I read this novel in the early '90s, and though I couldn't swear to its original publication date, it did have some fairly recent culture references. As I recall it was thematically similar to The Stand, with a virus having reduced the population of the world to a sliver of its previous numbers.

In this novel, however, everyone who survived had their head/face covered by a hard cocoon-like mask, which when it molted off would reveal a new face. They then divided into factions preparing for a final conflict.

I've tried searching both here and the wider internet, but as you can imagine keywords such as "virus" "mask", and "post-apocalyptic" turn up more daily news articles than fiction right now.


1 Answer 1


It's possible you are misremembering Swan Song (1987), by Robert R. McCammon.

After a nuclear war, people who have been victims of flash burns and radiation poisoning develop a condition called "Job's Mask" which encases their heads in a tumor-like growth. "Swan", the heroine, can mystically cure this affliction, in a metaphor of rebirth.

  • That mostly fits, including my faded memory that their new faces reflect their inner nature. Thanks!
    – Seneca
    Aug 31, 2020 at 16:15
  • It's an interesting work in the sense that it contains a lot of set pieces and striking imagery that stick with you even after you forget the full story. It's kind of like A Boy and His Dog in that respect.
    – tbrookside
    Aug 31, 2020 at 16:31

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