I’ve never been a fan of the horror genre. I spook way too easily, and I dislike
replaying enhancing scenes from horror/suspense books and movies while I’m alone. My earliest memory of movie-related fear was going up to our shared bathroom during dinner to pee, and all alone in the darkened second-floor of our house, I suddenly visualized the elephants from Jumanji stampeding towards me while I sat on the toilet seat. One of the biggest scares I’ve ever had in my life.
(And yes, I know, Jumanji isn’t even horror.)
I’ve heard of Feed, by Mira Grant, multiple times before. It wasn’t high on my to-read list, mostly because, well, horror. I’m a wuss, okay? But I had exhausted October Daye and Incryptid and I was impatient for my next Seanan McGuire fix (she writes horror under the name Mira Grant). Lady does fantastic urban fantasy worlds. I needed something to tide me over. So, well, what the heck. Time to expand to other worlds.
All I knew before putting the audiobook on was that it had zombies and that it was the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy. I went in knowing next to nothing about the book. (That’s kind of normal for me–if I’m reading something that comes from an author I know and love, I tend to just get down to reading, instead of finding out what the story is all about from behind the book.) Of course, in case you’re not as easily swayed as I am, here’s the back cover:
“Alive or dead, the truth won’t rest. My name is Georgia Mason, and I am begging you. Rise up while you can.”
The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we had created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.
Now, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives—the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.
It’s a blend of dystopian zombie fiction, medical thriller, and political novel rife with conspiracies all wrapped up in one. I’m not so much for zombie thrillers (my only zombie book is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) but the latter two are a win for me.
Why did no one tell me this earlier?
The premise was irresistible. When I was a child, I wanted to be an investigative journalist. I wanted to be Lois Lane, Superman optional. I wanted to get into the thick of things and find out the truth and tell the world about it. I don’t think I’ve grown out of it, truth be told–just ended up in a vastly different industry than initially planned. The fact that Georgia is an investigative blogger–a “Newsie” in the book’s world–is just too inviting.
That said, it did take a while before I could relate to her, from whose perspective we follow most of the book, with occasional cuts into Shaun’s point of view. I’m not entirely sure why, but I am attributing it to (1) being completely in the blind about the premise of the book, and (2) the fact that she is a Newsie–not exactly someone brimming with emotion. What she does have is a clear narrative voice that I had come to miss whenever it cut to someone else’s point of view. I think, ultimately, it is this clarity that solidifies my emotional connection to her by the latter half of the book, over the other characters: it became easier to “fill in the blanks” with such a clear canvas.
The world they operate in is well done. It’s believable, with just enough distance from today to give you that sense of escaping into a world that is different, yet hauntingly the same. I loved the references to tech that is present today, and I’m glad Apple survived the Rising (I have way too many iOS apps). I laughed at Urban Survival Barbie. I loved the references to using the Marburg virus to cure cancer (The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, admittedly, started a brief fling with a “I want to study virology” phase). The detail with how the virus affects life and has transformed the world was admirable in its thoroughness. I loved how it doesn’t shy away from acknowledging that almost everyone in the world would have had a passable level of media exposure to zombie essentials, and life after such a Rising would be heavily influenced by what came before, when it was all just speculative fiction.
“Kellis-Amberlee is a fact of existence. You live, you die, and then you come back to life, get up, and shamble around trying to eat your former friends and loved ones. That’s the way it is for everyone.”
I have to say though, their fingertips have got to be mush with all the damn blood checks they go through. I hope I never have to go through that kind of testing. (Shudder.)
The plot itself is solid. It had enough twists that kept me guessing, and enough clues that it was satisfying when I finally received confirmation of who the bad guy is. Not missing, of course, were the loose ends after the ending: enough to make my fingers itch to get the next book in the trilogy, Deadline, immediately. (Thankfully, all books have been released now, so my need for immediate gratification will not be long suppressed.) Pacing was quick, lending itself well to Georgia’s clear POV. The ending was both shocking and comforting, handled well and with just the right mix of drama and restraint. It’s an ending that feels right all the way through.
I am certainly no expert on zombie fiction. I have read and watched little of zombie-related media (comprising of I Am Legend and Zombieland), so I’m not the best person to judge how original the worldbuilding was and how it matches up against other zombie fiction. But I will say this: it’s a very down-to-earth, realistic zombie novel that thrills you with the plot, rather than the horror. If you’re like me (but I hope you’re braver), give this a whirl and you won’t be sorry.