"The Good News: We Survived. The Bad News: So Did They".
Imagine a world where scientists have cured cancer and defeated the common cold. Sounds idyllic, but what if this medical breakthrough leads to the creation and distribution of a virus that reanimates the dead. In Feed by Mira Grant we find an Earth where humanity has done just that. The infected are a fact of life and everyone has been forced to live with the constant threat of zombies. In addition everyone has the virus.
Unlike most of the other zombie novels I have read this month there is a rather optimistic feeling to the novel's opening. The world has changed since the time of the initial outbreak, but humanity has persevered. We have learned to adapt. Everyone knows to take precautions when venturing outside, and when moving between secure locations regular blood tests are the order of the day.
The way people receive information has also changed. When the first outbreak occurred it was the blogging community who were first to raise the alarm. Individuals have moved away from traditional media and get their news direct from web based sources. Distinct types of bloggers have evolved including Newsies who, as the name implies, deal with the facts. Fictionals who look after the more creative side of blogging and finally Irwins who essentially poke zombies with a stick to see what happens.
Set in America the story follows three bloggers as they join a senator on the road to report on his presidential campaign. Georgia Mason is a Newsie who owns and writes for After the End Times. Her brother Shaun is the sites Irwin and Buffy is their technical wizard and Fictional. They are given the opportunity to follow a potential Republican candidate, Peter Ryman, as he attempts to win the Republican nomination and then the race to the White House.
Georgia is the narrator for the majority of the story. Her sardonic attitude fits perfectly into the political landscape of the novel. Each chapter begins with a blog entry from one of the characters. The blogs excerpts work well as they help set the tone of the novel and give the reader insight into growing up in a world where zombies are accepted as the norm.
The political elements of the novel are superb. More than once I thought to myself I was reading The West Wing with added zombies. I genuinely felt that the characters dialogue read like it had been written by Aaron Sorkin. The characters spark off one another and there are some great moments amongst the debates and discussions. Religion, politics, technology, personal freedoms are all examined in relation to the zombie threat. These exchanges are believable and make for a very enjoyable read.
I was pleased to see there was some very dark humour in the novel. When any mammal over a certain size can potentially become a zombie is it any surprise that there are many more vegetarians then there were pre-outbreak? There's a lovely nod to George Romero. No longer is he regarded as just a film maker but the de-facto saviour of the human race.
A minor criticism, that I have levelled at other horror literature in the past, rears its head again here. The novel is firmly set in the US. How have other parts of the world faired in the aftermath of the 'global' outbreak? There is one character that lives in the UK but he doesn't get much of a look in. I would have liked to have had more detail about what is going on in the rest of the world. The book is first in a trilogy so hopefully this is something that will be addressed in future novels.
I look forward to reading the sequel, Deadline, when it's released in the UK next May.