I’m pretty sure I would not survive the zombie apocalypse—not enough cardio, for one thing. Zombie tales still fascinate me, though, and Mira Grant’s Feed came to me highly recommended. The hype was not misplaced; this may well make my top ten books read for the year.
The year is 2039, and zombies have been a fact of life for the last twenty-odd years. Laws have sprung up for civilian safety, deliberately spreading the virus constitutes terrorism and is punishable by death, and in the chaos of the outbreaks, traditional news outlets lost legitimacy to hard-hitting bloggers willing to report the truth. In this milieu, Georgia “George” Mason and her daredevil brother Shaun, who have both grown up a product of this society, are up-and-coming bloggers who have been selected to cover the campaign of presidential hopeful Senator Peter Ryman. The career-making opportunity, however, quickly begins to reveal a much bigger conspiracy than either of them bargained for, and the truth could well kill them.
The world built in Feed feels scarily realistic, a la World War Z. The creation and spread of the Kellis-Amberlee zombie virus has left virtually everyone a carrier, susceptible to “amplification” upon contact with a live version of the virus. Amplification can occur via the traditional zombie bite or can be used as a terrifying form of biological terrorism, and both occur within the span of the novel. The rules and regulations and political balancing between freedom and safety are well-written, and contemporary readers will find that little about politics has changed even though zombies have long since redefined the status quo. If anything, readers looking for a traditional zombie novel may be disappointed by the predominance of politics and freedom-of-the-press themes, but those who are looking for something a little different and willing to commit in spite of a slow start will find their patience rewarded.
Feed is a gripping blend of zombie apocalypse horror and heart-pounding political thriller. George and Shaun, along with the other members of their team, including a perky techno-savvy blonde who goes by the name Buffy, form a trio of bloggers, dedicated to telling the truth and also capturing leading ratings. Grant gradually raises the stakes and maintains the suspense without ever overdoing it or dropping the pressure, and I found myself flying through the final two thirds of the book, anxious to see how it would turn out. While part of the big conspiracy is somewhat predictable (the villain practically carries a neon sign), the ride there isn’t, with shocking developments and upsetting betrayals. Better yet, while the novel does provide enough closure for satisfaction, it still leaves enough dangling for rest of the Newsflesh trilogy.
The novel is not, however, without its moments of levity. Mira Grant, better known as Seanan Maguire, has a knack for moments of witty banter, and quite a few passages had me snickering as I read. From George’s abrasive sarcasm to details like the “let’s poke the zombie with a stick” approach to blogging being the domain of “Irwins,” complete with annual “Steve-o” awards, snark abounds.
Bottom line: read this one. It has a little bit of everything and is amazing.