Feed

Feed
By Mira Grant
Published on May 1, 2010
Published by Orbit

Summary from Goodreads:
In 2014, two experimental viruses—a genetically engineered flu strain designed by Dr. Alexander Kellis, intended to act as a cure for the common cold, and a cancer-killing strain of Marburg, known as "Marburg Amberlee"—escaped the lab and combined to form a single airborne pathogen that swept around the world in a matter of days. It cured cancer. It stopped a thousand cold and flu viruses in their tracks.

It raised the dead.

Millions died in the chaos that followed. The summer of 2014 was dubbed "The Rising," and only the lessons learned from a thousand zombie movies allowed mankind to survive. Even then, the world was changed forever. The mainstream media fell, Internet news acquired an undeniable new legitimacy, and the CDC rose to a new level of power.

Set twenty years after the Rising, the Newsflesh trilogy follows a team of bloggers, led by Georgia and Shaun Mason, as they search for the brutal truths behind the infection. Danger, deceit, and betrayal lurk around every corner, as does the hardest question of them all:

When will you rise?

My thoughts...

The newest book in Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy, Blackout, is out now, and in preparation for finishing off the trilogy, I'm doing a bit of a re-read, to get in the zone, so to speak, and remind myself of all the glorious details of the first two books.

I first read Feed last year, after asking for book recommendations to get me through a long international flight, layovers, and other assorted travel fluff.  I started reading while sitting at my gate in London's Heathrow airport, read straight through the flight, finishing up in the dead of night, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, glad that the flight wasn't full so that there was no one next to me to notice that I was sniffling quietly into my sweater.

Yeah, it was that kind of book.

The worldbuilding Grant does in this book is tremendous.  Everything feels realistic and a lot of care went into designing the security systems, technology, and hierarchical world that bloggers have created for themselves.  The virus that causes the dead to rise as zombies is explained in a way that makes sense, even to non-scientific minded readers such as myself.  You can tell that the author put a lot of thought into this dystopian future where people are ruled by fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of the infected, fear of outbreak.  Georgia -- George, to her brother -- Mason tries to combat that fear with the truth; her adoptive brother Shaun combats it by going out and poking zombies with sticks, just to see what happens.

What starts out as a simple tale of new-world journalists following a Presidential campaign in a world where the dead rise again turns into a conspiracy theorist's dream, with a healthy dose of running from the living dead.  George and Shaun are fantastic lead characters.  They're not always likable -- George is gruff and matter-of-fact, seeing the world in black and white most of the time, and Shaun is foolhardy and reckless -- but Grant manages to make you care about them anyway.  The pair also make fantastic partners.  They depend on one another (in what could best be called co-dependency, given that they rely on each other to the point of shutting out the rest of the world at times) and have strengths and weaknesses that complement the other's.  They're two halves of a whole, and together, they're taking on the biggest story of their lives.

The author does a great job of getting you invested in all of the characters, even minor ones who you may not even meet in person in the first book.  Grant also doesn't hesitate to pull the rug out from underneath you whenever you least expect it.  She pulls punches and crosses lines that many other authors stay well away from.  It is no exaggeration to say that Feed absolutely gutted me, by the end.  "Sniffling quietly into my sweater" is really an understatement.  It was closer to "trying to stay quiet while ugly crying in the back of the plane". 

On second read, I did notice a few inconsistencies and plot holes that I hadn't noticed the first time.  Part of the story is told via blog entries by George, Shaun, and others, so chronology is very important, and on this read, there were a few times where I found myself flipping back and forth because the dates didn't always line up.  (I am a big fan of timelines -- I once covered a whole wall in post-it notes to keep the timeline straight for a story I was writing -- so this might just be one of those things that I'm extra sensitive to.)  Also, the ultimate villain of the story is pretty clearly the baddie from the get-go, almost to cartoonish proportions.  It wasn't quite as obvious on my first read-through, but the second time, I expected that person to be sitting in the corner, fingers steepled Mr. Burns-style, going "mwahahaha" at key moments.  I wish the villain had been a bit more ambiguous, but, then again, the book was filled with so many other shockers that maybe it's better off this way. 

The book has its flaws, and you can find some incredibly valid criticism in other reviews.  That doesn't stop me from feeling that Feed is one of my favorite books in recent memory, and it absolutely held up on my second read.  Grant is an excellent story-teller and worldbuilder and I can't wait to see how she closes out her trilogy.  This isn't a YA book, though I think it would be fine for older/more mature readers, due to violence and language.


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