Sunday, February 3, 2013

Book Report: Feed by Mira Grant

Image from ShadesOfSentience,
who also reviewed Feed
The problem with zombie stories is always the ending. The king of zombie movies, George Romero, has produced--at last count--six movies, all of them with bleak endings. The problem is, most zombie apocalypses are just that: effectively the end of the world. Humanity is all but wiped out, and there is no hope of renewal. The Walking Dead mostly avoids this trope by having a continuing story, with humanity continuing, though in a ravaged state. It's still not a sunny future.

The Newsflesh trilogy of books by Mira Grant (a pseudonym of Seanan McGuire) avoids the trope by showing that humanity did survive after the "rising" of zombies. It was a hell of a mess, and it continues to present major challenges, but there is still a United States of America, with law and order, a CDC, FBI and presidential politics. After finding out about this series, I quickly reserved Feed, the first book, at my local library. I thought it would be right up my alley, and I was not disappointed.

I was immediately drawn in by Grant's snappy writing, and ability do fully create this world, in 2040 America. The rising occurred decades ago, and a generation of adults has known nothing else. Complicated procedures are required for daily life, with lethal security systems, constant redundant blood testing, and the threat of "amplification" of the dormant virus in any mammal over 40 pounds. Death by any cause--other than brain trauma--results in zombification, sometimes very quickly.

**Minor Spoilers Ahead**

The story focuses on citizen bloggers who have supplanted the traditional media, and seen as more trustworthy. The bloggers are categorized as newsies (straight news reporters), irwins (zombie engagers), fictionals (poetry, story telling) and stewarts (commentators). Obviously, Steve Irwin and Jon Stewart are influences, as is George Romero, whose zombie movies provided instructions for humanity to deal with the apocalypse! Yes, Feed is genre-savvy!

Of course, I thought of this. . .
Much of Feed deals with the development of Georgia and Shaun Mason's blogging enterprise, and their eventual assignment as official press for a moderate Republican presidential candidate. The brother and sister team have a network of subordinates and partners in their After the End Times blog site, striving to keep their ratings up through thick and thin. As the campaign goes on, saboteurs cause dire problems for the candidate and the blogging team, leading to a major tragedy that sets up the ending (and sequel books).

The book is very enjoyable, though I did have a few issues with it. The intricacies of the After the End Times enterprise is more detailed than it needs to be, as is the amount of time focused on the campaign. If I were writing a screenplay based on the book (and I did picture it as a movie), I'd have trimmed some of that down, thrown in a little more detail on the sabotage and the zombies (who actually recede to an afterthought for much of the book). Also? The blood tests. I get it, they're important to the story, and in a movie they would be a quick zap, but reading about them got repetitive.

Another thing that made me stop and think was the technology being used, and the whole concept of blogging and computers, keyboards, cameras, phones, PDAs, the works. It's always hard to predict what the future holds. Trying to imagine technology 30 years in the future--even with an intervening zombie apocalypse to slow things down--is nigh impossible. Grant does posit some interesting things, micro cameras, ear cuff phones, and other things. But I still kept wondering about blogs being a "thing" in 2040, about MP3s still being around, particularly MP3 recorders. I suppose we've had CDs for 30 years now, so maybe. . .

Also, and **This Is  A Major Spoiler Alert**, there is a trope used in the book that I know bothers a lot of people. It bothered me a little bit, enough to take me out of the story for a minute (swipe your mouse over the black to see it): the protagonist of the story is also the first-person narrator, and she dies before the book ends. The narration picks up using a different character, but wait! This chick's been talking to me for 4/5 of the book and now she's dead? How did she. . .I mean. . . Oh, forget it, I know. Mary Alice on Desperate Housewives narrated the whole series from the grave.

All of that said, I really enjoyed Feed, and will be reading the other two books in succession. I'd also really like to see an adaptation, and hopefully not as a SyFy special, but on a real network or movie screen. Given the popularity of The Walking Dead, there is hope!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that I've always been a fan of dystopian future types of novels, and that this  one put me in the mind of the Left Behind series of apocalyptic (seriously) religious books. Not that LB is anywhere near as good, ore even worthwhile reading (it's not, it's terrible). But Mira Grant could teach Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye a thing or two about how to create a post-disaster world, how to build tension, and how to write distinct and fully-rounded characters.

My score: Recommended


  1. The only zombie movie I ever watched was a comedy with I think Woody Harrelson, or somebody like that, and several kids took on zombies and but the funniest scene was when they were at Bill Murrays' hse, and they blew him away, thinking he was a zombie. They were probably right, ayways, he you see what he looks like today.

  2. I forgot about Zombieland! And then there's Shaun of the Dead, also terrific, and funny. But you'll "get" them more, if you know the source material they're making fun of.


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