From its very first episode, Severance established itself as a high concept show that seamlessly blurred styles and genres. Viewers were riveted by its unique take on work-life balance, biting corporate satire, and often absurd, near-Lynchian visual imagery (waffle parties, anyone?). While a second season has been confirmed, a release date remains far from sight. Luckily there’s a long list of books clamoring to fill the void. In the interminable interim, check out some of these notable reads that draw from Severance‘s key moods and themes.
Whether you’re craving workplace satires, technological horror stories, memory-bending mysteries, or all of the above, this list speaks to all facets of the show. Some of these reads take place in our current capitalist hellscape, while others posit futures ranging from slightly speculative to full-on dystopian. But regardless of when they take place, they all shed ample insight not only into the way we live and work now, but how we make meaning from the memory of it all.
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
Tell Me an Endingby Jo Harkin
When a slew of people are legally notified that they’ve had a major memory removed and can now regain access to it, they are faced with a harrowing dilemma. Tell Me an Ending follows the lives of Finn, Mei, William, and Oscar as they grapple with whether or not they should reclaim an unknown trauma. It’s only the psychologists at the Nepenthe memory removal clinic who literally hold the key to their pasts. Much like Severance‘s season one finale, revelations regarding identity, grief, and secrets prove to be both liberating and devastating.
The Memory Policeby Yoko Ogawa
In this surrealist fable, mysterious disappearances alter the landscape of an unnamed island and those who inhabit it. As these changes increase in scope from missing objects to missing animals to missing body parts, only a rare few individuals are aware of these oddities, while the rest of the population is oblivious to what’s been lost. The Memory Police work to ensure that the past is entirely forgotten, instilling fear in the few folks who are desperate to remember the old days. The titular force operates much like the higher-ups at Severance‘s Lumon Industries, who do everything in their power to prevent the innie office drones from discovering the totality of their reality.
Never Let Me Goby Kazuo Ishiguro
Much like Severance, this literary masterpiece seamlessly blends tones and genres to superb effect. Blending Gothic romance, sci-fi dystopia, and coming-of-age novel, Never Let Me Go finds a cloistered group of boarding school students questioning not only their purpose, but their very existence. These students are conditioned from a young age to fulfill a very special destiny, a function so bleak and shocking the reader can not help but recoil in despair. If Severance questions the futility of work, Never Let Me Go extends the desperation a step further, questioning the futility of life.
Several People Are Typingby Calvin Kasulke
In this truly original novel, a man’s consciousness is transferred to Slack, obliterating any sense of self outside the office. Told entirely through online conversations, Several People Are Typing imagines a reality where this doomed existence is a curse to the individual, but a boon to the workplace. With Gerald trapped inside the cloud, all he can do is toil away on infinite emails and spreadsheets, locked in a perpetual state of inbox zero. Much like Severance‘s innies, he spends the majority of the novel desperate for a way out, making satirical observations and astute insights through his absurdist journey out of the online abyss.
Bewildermentby Richard Powers
Richard Powers explores the extreme potential of futuristic neurotherapy in this hauntingly emotional tale. Desperate to alter his challenging son’s behavior, Theo Byrne allows Robin to engage in an experimental process known as “decoded neurofeedback,” which allows the brain pattern activity of his deceased environmentalist mother to imprint into his own mind. The overload of empathy and sensitivity to Robin’s outside world is at once promising and startling, but it soon results in an outlook so doomed as to suggest that our ecological demise is inevitable. If Severance is a cautionary tale about the power technology has to make us forget, Bewilderment warns against technology’s ability to make us remember (and feel) too much.
We Are Satellitesby Sarah Pinsker
We Are Satellites presents a technological and social horror story that explores the impact a new brain implant has not only on a family, but on the world. Pilot technology supposedly allows individuals to excel at multitasking on an unprecedented level; it’s a godsend to schools and offices, bringing productivity to all-time highs. However, it’s just as polarizing as it is popular, nearly breaking Val and Julie’s marriage apart. As unintended health consequences emerge, the anti-Pilot movement grows in strength and rises up against its corporate and governmental overseers. Much like Severance, We Are Satellites exemplifies the divisive, disruptive, and often inescapable impact of body tech, both on a micro and macro level.
Mr. Nobodyby Catherine Steadman
When a semi-conscious man is found on the shores of a British beach, unable to speak and without identification, he draws national media attention. As a slew of medical experts examine the anonymous man soon dubbed Mr. Nobody, no one can seem to make any progress in uncovering much about him. That is, until neuropsychologist Dr. Emma Lewis is called to investigate. It turns out he knows much more about her than he does himself, making for a riveting psychological thriller in which pasts cross in surprising and startling ways. The connections drawn among seemingly disparate individuals are just as surprising as some of the mind-blowing ways Severance‘s characters’ paths cross.
Beyond the titular similarity, Ling Ma’s Severance has much in common with the television show. In this apocalyptic satire, office drudergy remains a constant even during the end of the world. Amid the onset of a zombie-like plague, Candance Chen is so devoted to her work routine that she sequesters herself in her corporate Midtown office building. Even when she’s forced to flee upstate with a group of fellow survivors, the novel remains clever, claustrophobic, and relentless in relaying just how maddening and engrained the mechanisms of late-stage capitalism can be during the most extreme circumstances.
Remember Meby Estelle Laure
If Severance was a young adult romance, you might get something akin to Remember Me. When teenager Blue Owens encounters Adam Mendoza, she experiences extreme déja vu. Everything about him seems familiar, yet she has no recollection of ever meeting him before. Blue soon learns that Adam is a pivot piece of deleted memory, and journeys to uncover the truth behind their relationship and her past. As with Severancemysterious notes and photographs provide pivotal evidence and shocking revelations.
The Circleby Dave Eggers
The corporation at the center of The Circle mirrors that of Severance‘s Lumon in its intrusive, near totalitarian existence. This supposedly feel-good tech company’s obsession with transparency and surveillance entrances new employee Mae Holland, who embraces the microchip’s potential in combating everything from crime to corruption. However, The Circle soon mutates into an Orwellian behemoth, intruding on the lives of its employees and users. While heavy-handed in its approach, it’s a wild ride through an all-too plausible near future.
Before I Go to Sleepby SJ Watson
A woman with anterograde amnesia struggles to reconstruct her past. She is consistently challenged by the conflicting information her husband and secret doctor provide, causing a true crisis of identity. Much like Severance‘s innies, she’s desperate to make sense of herself with a blank slate of a mind and little reliable support. The stakes heighten as the mounting discrepancies soon bring dangerous consequences in this suspenseful psychological thriller.
The Warehouseby Rob Hart
Imagine a world where an Amazon-like company dominates everything, and your role within it is predetermined by an algorithm (not hard to imagine, is it?). That’s just part of the terrifying future posited by The Warehouse. Part social horror story, part corporate espionage thriller, the novel’s claustrophobic, labyrinth-like campus mirrors the often-impenetrable structure of Lumon’s brain-bending offices. But more significantly, it captures just how difficult our capitalist realities are to navigate.
Dare to Knowby James Kennedy
In Dare to Know, a surreal premise and an unconventional revelation fuel a cosmic journey. An unnamed, perpetually burnt-out protagonist is sick of his job calculating and notifying people of the exact time of their death. He soon commits his company’s cardinal sin by using the algorithm on himself. Based on the formula’s estimation, he should have died hours ago. What follows is a dreamlike road trip to reconnect with past loved ones, visit ancient lost cities, and toy with quantum physics in the process. Like Severance, it finds a protagonist on the brink of burnout questioning his identity and losing his sense of reality. It’s a wholly original novel that’s bound to frustrate just as many as it entrances.
The Lathe Of Heavenby Ursula K. Le Guin
When George Orr’s dreams mutate into reality, he turns to a psychotherapist for help. Unfortunately, the doctor uses his patient’s unusual ability to his own advantage, manipulating the world for his own nefarious purposes. The exploitation on display is just as potent and unknowable as that of Severance‘s workforce, if not more so. It’s a sci-fi classic about power, mistrust, and the unintended consequences they can wreak.
Happy for Youby Claire Stanford
What if you could increase your happiness by simply following the advice of an algorithm? In the world of Happy For You, there’s an app for that. When aimless, ambivalent Evelyn accepts a job at a tech firm that promises the ultimate happiness optimization, she soon questions her own goals and priorities for the future. Through the lens of norm-reinforcing social media, Happy For You weaves a scathing send-up of Silicon Valley, and a meditation on how human emotionality defies automation, much like the mindless work of Severance‘s number-crunchers.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below