Taking a brief break from Jane Austen to plow through this one.
I’m the first to admit that I’m not really a huge fan of zombies, either in movies, television, or books. Yes, they’re terrifying, but I don’t like being scared for no particular reason. And if I’m going to enjoy something zombie-related, it’s usually got some kind of a hook–for example I hated the ____ of the Dead movies, but loved Zombieland, partially because of the actors, partially because of the humor. Hated World War Z, but loved The Walking Dead because of the wonderful writing, character development, and the building sense of dread. (Man, for someone who doesn’t like zombies, I do seem to read a lot of it.) And so I picked up Feed with some trepidation–was it just going to be another action zombie book, like the excerpted scenes seemed to make it? The concept was intriguing enough that I gave it a try.
The year is 2039, and the world has been infected by the hybrid Kellis-Amberlee virus since 2014; one virus designed to kill the common cold, one designed to cure cancer, that morphed and reanimated the dead. Yeah. I’m not a science person, so I can’t say how likely that is, but that’s at least an imaginative way to get things going. In the ensuing time, the world has undergone drastic changes: different areas are labeled in “Zones” by safety, anyone entering Level 4 zones must take bleach showers by government mandate, etc etc. Traditional media, slow to respond to the threat, is being gradually replaced by bloggers, who are more mobile, unbound by governmental restrictions, and can get to the bottom of things. The main character, Georgia Mason, her brother Shaun Mason, and their friend Buffy portray the three blogger archetypes: George is a Newsie, reporting the hard facts, her brother is an Irwin or adrenaline junkie who gets off poking zombies, and Buffy is a Fictional writing zombie romances. (Other “types” include “Stewarts”–opinion pieces backed by fact.) They are hired to follow the campaign trail of the Republican presidential candidate and everything goes to hell from there.
I wasn’t sure, as I said, if I would like this book. The writing is a little… I don’t know, I guess it’s just not my style. Grant certainly has a very recognizable voice, and it does have its humorous moments, but the book is very wordy. While the world is well-fleshed out and realized it’s also a little much sometimes; I found myself wishing that she would get on with it. There are little pockets of exposition that are injected in each scene, and while they certainly make George’s world more believable, they also slow down the story. But once that story gets going, this is a pretty fantastic book–tightly plotted, very inventive, with a world that possesses impressive internal consistency. And little things really make the difference for me, like when Grant writes, referring to two men executed for terrorism (and then reanimated), “their bodies were remanded to the government.” What a fantastic way to phrase it–that’s exactly how it would be. Although I don’t like zombies, this isn’t so much a zombie novel as it is a thriller that happens to have zombies in it, and I’ll probably be reading the other two books in the trilogy (man… what is it with authors and trilogies nowadays?)