Mar 20, 2012

[Books] Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy Book 1)

For movies, I don't often rely on awards shows to determine my movie selections since I often find that the winners don't always represent movies that I actually enjoy watching. However when it comes to books, I admit that I pay a bit more attention with an author gets recognized, especially in the realms of science fiction and fantasy. It's funny how I see these two mediums so differently - might just mean I'm quirky or that the Oscars are broken. Take your pick.

I noticed this book when it managed to get itself a Hugo nomination despite it seeming to be just another zombie book. And seriously, we've reached a point when media companies are trying to include the zombie concept in just about any genre, thus resulting in a lot of weird mash-ups that we probably don't need. And I'll admit that I've ventured into some of these mash-ups out of sheer curiosity with rather mixed results.

Feed stood out since it did manage to get a nomination for the Hugo Award for Best New Novel - and I really respect the Hugo Awards. So when a decent enough deal came up for me to pick up the Kindle version of this book, I was all over it - and definitely happy that I did so.

Feed is the science fiction (and somewhat horror given the zombies) novel written by Mira Grant, who is actually Seanan McGuire. It's the first book in her Newsflesh Trilogy of books, the last of which had been released this year.

It's 2039 and mankind has come to live with the fact that there are zombies among us. Society hasn't completely broken down though - there are safe zones and more dangerous areas all neatly categorized based on perceived threat level. And in this new world when anyone is bound to rise from the dead when they die, foster siblings Georgia and Shaun Mason are two young bloggers trying to make a name for themselves. Given how bloggers managed to contribute more to the initial efforts to get the word out about the zombie threat and how to combat the zombies while traditional media merely scoffed, they now play a more critical role in the global media sphere.

Things change for the siblings and their associate Georgette "Buffy" Meissonier when they receive word that they've been selected to join the presidential campaign for Republican senator Peter Ryman. He's taken a more conservative stance than the rest of his fellow Republicans and is determined to win the party's nomination in order to achieve that dream. And as the trio learns more and more about Ryman and why he just may be the best man for the job, they find themselves in the crossfire of efforts to end his bid for the presidency - permanently.

There are many flavors of the zombie story ranging from the odd mutation to some evil curse. Grant decided to go the route of the virus that went out of control - efforts to cure the common cold and cancer somehow resulted in what would eventually be called the Kellis-Amberlee virus. Everyone on the planet has this in their system in a dormant state and it only becomes active when they are bitten by someone with live versions of the virus in their systems or upon death. It's an interesting spin on things that really makes you reconsider the definitions of the "infected" in terms of traditional zombie stories. And it does create for a rather somber society given you live with the knowledge that your zombie future is pretty much inevitable.

Author and musician Seanan Mcguire at Dezenovecon
Seanan Mcguire at Dezenovecon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The book goes into great detail to in terms of the realities of their life in a post-zombie society - and this level of detail says a lot about Grant's research and thinking prior to writing the novel. There are constant blood tests at almost every possible location and methodology, the different safeguards in place to protect society and even the question of how large an animal needs to be in order to carry sufficiently deadline amounts of the virus to become a true carrier. The list goes on and on and I can't help but admire the work that went into this book - what more the fact that it's actually a trilogy!

And admittedly George (as many of the kids of the zombie generation have been named after the George Romero) makes for a great protagonist, one whose spunk reminds me a lot of Katniss from The Hunger Games, without too much of the angst. She's strong (and strong-willed) and knows exactly what she wants out of life. She's more than capable of making the truly hard decisions and she possesses the keen kind of intellect that makes her an excellent journalist.

And Grant's whole thinking around the role of the bloggers in this new society including their classifications as Stewarts, Newsies, Irwins and Fictionals - another piece of brilliant world-building that really brings the story home. I love how the book manages to detail all this, tell a political story and a good adventure piece without feeling too heavy despite its brevity as a book.

Feed is one of the smartest takes on the zombie genre and a truly stand-out piece of science fiction. Thus I rate it a full 5 different types of KA virus scanners and tests out of a possible 5.

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