I’ve been pondering this review for several days. Feed isn’t your typical zombie novel. In fact, the name is a clever nod to the content, which has less to do with flesh eating than one might think. No, this is a zombie novel of very little zombie action, not much gore, and a world that manages to cope with zombies.
Unlike most zombie novels, Feed takes place 25 years after the start of the infection. For the majority of the novel the zombies are largely secondary to the plot. It is the changes that the zombies have had on society, politics, and the media that are the focus. The universe and characters that author Mira Grant creates are so detailed and well-conceived that suspension of disbelief was a breeze. The meticulous research on virology, media, and technology pays off and is well used. Furthermore, the narrator is a woman whose power comes from simply being strong, smart and doing her job. No superhero antics, no silly lingerie scenes, no rape threats because the author didn’t know how to otherwise infuse drama, no random comments about her boobs, and no denying her gender. There aren’t pointless action sequences to keep the pubescent mind interested – yes, Jonathan Mayberry, I’m looking at you. There aren’t any goofy gimmicks that distract and detract from the slipshod writing – yeah, that’s a shot at you, Brian Keene. No, here you have actual character development and a writer that carefully crafts a solid back story alongside the current narrative.
Her post-infection Earth of 2039 was oddly realistic. In 2014, scientists developed cures for cancer and the common cold. Unfortunately when the two cures meet, the Kellis-Amberlee virus is created, which in turns causes people to get sick, die, and reanimate in order to spread the virus. The virus infects everyone; it is just a matter of if and when it goes active. Death is an automatic cause for viral amplification. Being bit, scratched, or bled on by an infected person will also cause someone to turn. Standard zombie stuff that remains effective in the right hands.
Set in 2039, the new world has changed beyond the obvious. There are zones of varying degrees of safety, Alaska has been abandoned to the dead, and mammals above 40 pounds are also carriers. As the outbreak in 2014 occurred, traditional news media “protected” people by denying what was happening. This caused the expected deaths, outrage, and backlash. Bloggers on the other hand got online and told the truth as they saw it and, in some cases, saved lives. By 2039, old media has been shoved aside and bloggers are the dominant media. Grant creates a comprehensive and well-realized description of this new structure.
The main protagonists are George (Georgia), a “newsie” blogger, Shaun, George’s brother and “Irwin” blogger, and Buffy, a “fictional” who writes poetry and provides their IT support. And yes, there are some well-utilized pop culture references in the book. The trip is selected to report on the campaign of a presidential hopeful. It seems like the opportunity of a lifetime for the young reporters.
There are elements of political thriller, but the world in which Feed is set makes this a zombie novel. The unfolding of the storyline and pacing offered a slow burn of tension that ultimately paid off. As I said, there is little in the way of zombie action, but when it does happen it is swift and merciless.
As I completed the last of the 600 pages I wanted more. I wasn’t ready to give the characters up yet. The good news is that this is the first book in a trilogy and book 2, Deadline, is set to release in June 2011. Highly recommended.