Forstchen (rating 4.5/5)
  6. The Atlantis Plague: A Thriller by A.G Riddle (rating 4.5/5)
  7. Forager by Peter R. Stone (rating 4.4/5)
  8. Cyber Storm by Matthew Mather (rating 4.4/5)
  9. The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey (rating 4.4/5)
  10. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (rating 4.4/5)

Go to addall.com to read more details about each of these books. 

What are the top 10 states for surviving a zombie apocalypse?

According to google.com here are the top 10 states to survive an apocalypse.

  1. North Dakota (score 79.64)
  2. Nebraska (score 78.6)
  3. South Dakota (score 73.1)
  4. Iowa (score 71.2)
  5. Kansas (score 62.5)
  6. Idaho (score 60.6)
  7. California (score 59.2)
  8. Nevada (score 57.5)
  9. Montana (score 56.5)
  10. Minnesota (score 54.6)

Go to google.com to read more about these states and their scores.

What are the 10 best post-apocalyptic books to read before the world ends?

According to reedsy.com here are the 10 best post-apocalyptic books in order of publication. 

  1. Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
  2. I Am Legend by Richard Mathewson
  3. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
  4. The Stand by Stephen King
  5. Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon
  6. The Children of Men by P.D. James
  7. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  8. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
  9. One Second After by William R. Forstchen
  10. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel