Feed is a book that I first heard about on the Writing Excuses podcast, and since I’ve really enjoyed pretty much every novel I’ve picked up on the suggestion of that podcast I decided to check it out. Even if I hadn’t heard about it there, I probably would have eventually picked it up anyway. Mira Grant was nominated for a Hugo this past year for this book, and the Hugos are a good place to look for interesting SciFi & Fantasy novels. Anyway on with the review.
First book of the Newsflesh series
The book centers on two characters, Georgia and Shaun Mason, two bloggers who make a living by writing news pieces about their trips into zombie infested America. Both of the characters were interesting, if not really distinctive. Granted, they’re very close in age (they were both adopted) and have lived their entire lives with nothing more than a door separating them from each other. The other characters in the book were more unique and included Buffy, their Georgia and Shaun’s tech-person and fellow blogger and several other bloggers and politicians throughout the course of the story.
This is one of the most interesting parts of this book, and for many people one of the first things that will draw them to read this book. Basically what happened is around 2014 there were cures found for both the common cold and cancer. Before both cures (which were modifications of viruses) could be fully tested, they were released out into the world by very well meaning people who thought that they were going to be overpriced and therefore only available to the super rich. What ended up happening is that the two viruses combined and mutated, fulfilling their original purposes of beating both cancer and the common cold, but having a nasty little side effect of reanimating people (and any other animals over 40 pounds that were infected – which included every animal on the planet) as zombies once they died. When this happened, the mainstream media refused to admit what was going on, but the truth of what was happening was released by bloggers. As a result, bloggers are able to make a full-time living by reporting the news. You can tell reading the book that Grant considered everything about what she was changing with the world and worked with people to truly extrapolate what would really happen. As a result, the worldbuilding is very interesting and consistent throughout the book.
To me, this was one of the weakest points of the book. The main plot for about 2/3 of the book is following Georgia, Shaun, and Buffy as they are chosen to follow the campaign trail of a presidential candidate. As we go through more of the book, they start to find evidence of a larger conspiracy that could put all of their lives at peril.
Here is a confession I have to make, I absolutely despise politics. I don’t care what every politician has to say, because they’re all cardboard cutouts trained to give politically correct responses to every question they’re given. Because of that, I really didn’t like the first 2/3 of the book. The book was well written, but the overall story just wasn’t something that was as interesting to me as it will be to others. There were quite a few times when I was reading the book just because I really don’t like stopping books halfway through and this one hadn’t annoyed me to the point of putting it down. I was ready to give the book a score of 5 or 6 because of this until about the last 20% of the book. The ending was a lot more action and much less political wrangling and I thought it was executed very well. On the same token, I can easily see where some people might be turned off by that in a similar way to my not liking the political aspects that make up the majority of the book.
The book also has a very powerful theme that is clearly spoken towards the end of the book. The book talks about how the control of information and the fear that a lack of information can cause in people is a powerful theme. The theme also maps very well to the situation in the US several years ago (slightly less so now) with the constant fear and threat of terrorism. I thought that the parallels were very obvious, at times almost too obvious, but it works out fairly well in the novel.
It won’t be for everyone, and parts of it weren’t for me, but overall I was impressed by the worldbuilding and unique story that was told. If you enjoy political intrigue more than I do you will probably enjoy this book greatly. All that said, I’m still giving it a high score.