Feed (Newsflesh #1)
Zombies / Sci-Fi
In 2014, two experimental viruses—a genetically engineered flu strain designed by Dr. Alexander Kellis, intended to act as a cure for the common cold, and a cancer-killing strain of Marburg, known as "Marburg Amberlee"—escaped the lab and combined to form a single airborne pathogen that swept around the world in a matter of days. It cured cancer. It stopped a thousand cold and flu viruses in their tracks.
It raised the dead.
Millions died in the chaos that followed. The summer of 2014 was dubbed "The Rising," and only the lessons learned from a thousand zombie movies allowed mankind to survive. Even then, the world was changed forever. The mainstream media fell, Internet news acquired an undeniable new legitimacy, and the CDC rose to a new level of power.
Set twenty years after the Rising, the Newsflesh trilogy follows a team of bloggers, led by Georgia and Shaun Mason, as they search for the brutal truths behind the infection. Danger, deceit, and betrayal lurk around every corner, as does the hardest question of them all: When will you rise?
Just a side note: the line about how the characters “search for the brutal truths behind the infection” is really deceiving. That’s not what they’re after at all. They know how the infection started (it’s stated in the first part of the book description). They’re trying to figure out the cause behind certain targeted breakouts that happen 20+ years later. Sorry, that’s just been bothering me since I started reading the book. It’s very misleading. Moving on…
From the very first sentence, I deemed Mira Grant’s Feed awesome and, really, how could I not when it starts with:
Our story opens where countless stories have ended in the last twenty-six years: with an idiot – in this case, my brother Shaun – deciding it would be a good idea to go out and poke a zombie with a stick to see what happens.
Grant had me and she didn’t once lose me in the six hundred pages that make up this post-apocalyptic zombie tale that isn’t really about zombies. There are only four scenes that actually include zombies on screen and only two scenes with any real sense of danger, the more suspenseful one being the opening 20 pages or so. Instead the zombies act as background elements to explain the collapse of our world into a slightly warped version of the life we know. It’s today with more guns, bleach showers and the occasional dead person jumping out of the shadows wanting to snack on your skull, but all together, it’s not that different.
Instead Feed focuses on the new form of media and politics in this rapidly adapting culture, built partially around the most visceral of fears and the need for freedom. Georgia and Shaun are bloggers, who get picked as the media pool for a Republican candidate running for president at a time when bloggers aren’t taken serious by the older generations. The story follows their experiences on the campaign trail as a politically-motivated conspiracy starts playing out around the caravan of political advisors, interns, and supporters that follow their candidate around. Zombies are constantly a threat on the edges of the story, but the damage that living humans can do to one another becomes a bigger issue than the shuffling undead. It’s definitely an interesting way to inhabit a zombified world.
There are a fair number of characters in the book, but only two that really get fleshed out. Shaun is the crazy brother, who likes to poke zombies with hockey sticks and generally put himself into mortal danger as long as a camera is rolling on him. He’s goofy, sarcastic and wonderful. The immaturity and silliness that he shows in public is nicely countered by his sensitivity and sincere concern for his sister, Georgia. He’s like a guy from Jackass, but with a hidden gooey center. And he’s really funny.
But it was Georgia who made me love this book. She’s the newsie of the bunch, very dedicated to the truth and her beliefs in journalistic ethics. She’s a great character to live inside of (the book is in first person): sardonic, cynical and just slightly insane with her dedication towards her chosen field. She has ocular Kellis-Amberlee – or essentially “zombie eyes” – that require her to wear dark glasses all the time to prevent permanent damage to the point of blindness. Combine that with her uniform of Kevlar and other pieces of tactical gear and she’s like a little journalistic terminator with her old-school mp3 recorder and bad attitude. If you can’t tell, I quickly became enamored with Georgia to the point that I didn’t care when her inner narration halted the story completely so that she could go on a five page history lesson on this or that disease or rant about society/television media/politicians. I was right there with her and, with my own personal background in journalism, spent a good portion of her journalistic rants thinking, “YES! THAT! That’s how I want things!”
But then again I’m a huge geek.
So there are some pacing issues that, if you’re not as interested in the history of this world, how things came to be as they are, or Georgia’s personal views on the political process, then there will regularly be chunks of exposition that will most likely bore you. I didn’t mind each piece of information filled the world out just a little more and Grant has filled in a lot of the tiny details that often get overlooked in post-apocalyptic books. Other than that, my only real issue was with the blog posts used to cap the chapters. Each was dated, but the dates combined with the story itself really screwed me up with the passage of time. Or maybe the Republican convention does take place in March of an election year and I was confusing myself unnecessarily. Either way, I had a hard time connecting the blog posts that often didn’t correspond to any one event to the story itself.
I was really disappointed that I was the only one in my book club that read the whole thing prior to the meeting, mostly because it meant I had absolutely no one to commiserate with on how absolutely devastated this book left me. Emotionally Grant covers all the bases: Georgia’s dry sense of humor had me laughing out loud regularly, moments of tension that left me unable to put the book down when it was far past my bedtime, and a sudden twist that left me staring into the blank space, distraught for days after I finished it. Even now five days later, thinking about a certain short section (no spoilers!) brings tears to my eyes and makes me hurt, but I’m also a huge sap who becomes far too emotionally invested with the lives of fictional characters.
Feed is an awesome and unusual zombie book, and it actually has a great conclusion that feels like the story is completely wrapped up. It doesn’t need two sequels, though I own both of them and will eventually read them. I can’t imagine either comparing to Feed though. It’s a fully formed world with great characters, who I would probably be friends with if they actually were real people. It feels different from the other zombie books I’ve read because the zombies are such a small piece of a much larger, more complex story. I’d recommend it even to those who aren’t usually into the walking dead inhabiting their stories. Feed is now in my top 10 of 2012, hanging out with Robopocalypse and fellow zombie tale Dearly, Departed.
I bought a copy of Feed with a gift card I received from a former co-worker. How's that for specific?