When Feed was released last spring, I described it as: “a cool fusion of campy post-apocalyptic zombie horror (George Romero is referred to as 'one of the accidental saviors of the human race') and highly intelligent political thriller a la Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate, a surprisingly well-constructed and deeply themed novel...”
Feed is set in the near future almost three decades after The Rising – essentially the end-of-the-world-as-we-knew-it when two revolutionary cures (for cancer and the common cold) were unleashed upon the world and, after mutating together, created a virus that reanimated dead flesh. With zombie infestations turning entire cities and states into dead zones, a much depopulated humanity is living in constant fear, staying inside, leading passive sheep-like existences.
Everyone that is except for the blogger/reporters – the “new breed of reality star” who brave the dangerous world outside to bring their viewers news as it happens, no matter how dangerous or deadly.
The storyline revolves around a team of three intrepid young bloggers who get the opportunity of a lifetime to officially follow a Presidential candidate and cover his bid to become the next leader of the United States. Georgia Mason is a “Newsie” – she reports the news as objectively as possible – while her brother Shaun is an “Irwin,” a thrill-seeking adventurer whose exploits with zombies captivate the millions of housebound viewers, and Buffy Meissonier is a perky, blonde “Fictional,” concentrating on posting her poetry and stories.
But the euphoria surrounding landing their dream gig quickly evaporates after attendees at one of the candidate’s stops are attacked and killed by zombies and, shortly thereafter, one of the candidate’s daughters is killed in a bizarre mishap when a horse she owned became infected by the virus and attacked. But after the trio of bloggers investigates both scenes, they uncover a horrific truth: the incidents weren’t just coincidental zombie attacks – they were instances of heartless, pre-meditated bio-terrorism. And as they get closer to uncovering the person or persons behind this conspiracy, their lives – and the very future of America – are increasingly put in peril….
I absolutely loved Feed – the political/conspiracy theory threads were so thoroughly developed, the pacing so frenzied, and the bombshell revelations so frequent, that the zombie element almost became secondary for me.
While I impatiently awaited the release of the second Newsflesh novel, Deadline, I knew that it probably wouldn’t be as jaw-droppingly extraordinary and satisfying as Feed – middle volumes are generally the least satisfying installments in trilogies, at least for me.
I’m happy to report that I was wrong.
Amidst a backdrop of shadowy totalitarianism – “most people are scared of more than just the zombies, and there are other people who like them that way” – Shaun and his crew are armed with information that could change the world. But someone or some organization, perhaps the CDC, wants them dead. On the run with nothing short of the future of humankind at stake, a handful of unlikely heroes try to stay alive…
While Feed was a little light-hearted at points, Deadline is decidedly darker. The characters are more reckless, the storyline is more apocalyptic, the tone deadly serious.
But Grant manages to convey this death and destruction and despair lyrically. For those of you familiar with Seanan McGuire, she is an accomplished poet among others things, and in Deadline she infrequently but ingeniously uses imagery and symbolism (in the form of poetic blog entries) as a way to intensify the power of the narrative:
“The sweetest summer gift of all
Is knowing spring gives way to fall
and when the winds of winter call,
We’ll answer as we must.
Persephone chose to descend
into the night that has no end,
In Hades’ hands she goes to spend
Her nights amidst the dust…”
Whether you’re a science fiction aficionado or a connoisseur of mainstream thrillers or a zombie fiction fanatic, this will be one of the best novels you read this year – I'll stake my reputation as a book reviewer on it.
(FYI: According to the author’s website, Blackout – the third and concluding volume of the Newsflesh trilogy – will be released in the spring of 2012.)
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.
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