Since Eric started residency, our reading habits don’t overlap much. Because he’s so busy almost all his reading is of the extreme-escapist variety, which for him means lots and lots of sci-fi. I have nothing against sci-fi, but my preferences lean towards the Bradbury-esque, which not many people are doing these days. Eric enjoys the tech-heavy stuff. And zombies. He loves zombies.
So when he told me I should read Feed by Mira Grant I was kind of skeptical. Sure, Colson Whitehead was doing it, but that didn’t mean I needed to dive into the genre. He had a surprisingly easy time hooking me. “It’s about bloggers,” he said, and I figured I should at least give it a shot.
When you live with a sci-fi geek you learn to chat about all sorts of stuff like “world-building.” For me, world-building is kind of a make-or-break deal when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy. If you don’t convince me that this is a real place that you’ve thought through and present it to me in a way that makes sense, I’m out. This is a pretty easy way to cut bad sci-fi/fantasy out of your reading. (For some of the most impressive world-building I’ve ever seen check out China Mieville, particularly The City and the City, which builds a world unlike anything else.)
Feed, like many zombie stories, is set in a post-apocalyptic world. The zombies are here, a result of a miracle cure gone horribly wrong, and everyone has to rebuild their lives and societies around it. Author Mira Grant has a lot of details that make this book more than your standard zombie book. Like the fact that the virus that makes the zombies is everywhere. Everyone’s been infected and the virus lies dormant. It’s not just zombie bites you have to worry about. Whenever anyone dies… a zombie shows up moments later.
This new world is a lot like ours, but there are constant blood testing stations and decontamination rooms. The CDC basically runs the country. Whole cities are gated off for protection, while others have been abandoned to the walking dead.
But back to the bloggers. The zombies are really just background, which is why this book works so well. Actually why these books work so well, since Feed is the first of three books, followed by Deadline and Blackout, the last of which was just released.
Right. Bloggers. Our protagonists are Georgia and Shaun Mason, two orphans of the zombie uprising who were raised by a pair of famous journalist parents. The family is a model of dysfunction, but Georgia and Shaun are as close as close can be. They’re bloggers who run a big news site full of independent journalists like themselves. Georgia focuses on the news and current events. Shaun is more of an adventurer, who enjoys nothing more than joyriding in the wilderness and fighting off zombies for kicks.
They live in a world where videos and articles are uploaded constantly, where their very careers rely on their ability to find what’s interesting and jump into the fray.
And it’s quite a fray they jump into when they’re selected to be the official bloggers of a presidential campaign. There are coverups. There are saboteurs. There are spies and double agents. And, of course, there are zombies.
Grant builds a pretty big world here, a whole political system as well as a way of life in the world and on the web. As world-builders go, she’s pretty impressive. But her book is focused mostly on a strong female character: Georgia, who narrates Feed. Georgia and Shaun have strong personalities and you find yourself really attached to them.
I was really attached. At the end of Feed there are some significant plot developments that made it clear that Deadline would be a very different kind of book. I waited a few months before I read it because I just wasn’t sure I wanted to be disappointed. But then Deadline excelled, too, despite how different it was. And now, having read Blackout, I’m impressed with both approaches coming together in one united book. It’s a rewarding series.
It’s also very action packed. If you get bored of people pulling out guns all the time and running for their lives, this may not be the series for you. But if that makes you say, “Awesome!” then you should definitely get into these.
As I’m not a big sci-fi reader, I can tell you that you don’t have to be a fan of the genre to enjoy these books. They’re the book equivalent of a big, epic, talk-heavy, smart action movie. Sure, sometimes the explosions and such get a little crazy but at its heart it’s a fun book.
My only real complaints are that the plots tend to get just a bit convoluted, I think Grant could use a bit of editing. And her writing tics remind me of early Stephen King, where there’s a tendency to repeat certain phrases a lot. But these are both pretty forgiveable. I had a lot of fun with these books and I hope you do, too.
Thanks to Orbit Books for providing me with a copy of Blackout for review.