By Mira Grant
Published on July 15th 2013
Published by Orbit
Published by Orbit
How Green This Land... is a quick read, being a novella that clocks in at around 130-ish pages. I read it mostly while waiting to board a plane, and then in a quick sprawl-on-bed-and-get-covered-in-cats session once I got home. You shouldn't read this if you haven't read the Newsflesh trilogy. First, it would make no sense, and second, it would spoil every plot twist I hold near and dear to my heart. I'll write this review without spoilers, but just be aware that this isn't a stand-alone for new readers.A new Newslfesh novella from the New York Times besteslling author that brought you Feed, Mira Grant.
Post-Rising Australia can be a dangerous place, especially if you're a member of the government-sponsored Australia Conservation Corps, a group of people dedicated to preserving their continent's natural wealth until a cure can be found. Between the zombie kangaroos at the fences and the zombie elephant seals turning the penguin rookery at Prince Phillip Island into a slaughterhouse, the work of an animal conservationist is truly never done--and is often done at the end of a sniper rifle.
How Green This Land... is narrated by Mahir Gowda, a blogger and journalist in a world devastated by zombies. Readers of the Newsflesh trilogy know him as the long-suffering, sleep deprived blog partner of Georgia and Shaun Mason. Here, Mahir gets to tell his own story as he goes to Australia to meet up with a pair of his bloggers, as well as to investigate the role Australia's rabbit-proof fence has played in keeping the zombies at bay.
Only, Australia is affectionately referred to as Murderland, because everything wants to kill you. If it wasn't already venomous or filled with murderous rage before the zombies, well, now you've got zombie kangaroos and zombie koalas to contend with. Australians maintain a pretty strong no-shits-given attitude towards all of this and look towards their new lives with an air of "well, whatever" and a strong focus on conservation. And all because the deadly things are behind a fence doesn't mean that our bloggers are completely safe, either.
Mahir is not always the strongest of narrators; his constant dark sarcasm and "10000% done with this" attitude does sometimes come off as a little forced. He reads well in small snippets, like in his appearances in the Newsflesh novels, but carrying a whole story got a little tiresome. But still, I enjoyed having someone more practical and balanced to narrate this trip (unlike Shaun, who was totally imbalanced for most of the time, and Georgia, who saw the world as very black and white), and having an established character narrate made more sense than expecting the newly introduced ones to be our guides. Our new main characters, bloggers Olivia and Jack and pilot Juliet, are interesting but somewhat one-note and could stand to be fleshed out more. Then again, this is a novella - they were fleshed out enough to work for the story's purposes, and their hints of backstory got me interested enough to want to know more about them. The ending left a little to be desired, too; things get wrapped up in a kind of hand-wave "well that happened" sort of way, but I suspect writing out the full aftermath of Mahir's adventure would have turned this into a full novel.
As a bit of a side note, I appreciate Grant's efforts to write a diverse cast of characters and How Green This Land excels at that. Her cast spans the spectrum of diversity in ethnicity, gender, gender roles, sexuality, etc., and gives voice and representation to people who may not typically see themselves written about in fiction
While this isn't as edge-of-your-seat or all-around perfect as Feed, one of my favorite books ever, this is a fine addition to the Newsflesh universe, and gives the reader a lot to think about regarding conservation, safety/security or the illusion thereof, and the stories we tell ourselves to get through difficult situations. I think I appreciated it more for those broad themes than for anything else.