Star Rating: 4/5
Author Website: Mira Grant
Available at: Our Store (there is a print or kindle version, I think)
Read the First Chapter Online
OK, after I wrote this review I realised how friggin wordy it is. So –
Tl;dr: Not your average zombie fare, highly recommended, part 1 in the Newsflesh Trilogy
In 2014, two completely antonymous groups of scientists were working on projects to cure the common cold and cancer, respectively. Through a series of unfortunate events these two cures somehow broke out, escaped, and merged to form an even more unfortunate super virus called Kellis-Amberly – KA for short. Soon after that, the first reports of the dead rising from their graves to chew on their living friends began to spread like wild-fire.
The story of FEED takes place in 2035, 25 years after The Rising. It centres around Georgia and her brother Shaun who grew up in a Post-Rising world where civilisation, albeit much reduced and confined, still thrives regardless of the constant threat from the dead. This threat is brought home to you from the beginning, when the first chapter opens showing Shaun poking a zombie with a stick to get a reaction for video to go on their blog, leading to a hair-raising scene of escape. Of course they escape in the first chapter! Otherwise this would be a very short novel and it isn’t.
There are a few things that set this novel apart from your average Zombie fare.
First, total annihilation of civilisation does not factor in here. People survived, the government and authorities took action (late, but enough) to preserve life and society. Now people live in safe neighbourhoods in cities and towns carefully fenced and guarded by the military. It means that moving between safe zones and not-so-safe zones requires a blood test, a sterilisation, and very careful logging of all movements to prevent an outbreak. It also means they still have electricity and internet, which is convenient considering our heroes are bloggers – spreading news of their adventures and discoveries through their website After The End Times. The fact that society did not collapse and people are not living without power and running water and heating is explained so simply, and seems so obvious, that it left me wondering why so many other zombie novels/movies/games work on the premise that there has been a total apocalypse. In this story life, only slightly different, goes on.
Second, everyone is infected. In fact, not just everyone, but every mammal over 40 pounds in weight is infected. The science behind this novel is very carefully researched and explained easily and believably through small snippets of information scattered liberally throughout the story. It works like this (without giving too much away) – the virus lies dormant in your body until you die and ‘go into amplification’ where the dormant virus goes live and re-animates your corpse, or you get bitten by an infected thing and the live-state virus is introduced to your bloodstream. Both ways, live-state virus = Zombie. The good news is this virus also kills all other viruses (good-bye common cold and AIDS) as well as mutated cells (bye-bye cancer). The bad news is, you will eventually become a zombie. You can only hope that you have someone who loves you enough to shoot you in the head when you die the first time.
Third, zombies are not the only thing that can kill you, and they’re not the only ones who might want you dead.
Mira Grant tells the story through the eyes of Georgia, a news-oriented blogger, who travels with her brother Shaun, an adventure-oriented blogger, through the USA on the presidential-election campaign trail. The cover boasts the RSS Feed logo on the cover – so we’re talking about more than one sort of ‘feeding’ going on… The small team of bloggers sets out to tell the truth, delivering the news as they see it from the campaign trail. Unfortunately they stumble across a few rather enormous lies that they set about unravelling, making few friends and several enemies on the way.
Although this is a zombie novel, Mira hasn’t forgotten human nature, which, it seems, hasn’t changed much since The Rising. Her character building is superb, taking a slow and steady approach, and letting you make up your own mind about the cast as you go along. She keeps you on your toes, with liberal, heart-stopping action sequences, dotted with sudden background information just to change the pace and build the tension. I found myself screaming ‘JEEZ JUST GET ON WITH IT I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT’ several times throughout the novel.
That is possibly the only area in which I can fault this novel. Much of the science was very interesting, but didn’t need large sections of text to explain. The rest of the novel was enough to help me suspend my disbelief to the extent that I didn’t need to be further convinced by science that this world could be real. I have, on the other hand, found myself reading other books that don’t have enough focus on the why’s and wherefores of the story, making it hard to believe and thus hard to care about the outcome for the characters. I guess there’s just no pleasing me in this respect.
Overall, this book makes it so easy to live the story with the characters and feel for them as intensely as if you were there, and just when I was starting to get comfortable, Ms Grant threw in some totally unpredictable plot twists that had me reeling. I highly recommend anyone who enjoys reading novels that are meaty in plot and characters, heavy in action and tension, and page-turningly addictive. The story can stand alone but is actually the first part in a trilogy. I have already read and enjoyed part two, Deadline, and can’t wait for the third part which is out next year.
If you ever read it, let us all know what you think here, and also tell me: Do you like the idea of a different-but-still-in-tact society post-apocalypse such as this novel poses, or are you more a fan of the total-annihilation-of-life-as-we-know-it scenario posed by media such as Zombie Land and The Walking Dead?
Note: Myra Grant is a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire