It’s been a long time since I promised to review this book – shame on me. And to be honest, I kind of wish I hadn’t been so rash! Ever since making that promise, I’ve spent a lot of time procrastinating. And when not procrastinating, I’ve been thinking up reasons to gracefully and quietly simply not do it. Obviously, as I am here, none of the reasons I came up with was good enough. All I ask of you, dear readers, is to please bear with me as I get used to this blogging and reviewing business.
Feed by Mira Grant (2010)
Feed is the first book in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, and it’s is not a zombie novel. Okay – it is a zombie novel, but it’s so much more than that. Like the title – Feed – the novel itself is more than the obvious (‘feed’ as in eating, and also as in RSS feeds). So yes, there certainly are zombies in this novel, but there is also a great deal of science, tech, ‘new media’ savvy, and a whole lot of political intrigue.
‘The zombies are here, and they’re not going away, but they’re not the story. They were, for one hot, horrible summer at the beginning of the century, but now they’re just another piece of the way things work.’
Grant has clearly thought deeply about her world, about what life would be like if zombies were a medical fact, and how – twenty-six years down the track – the world might have reconstructed itself (socially, politically, morally) in light of this. And she has obviously undertaken a lot of research to back up her ideas. As for the zombies – they’re your classic George A Romero-esque zombie – moaning, groaning creatures who lope with outstretched arms; dumb, and mindlessly violent. But Feed raises the question of whether one should feel some sympathy for them, hold some feeling of pity: they are, after all, the hapless victims of a man-made medical disaster.
Set in a not-too-distant future America, the story follows a small group of professional bloggers as they traverse the continent as part of the official presidential campaign. The rise of professional bloggers – citizen journalists – and the evolution of the ‘new media’ news industry is one of the novel’s most interesting world-building elements. The unprecedented rise of and dependence on bloggers is one of the changes that emerged out of the original zombie crisis – ‘the Rising.’ During the violent chaos of the Rising, people were cruelly betrayed by ‘traditional’ news outlets, which refused to tell the truth about the deadly virus that was turning people into zombies: ‘People died in the streets while news anchors made jokes about people taking their zombie movies too seriously … there was a war on and the ones whose responsibility it was to inform us wouldn’t even admit that we were fighting it.’
Between the politics, the media, and the zombie infection, the narrative unfolds – it’s fast-paced, sassy story telling; perhaps a bit lacking in-depth of characterization (but I’m not sure it matters), and I found the emotional engagement with the protagonists wanting. I also felt the novel could have been edited more strictly – you could easily shave off 150 pages without losing coherence, and you’d avoid some of the repetitiveness that emerges.
I don’t have any sort of book rating system – no stars, no points out of 10. But if it helps, I’ll answer this question for you: Will I be reading the next novel in the series (Deadline – no publication date yet)? Definitely!