Author: Mira Grant
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Zombies
Publisher: Orbit (US & UK)
Publication Date: April 2010 (US) / May 2010 (UK)
Paperback: 608 pages
EVERYONE HAS SOMEONE ON THE WALL
Shaun and Georgia are orphans of the Rising, the cataclysmic event which left the world reeling in the aftermath of the zombie uprising. Adopted by the Masons and raised in the strange world of the post-Rising media, they’ve spent their lives chasing the next big story, the one that will allow them to break into the big leagues once and for all. Now, in Senator Peter Ryman’s run for the Presidency of the United States, they’ve finally found it.
All they have to do is survive until the election.
In a world filled with the constant threat of both the living and the living dead, it will be all that Shaun and Georgia can do to keep themselves in one piece. Accompanied by the rest of their blogging team, Senator Ryman’s staff, and a whole lot of caffeine, they might succeed…or they might finally answer the big question of their post-Rising world: When will you rise?
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Newsflesh Trilogy
How did I get this book: Bought my copy (at the LA Times Festival of Books!)
Why did I read this book: It’s no surprise that I am a fan of Seanan McGuire’s – her October Daye series is one of my current favorites in the Urban Fantasy (sub)genre. SO, when I heard that the lovely Ms. McGuire would be writing an entirely new, totally different series – featuring politics, blogs and zombies – I was ecstatic. Writing under the name Mira Grant, Feed was as irresistible to me as brains are to zombies.
Kellis-Amberlee – such a pretty name for such a deadly, combined virus.
In the year 2014, a young girl, Amberlee, was cured of her terminal Leukemia. In the same year, one Dr. Kellis created a bold new rhinovirus strain that would cure the common cold. In an unfortunate confluence of events, the two viruses combined, creating an airborne hybrid that quickly replicated and swept across the face of the planet. Sickness was invariably cured – cancer and the sniffles became things of the past. But the new virus, Kellis-Amberlee, also had a peculiar side effect – namely, raising the dead. Those with weaker immune systems, those with direct, fluid contact with high quantities of the virus were the first to reanimate. The virus infected animals (with sufficiently large bodymass) and humans alike, causing a worldwide panic, and an all out war with the undead.
Twenty years later, Kellis-Amberlee is still humanity’s largest threat though it has been beaten back and contained through strict testing and regulatory procedures. In addition to wiping out a large portion of the population and reanimating the dead, KA also caused a shift in power. In the media, traditional outlets were sluggish to respond to “the rising,” bound by their myriad ties to governments and companies hesitant to give heed to crazy accounts. The new media – that is, news bloggers – were faster, more accurate, and helped inform the public how to defend itself in a time when defense and knowledge were sparse – and ever since the summer of the Rising of KA, bloggers have remained the highest rated source for the truth.
Feed follows Georgia “George” Mason (a by the book “newsie”), her foster brother Shaun Mason (a daredevil “Irwin”) and Georgette “Buffy” Mesonnier (a dreamy creative) – a team of successful, highly rated news bloggers who are selected to follow Republican Presidential candidate Senator Peter Ryman on his run for the highest office in the nation. As members of Ryman’s press corp, George and her team have the break of a lifetime. Their ratings skyrocket, and the ever-skeptical and pessimistic George finds herself believing in Senator Ryman’s message. But things are never so simple, and when the Senator’s campaign, his well-being, and his family come under brutal attack, George and her crew will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of the matter and to bring out the truth – even if it means their own lives are at risk.
After all, everyone is already infected with Kellis-Amberlee. It’s only a matter of time before it takes over each and every host on the planet.
When I started Feed, I was under the impression that it was more of a horror novel – which isn’t really true. Feed is more of a thriller – a political thriller, a medical thriller, all wrapped up in one delightful undead package. Instead of copious amounts of gore, flesh-eating, decapitation, etc, the dominant theme in Feed is that of uncovering truth, at any cost. It is undoubtedly a zombie novel, but it’s not a book about killing zombies. It has action in spades, but the true carnage is on the human – not the undead – level. It’s a horror novel, but the terror lies in the actions of human nature, much more so than the supernatural fear of the walking dead. Like the most memorable works in the zombie canon, Feed uses its zombies (those reanimated corpses teeming with Kellis-Amberlee) to examine humanity. And this, dear readers, is really goddamn cool.
More than anything else, I loved the amount of thought Ms. Grant put into writing this book. Feed is INCREDIBLY detailed; George’s world is fleshed out, from the genesis of the deadly pathogen to the constant vigilance required living with this airborne virus. Ms. Grant’s vision of a future American ravaged by KA is grimly complete. Nothing occurs in a vacuum in Feed, and rather than glossing over any details (or creating some stupid hokey explanation for the emergence of the virus *cough*28DaysLater*cough*), Ms. Grant uses George to fully explore all social, scientific and historical aspects of KA. The benefit of having such an intelligent and well-tuned in narrator is the fact that George knows everything that has happened and can explain it all. Historical context, the political game (i.e. tobacco companies’ unabashed rise to power since cigarettes no longer cause cancer), laws concerning animals…Ms. Grant covers it all. I loved the actual detail level of the disease itself, too – for example, mutations are present, and some characters like George suffer different forms of Kellis-Amberlee. In Geroge’s case, she suffers from retinal KA, rendering her pupils permanently dilated (meaning she cannot go anywhere without strong, filtered sunglasses to preserve her retinas; it also means that she cannot pass any retinal scan for KA, as her test results will always come out positive – think of it like living with a positive TB test).
I loved the idea that news bloggers would end up taking over traditional media outlets when the world falls apart (hey, as a blogger, this feels really cool). *As an aside, the whole ‘bloggers being the harbingers for the zombie apocalypse’ thing felt very reminiscent of Romero’s Diary of the Dead – which, while self-indulgent and not a very good movie, is an intriguing concept, and one I think Ms. Grant delivers on exceptionally well.* Plot-wise, Feed also shines. Though it’s pretty easy to guess, ultimately, who is behind the sabotage and attacks on Senator Ryman and the End of Times crew, the pacing is brisk, and the various clues/revelations flow unimpeded to a dramatic – shocking, heartbreaking! – conclusion.
I loved the characters, too – George, her foster brother Shaun and the (odd combination) tech-savant/poet Buffy make a wonderful team that balances each other out perfectly. Note their names too – George for Romero (and in my heart, the beloved George of my Nancy Drew days!), Shaun (of the Dead), and Buffy (the Vampire Slayer). Each balances the other, creating not only a winsome news team, but a cast that readers genuinely care about. I loved the close relationship between George and Shaun, even if it did feel a little bit weird at times (sharing a room together, voluntarily), but it makes sense given all they have been through together.
While there was a lot to love with Feed, one of its greatest strengths also was its greatest hinderance, in this reader’s opinion. Feed is very, very wordy. Very exposition-y. George is knowledgeable and explains everything in her inner narrative – there are literally pages and pages where heroine Geroge is relating details of her world, from Kellis-Amberlee, anecdotes about the Rising, political info, etc – and she does it all without really “talking” to anyone (i.e. this running narrative is completely, solely for the reader’s benefit and understanding). It is cool to see this kind of detail, but these passages could also be a bit wearying, not to mention unrealistic (no one, not even George, recalls all these details to themselves!). The level of detail is really, really awesome, but it comes at a price.
That said, this is a minor flaw in a solid book. I truly enjoyed Feed, and eagerly await the release of Deadline.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
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. As if we didn’t already know what happens when you mess with a zombie: The zombie turns around and bites you, and you become the thing you poked. This isn’t a surprise. It hasn’t been a surprise for more than twenty years, and if you want to get technical, it wasn’t a surprise then.
When the infected first appeared—heralded by screams that the dead were rising and judgment day was at hand—they behaved just like the horror movies had been telling us for decades that they would behave. The only surprise was that this time, it was really happening.
There was no warning before the outbreaks began. One day, things were normal; the next, people who were supposedly dead were getting up and attacking anything that came into range. This was upsetting for everyone involved, except for the infected, who were past being upset about that sort of thing. The initial shock was followed by running and screaming, which eventually devolved into more infection and attacking, that being the way of things. So what do we have now, in this enlightened age twenty-six years after the Rising? We have idiots prodding zombies with sticks, which brings us full circle to my brother and why he probably won’t live a long and fulfilling life.
“Hey, George, check this out!” he shouted, giving the zombie another poke in the chest with his hockey stick. The zombie gave a low moan, swiping at him ineffectually. It had obviously been in a state of full viral amplification for some time and didn’t have the strength or physical dexterity left to knock the stick out of Shaun’s hands. I’ll give Shaun this much: He knows not to bother the fresh ones at close range. “We’re playing patty-cake!”
“Stop antagonizing the locals and get back on the bike,” I said, glaring from behind my sunglasses. His current buddy might be sick enough to be nearing its second, final death, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a healthier pack roaming the area. Santa Cruz is zombie territory. You don’t go there unless you’re suicidal, stupid, or both. There are times when even I can’t guess which of those options applies to Shaun.
“Can’t talk right now! I’m busy making friends with the locals!”
“Shaun Phillip Mason, you get back on this bike right now, or I swear to God, I am going to drive away and leave you here.”
Shaun looked around, eyes bright with sudden interest as he planted the end of his hockey stick at the center of the zombie’s chest to keep it at a safe distance. “Really? You’d do that for me? Because ‘My Sister Abandoned Me in Zombie Country Without a Vehicle’ would make a great article.”
“A posthumous one, maybe,” I snapped. “Get back on the goddamn bike!”
“In a minute!” he said, laughing, and turned back toward his moaning friend.
In retrospect, that’s when everything started going wrong.
You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: Speaking of awesome, check out the wicked cool website for Feed, courtesy of Orbit. The site has some truly great bonus material related to the book (campaign trail tidbits, Irwin info, etc). Check it out HERE.
Make sure to stop by later in the day as Mira Grant joins us for an Inspirations & Influences post!
Rating: 7 – Very Good, leaning towards an 8
Reading Next: In Her Name: First Contact by Michael Hicks