Book Review – Feed

Book Review

Feed by Mira Grant

“Rise up while you can.”

**At the end of this page I spill some big spoilers about the book. If you plan to read it and haven’t already, please stop at the spoiler alert section below.

Feed is a novel about young bloggers in a post zombie apocalypse 2040. Traditional media is not exactly dead, so to speak, just mistrusted. Instead, bloggers are the trusted news source of the future, mostly because TV didn’t warn the public when the zombie virus pandemic started, but bloggers did.

The plot revolves around a presidential campaign trail they have been attached to, where they discover a plot to use the virus to control the population through continued fear. This pushes them to dig further to uncover just how deeply the government – and the CDC – is infiltrated by the conspiracy.

It is written by Mira Grant, which is a pseudonym of writer Seanan McGuire. She has also published under that name. She is a self-described student of horror movies, horrible viruses, and the inevitable threat of the living dead. This is quite clear in her references to the genre in the novel. She pays homage to George A. Romero, creator of the modern zombie movie by describing George (or Georgia) as the most popular name given to children post zombie virus. Indeed, the main character is named Georgia, who thanks Romero for establishing how to kill zombies. In essence, she gives credit to the modern progenitor of the genre and doesn’t mess with the “rules” that much.

I was pretty sure that this would not be a typical zombie story. And it really wasn’t. I think that the average zombie fan might be confused by this novel, perhaps even disappointed. It isn’t a survival story like the Romero movies (I argue that Night of the Living Dead was a survival story, despite the ending). It isn’t a cure story, like World War Z. It isn’t a Lord of the Flies story like The Walking Dead. OK, so what is it? It is a story that carves its own niche, attempting to 1) use virology to explain the zombie premise, and 2) extrapolate how society and politics writ large would morph in response to this daily threat (assuming enough of us survived to have politics).

In that, it is pretty successful. While not particularly ground-breaking in this extrapolation, the behavior of the public, security policies, societal attitudes, and politics were believable for the most part. The miniaturization of recording technology was believable. The shift of traditional media to blogging was an interesting premise, and is arguable but not really a stretch. The novel is written in the first person, so the interspersed excerpts from other characters’ blogs helped fill out details that are normally limited by that choice.

***Spoiler Alert*** The below section spoils the whole book so fair warning.

As with most things, you can’t please everyone all the time. There were a couple of flaws that rubbed me the wrong way. Specifically, their techie was nearly superhuman in her ability to thwart security. It felt like a deus ex machina at times. While I continued to rapidly and happily turn pages all the way till 571, it needed editing. While it was perhaps appropriate to the society she imagined, the constant blood testing became tedious.

Perhaps my biggest criticism is of the use of language. Take the following sentence:

“That smile’s made him a lot of friends in the female portion of the blogosphere – something about him looking like he’d be just as happy to explore the dangerous wilderness of the bedroom as he is to explore the mysteries of things that want to make him die.”

This is a lost opportunity to actually say what he looks like. There must be a better way to say he looks dangerous, or attractive. Things that want to make him die? Really? There were enough of these poorly crafted descriptions to eject me from my suspended disbelief.

I like a good turn of phrase. The above ain’t it. I get what she’s trying to say. It sounds like a conversation I would have with my friends around a gaming table. I like those conversations with my friends. But that’s where that kind of phrase belongs, not in a novel that is nominated for the Hugo Award.

Finally, importantly, writing in the first person is hard. It limits you. Your character can’t write her own death. In this book, Georgia does, however. She is injected with the virus, and has a half hour before turning to a zombie. In those precious minutes she wrote 20 pages of story (pp.494 to 515), 3 pages of blog post (pp.516 to 518), and changed to a zombie mid-sentence. She even has the forethought to use ALL CAPS when she becomes desperate in asking her brother to end her life.

“I love you Shaun please gngn please SHOOT ME SHAUN SHOOT ME N-”

Flawed, imperfect. Sometimes unforgivable. And yet, I happily read it all the way to the end.

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