on 8 November 2010
By avoiding describing the initial arrival of "zombies" other than in short flashbacks, the author manages to create some three-dimensional characters the reader cares about. This is in marked contrast to some other works in the same genre which, although they are rollicking reads, remain cartoon-like.
Feed creates a world I could see myself in, and the testing regimes taken for granted by the characters are exactly what would develop.
You don't even have to be a zombie fan to enjoy it, as it stands up as an entertaining read in its own right. So much so that it's the first and only zombie book I have ever passed on to my wife...and there's no stronger a recommendation than that.
"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.
on 27 September 2011
Deadline,follows Feed, a readable middle book of a trilogy, but like many middles not that satisfying by itself. Though having said that I do want to read the final one. Basically the series is turning into a general conspiracy thriller along the lines that 'this effects the whole world future of human race' theme. While Feed had a conspiracy theme too it was somewhat more constrained and tighter as a book, this sequel sort of 'hovers' to me clearly unfinished. It also involves a lot more science around virology the explanations of which can be tricky to follow though basic premise, is fairly simple. I did find Shaun, the narrator, tediously slow on the uptake often even irritatingly so. I far prefered his sister who was despatched in the first book, or was she? While this is part of a trilogy, the author has probably already written it all, as the cut off for this is quite abrupt. My suspicion is that the publishers wanted it in three parts, more profitable, but so annoying for the reader. If they have to do this then why so long a wait between parts of the trilogy after all its the age of ebooks so production costs and time lag in publishing should be minimal. What if the world implodes before we get to read the last book, we will be so unprepared!
on 18 January 2016
I read World War Z (Max Brooks) and wanted more of the same. This trilogy delivered as a different take on zombies.
I'm not a classical horror fan and I loved the way this series isn't a normal zombie survival horror. The author constructs an expansive and almost real world of society after it adapted to the presence of zombies where there was no 'apocalypse' and societal structures adpated and survived to varying extents. It also feels a bit more real with political pressures and realistic/plausible virology making the trilogy an interesting read, but probably not ideal for those looking for an old fashioned zombie action horror.
on 18 March 2015
When I found this in the horror section of a book shop and read the summary on the back I expected a dark story about a group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse sharing their experiences with other survivors over the Internet and I was excited to get home and start reading. Unfortunately that's not what I got. The plot instead focuses on the three bloggers covering a presidential election and although their lives are built around the threat of zombie attacks, actual encounters with zombies are few and far between. Having a story set in a world beyond the initial outbreak where zombies are an accepted norm is a nice twist on the now overdone zombie genre but unfortunately it doesn't make a very interesting narrative.
Even though the author has an easy to read writing style the story shambles along like a reanimated corpse, and this is the book's biggest flaw. With entire 20-30 page chapters devoted to events that are not only dull to read but often irrelevant to the overall plot, I found myself eager to skip over paragraphs or even whole pages waiting for the author to get to the point - she writes pages to convey things that could be said in a couple of sentences. The book is quite long and I feel like it would have benefited from being a couple of hundred pages shorter.
The tone of the story is surprisingly upbeat for the majority of the book, you'd forget it was set in a world populated by zombies if they weren't mentioned so regularly. The characters don't seem to mind the looming threat of the undead and are content to have a laugh, go out to dinner and generally lead a fairly normal life. Their joviality gets annoying fast though; they are flippant and for most of the book they don't seem to take things seriously. Almost every line of dialogue between the main characters is a joke or sarcastic remark, even when they are surrounded by groups of hungry biting zombies they are still happy to make a witty quip or two. It feels like the author was trying to make them courageous, sassy zombie hunters but it becomes very grating early on. And while the author puts a lot of effort into world building and showing the wider implications of the zombie outbreak, she doesn't do the same with the characters and most of them end up seeming like two dimensional cookie cutter characters. This isn't helped by the lack of deep dialogue; you can only glean so much about a character from sarcastic jibes and jokes.
Over all I get the feeling that Feed was misplaced at the book shop, it was a YA novel marketed as horror when there is no real horror present. The zombies feel like decoration which your eyes begin to ignore over time rather than a focal point and the story really needed some heavy duty editing to bring it down to a less laborious length.
If you're up for a quirky zombie themed romp then Feed might be something you can sink your teeth into, but if you're looking for something to satiate your appetite for gritty zombie drama between seasons of The Walking Dead then you'd best look elsewhere.
I really enjoyed Feed and was looking forward to the sequel. However, possible spoilers ahead, Deadline was missing a few key ingredients that made Feed so good. It also included stuff that really wasn't necessary. If you liked Feed for all the action and fighting, you really might not enjoy the sequel.
As a read, its pretty good. Its just as accessible and believable as Feed and Mira Grant paints an engaging picture of post-apocalypse. The characters are not great - we really only learn anything about Sean Mason as a personality, everyone else just exists in his world. Or head. The development of the plot from Feed works well enough for Deadline to feel planned, as opposed to just tacked onto an unexpectedly successful original story. But it is overly long - around 600 pages - largely due to way too many explanations that Sean is crazy and doesn't care what anyone thinks of this and far far too many descriptions of blood tests. Blood tests to get into buildings. Blood tests to get out. Blood tests to get into cars and into shops. Blood tests to go houses, garages, and the toilet. Yeah, technically that last one comes in the sneak preview of the final book in the trilogy, but you get my meaning.
If you enjoyed Feed, you'll probably have that 'what happened next?' kind of feeling. You have to know how deep the conspiracy goes and who was really behind Tate. In which case you'll get something out of this sequel. Go ahead and buy it.
But, here's the big problem with Deadline - this is a possible spoiler, but I doubt it. Anyway:
Deadline is not a zombie novel, it is a thriller. I say this because there are next to no zombies in the whole book. Seriously: there are almost zero undead in this book. There's a few in the prologue, we hear some about 400 pages later, and there is one fight with some undead about a hundred pages after that. Thats it.
Now I get it, I think. This is not supposed to be a book about the undead, as such, its about the world they exist in. This is the fabulous new breath of life certain critics claim Newsflesh is to the genre. But it still seems a little disingenuous to market this book as a zombie book and then just use them as background. I can read lots of conspiracy thrillers without zombies, but I choose not to - I like survival horror, not political thrillers.
Hopefully this is a deliberate tonal choice by the author. The first novel was about the living having to deal with the ever-living. The second book has no zombies, but its protagonist is obsessed with his dead sister who lives on in his head. She is the zombie, get it? And hopefully that means the third novel can get back to some real undead action with some actual locomotive dead folks to fight.
Because I will have to buy it. As bereft of the undead as Deadline is, and as full of extraneous descriptions of insanity and blood-testing equipment as it is, Deadline still managed to keep me hooked and turning page after page until I had read it all. Telegraphed plot-twist and all, I'll be eagerly awaiting the conclusion of Newsflesh and hoping it is a more concise and gory entry in the series.
The year is 2040, twenty six years after a zombie plague has changed the world beyond recognition. People live in fear of the wandering hordes who's only urge is to feed and spread the contagion. Georgia and Sean Mason are young journalists who run an online news blog and are invited to accompany Senator Peter Ryan in his bid to be elected President of the United States. As the campaign progresses life becomes more and more dangerous as a conspiracey takes place and deadly secrets wait to be discovered. This is a very well written and especially well thought out and researched novel. The success of a zombie novel has to be based on writing a great story in the first place and setting it against the zombie holocaust and this is something that Mira has done perfectly. The creation of the virus is well thought out and also the way that life has changed with all the protective measures that ordinary people have to take to stay alive. Also well researched and plausible is the way that she has developed technology to fit this new world and her descriptions of the new journalism are spot on too. I could find nothing to fault this book, the characters are well padded out and sympathetic, the story line is both touching and exciting and will appeal to readers of both genders. She doesn't dwell on the actual outbreak because it happened before our heroes were born and yet she uses it to differentiate between the attitudes of the people who lived through it and those born after it. I can't praise this novel enough but I must warn you not to read the extras at the back before finsihing it, they contain a massive spoiler. I can't wait for book two.
on 10 October 2012
***MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***
After watching The Walking Dead I felt I needed a zombie novel to bridge the gap. Feed seemed to get some good reviews and so I thought I'd give it a whirl. The plot centers around a couple of journalists / bloggers following a political campaign for president of The United States. This is all set in 'post outbreak' America which makes the whole thing much more interesting. The two young journalists are your typical tank-girl / nerd-jock stereotypes and they uncover a political conspiracy whilst encountering some zombie outbreaks along the way. So:
I liked the blogger / journalist angle; it felt fresh and it gave the two main characters an edge.
I liked the main thrust of the story, on the campaign trail and the use of How To Deal With The Undead as a manifesto pledge. It felt quite tangible.
I thought the plotting of why the undead rose from the dead and how the virus manifests itself is beautifully conceived and is one of the most impressive zombie raison d'etres I have ever read.
The sci-fi and the technology is wonderful - superbly imagined, credible and well depicted.
The actual conspiracy has quite a few major plot holes in it, big enough for a zombie to walk through. I sometimes felt that the plot was paced very slowly at times and then went very fast and then slow and then super, super fast and then to a crawl...I felt it should have raced towards a finale...and it just didn't.
The characters (apart from Senator Ryman) are wooden, one dimensional and all speak with similar voices.
The dialogue is poor most of the time and reads quite badly. Georgia Mason is just too flippant and jingoistic to sound even vaguely like a real person.
There are no real thrills in this book and the action sequences felt quite dry and antiseptic with no real panache.
The book is WAAAAY too long. It could have been half the length and been a better book.
Oh, and there are hardly any zombies. That, to me, should be the absolute top priority for a zombie book: zombies, lots of them and people who are prepared to do what is necessary.
I really wanted to like this book. There is a lot to like but it felt like a book that a strong editor would have sent back to the author to bash into shape and it would have improved the book immeasurably. It is let down by heavy tracts of unnecessary description, poor characterisation and woeful dialogue...but I think there is a terrific author waiting to come out. She has some superb ideas and occasionally the book really sings...but she needs some help IMHO. 2 1/2 stars. Call it 3, I'll be generous. But just for the sci-fi!
on 16 February 2013
I'm a total coward when it comes to anything vaguely zombie related - I can cope with vampires, werewolves and things that go bump in the night but for some reason zombies have me cowering under the duvet refusing to go to sleep for fear of nightmares.
This does not mean that FEED is not a frightening book - far from it - however it is this that makes it such a fantastic read.
FEED is not your typical `horror-movie' style zombie marathon, it is much much deeper than that. Mira Grant has built such a convincing post-zombie-apocalypse world that not once did I have a moment of `that's so stupid' - something I often find myself thinking during zombie films. Indeed, the zombies almost take a back seat at the same time as being a central feature of the world - they have been a part of everyone's lives for so long now that they are just an everyday element of life. One that just happens to want to bite you and make you very effectively dead, even if you are still wandering around and groaning.
Mira Grant somehow manages to combine zombies, politics and everything `dark' about human nature and creates a story so fascinating and fast-paced that I was loathed to put it down. Even if I did have to play a game of something nice and fluffy on the DS before I went to bed, just to scare away the zombies!
If I'm completely honest though, the zombies weren't the scariest element of the book by far. That fell to the sheer brutality of some of the characters in the book. The characters were all brilliant, well rounded, convincing and utterly human - not always in a nice way. To me there is often nothing more frightening than human nature and Mira Grant has captured this so effectively in FEED that the horror of zombies trying to eat you at every turn pales in comparison. Zombies can't help how they are, it's an infection they couldn't prevent - people however - people choose. They make conscious decisions. And not always for the right reasons or with the slightest concern for anyone else involved.
I could understand some people being a little put off by how long the novel is, though. There is so much packed in, from the scientific background of how the zombies came to be through to how the world has adapted to cope with it's new inhabitants, and yet I never felt like I was drowning in information or that the story was slowed just so I could learn `how it all began'.
Also, if you were to pick up the book expecting an all out zombie-apocalypse gore-fest then you would probably be disappointed. Go watch a movie instead.
on 31 January 2013
What's Good About It
After being blown away by the first instalment of this trilogy, I was excited to get my hands on Deadline for ages. And it didn't disappoint. Unlike so many second parts of trilogies which are flabby around the edges, stalling for time, and with no real sense of threat, Deadline only escalates the tension. Shaun's deteriorating mental state only makes him more of a loose cannon, and in a world populated by the reanimated dead, being a loose cannon is a very very dangerous thing to be.
With the conspiracy going even deeper, there's plenty of mystery to unravel. Once again, Grant's world building is second to none. Her story is all the more sinister for the CDC procedural details woven into the narrative. The story never seems to lose pace for the extra detail, which is a very good thing, because such a level of detail could easily bog the story down. With a lot of the heavier world building work done before in Feed, Deadline doesn't have to work as hard for its realism, giving it more space to explore the terrifying world and politics its characters live in.
And speaking of characters, the transition to Shaun's point of view is seamless. His character is very different to Georgia's cold, analytical mind, but he works just as well as a vehicle to drive the story. And as slightly creepy (a fact that Mira Grant doesn't shy away from, which pleased me) as Shaun and Georgia's mind sharing relationship becomes, it's a fantastic way of keeping Georgia in the story, in a way that never feels forced or twee.
What's Not So Good
Once again, if you're looking for a cheap thrills zombie apocalypse, this isn't really what you're looking for.