Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Hugo-nominated Morsel

ISBN-10: 0316081051 ISBN-13: 9780316081054 Published: Orbit, 04/27/2010 Pages: 608 Language: English
Let's be honest, most zombie fiction deserves a bullet in the brain-pan, so it was with great trepidation that I started Mira Grant's Feed, the first entry in the pun-happy author's Newsflesh trilogy. Feed and its two sequels, Deadline and Blackout, were all nominated for Hugo Awards, arguably genre fiction's highest honor, and I thought it might be worth investigating the books behind this impressive streak. After reading the first entry, I can confidently say that fans of the walking dead or science fiction dystopias should give it a look.

At a fat 608 pages, Feed looks like a bit of a brick, but Grant's writing is breezy enough and her plotting is tight enough that it can be easily devoured in a few days. Grant may not be a prose stylist on the level of Colson Whitehead-- whose Zone One is and will remain the greatest zombie book of all time, forever and ever, amen-- but she does make her grim scenario compulsively readable. Oh, and what a scenario. Right out of the gate, Feed's premise is terrific: George Romero's vision has come true thanks to a deadly virus called Kellis-Amberlee, but instead of getting torn to pieces, humanity survived and adapted. 

One of the major changes Grant makes to the zombie mythos is that the virulence of the disease and the measures futuristic America will take to contain it are often more threatening than the zombies themselves. It's a neat trick that makes the appearance of actual shambling corpses more or less irrelevant, which is good because Grant avoids gore and action set-pieces in favor of muck-raking investigating journalism (yep, you read that right). Her story follows a couple of truth-obsessed bloggers uncovering a conspiracy that the Old Media can't be bothered to tackle. There's a great deal of sociopolitical commentary going on here, as is typical in ambitious zombie works,  along with a heaping dose of hard-boiled-reporter-worship that would make even Stieg Larsson say "that's a bit much, don't you think?" Still, the points she makes are valid and, above all, the book is just fun. If you like the idea of Night of the Living Dead mixed with All the President's Men, this one is a must-read.

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