06 June 2011

Review: Feed, Mira Grant's Foray Into Zombies

It's summer, which means it's time for reading a little bit lighter fare than usual, correct? It was with this in mind that I picked up Mira Grant's zombie-thriller Feed a while ago. The book had everything I want in a summer read, it looked like a quick read, it had zombies, and it was well-reviewed. In fact, the book was nominated for the prestigious Hugo Award, given annually for the best science fiction/fantasy book. Feed looked trashy and interesting, so how could I say no?

Well, I'm glad I didn't. The book in set in 2039-40 and follows two bloggers, Shaun and Georgia Mason as they cover a presidential campaign. And there are zombies. The backstory here is that a hybrid virus (called Kellis-Amberlee) formed when two separate cures (for cancer and the common cold) combined in 2014. Now, the world has no more stuffy sinuses, and tobacco is big again (why not, without cancer?). However, when the two combined, they formed a virus that lives only to reproduce, and it reanimates the dead. By the time of the book, everyone has the virus in them, it's just that most people have it in the dormant state. Death or exposure to the live virus are enough to trigger an outbreak.

I don't want to go into too much detail here, because Grant (a pen-name for Seanan Maguire) did a lot of research in epidemiology to get this story right, and it's worth reading her take on the spread of Kellis-Amberlee. What I find really interesting here is the speculative view of the future, one in which bloggers provide most of the world's news. Georgia and Shaun get selected to tag along on a presidential campaign and begin to write for what will become one of the most important blogs of them all. Of course, no zombie novel would be complete without a lot of the walking dead, and we are treated to plenty in Feed.

But what really fascinates me about this book is the cognitive dissonance it caused me. On one hand, the writing here is often incredibly stilted. I can't even begin to tell you how many times we are told that Shaun likes to poke dead things with sticks. Or all about Georgia's (our narrator) virus-caused ocular disability (her eyes are always dilated). At times it's maddening, and there are passages that make me think of this tumblr.

And yet, I couldn't put it down. The story was able to overcome choppy writing, and it was riveting. There are times in which the book is just heartbreaking, and there are moments of great humor. Overall, it comes across as an interesting critique of the role of the press in society, all without being preachy. In short, it's a fun book that is able to push beyond its own flaws. Feed is the first book of the (cringe-inducing name approaching) Newsflesh trilogy. The second (Deadline... god, the puns) was released this May, and is now in my wish list. Feed isn't the best thing you'll read this summer, but it's good. And it has a weird way of sticking with you. That, mixed with the fact that it's a fast read make it the ideal book for these hot months.