Yet More Zombies

I'll be honest here.  I really didn't intend to A) do more zombies or B) turn this into the Seanan McGuire Power Hour, but sometimes it just works out that way.  So, here we go.  More zombies and more McGuire.

The Newsflesh Trilogy is written by "Mira Grant" which is McGuire's pseudonym.  Dunno why she's using one here, but that's hardly important.  The trilogy is set in 2041 or so, following a massive zombie uprising in 2014.  So let's take a look at how these particular zombies work.

It's actually pretty clever.  The zombification was caused by two engineered viruses meeting, merging, and mutating.  The irony of it being that one was a cure for cancer (it worked) and the other was a cure for the common cold (it worked).  However, when the two combined, it caused any mammal over roughly 40 pounds to get up after it had died and start munching brains.  There's more specifics, but that's the gist of it.

Like with the Velveteen series, she takes her core concept and then expands out on how it effects the world at large.  Frankly, this world building is probably the most interesting thing about these books, largely because she's really taken the time to build a plausible world (once you accept the whole zombie thing).  For instance, in a world where everyone is immune to every form of cancer, smoking is extremely common.  Like, 1950s common.  Also, blood tests to check for "amplification" (meaning you're turning into a zombie due to exposure) are so common that most any outside door has a built in panel, some vehicles have testers on the handles, and people carry numerous disposable testing kits.  And biohazard bags for disposal.  In this world, it seems like the average person has upwards of a dozen blood tests a day, unless they never leave their home.

Anyway, the plot: the series follows the exploits of Shaun and Georgia "George" Mason, a pair of bloggers after the Rising, the initial zombie uprising.  In this world, bloggers have inordinate sway because, during the Rising, the traditional media failed the people and it was blogs where people were able to get information critical to survival.  It starts off innocently enough, with the Masons being hired on to follow a presidential campaign.  Unsurprisingly, things quickly go downhill from there.

In many ways, you can divide these novels.  On the one side, you have Feed; a complete story with an unexpected ending.  There were loose threads, but those always exist.  On the other side, you have Deadline and Blackout; a pair of books that aren't complete without each other.  This is especially true for Deadline which isn't a complete story.  It's a lot of running around and setting up things so they can be resolved in Blackout.  Essentially, you have a stand-alone book where, after the fact, it was decided to stretch it into a trilogy.  This is pretty common, really (see: Hunger Games).  But, common or not, it doesn't change the fact that Deadline isn't a complete book.

I hate to say it, but this really hurts the trilogy, at least, in its parts.  As a complete unit, like I read them, it's fine.  The people who read these while they were still being punished were probably annoyed.  Also, the writing on the second two books isn't as strong.  The twist in the first book caught me completely by surprise, and I actually put down my Nook for a few minutes to process it.  The supposed twist in the second book was telegraphed in the first few pages, and the momentous death at the end of the third book I called the moment the second book's twist was revealed.  I don't know if that was me being especially astute, if the writing wasn't as tight, or if I was just that familiar with the world.  Since the first and third option feel too much like patting myself on the back, I'm tempted to go with the second.

So where does this leave me?  Well, I can, without reservation, recommend Feed.  It's a solid story, an interesting world, and very enjoyable.  I rather thoroughly hate zombies (all evidence lately to the contrary), and I barely have patience for people who do interesting or unique things with them, but I quite enjoyed Feed.  Probably because it's less about zombies and more about the people; much like how the Velveteen books were less about superheroing then is was about the people actually in the spandex.  I have a harder time recommending the other two books.  I'm glad I finished reading the story, but I'm not sure if I wouldn't have been just as happy stopping after the first.  Also, the "zombies = real world terrorists" subtext gets a little hamhanded towards the end of Blackout (until the final couple chapters when it stops being subtext and pretty much becomes text; with bright, flashing lights and sirens).  Still, the characters are enjoyable (mostly; at times, Shaun was insufferable), and if you enjoyed Feed, you'll probably want to finish the tale.

That being said, I vastly preferred the two Velveteen books, and am much more likely to reread them at some point than reread Newsflesh.

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