Monday, September 19, 2011

Feed by Mira Grant

So, one thing about me is that I tend to read about 5 billion books at once. Right now I have about 8 or 9 that are in various states of being read. Most of them are non-fiction because I'm sort of researching for a fantasy-setting novel I'm sorta writing.

BUT fiction is my true love and I cannot survive on non-fiction alone! And that is why I picked up FEED, by Mira Grant.

This can't be a full review, as I'm only about halfway through the book, but wanted to write some thoughts about it early on while they're still fresh.

Zombie novels are an interesting creature. The modern zombie as a phenomenon owes its birth to film and (pretty much) the movies of George Romero in particular (who gets a hit tip in Feed), and while there are stand-outs worthy of mention (most of them written by Max Brooks) most of the zombie novels I've read are pretty sub-par. I don't know why this is, except that maybe some of the qualities that make zombie films captivating don't quite translate onto the page?

That said, Feed is actually a decent story. To call it a zombie novel isn't quite accurate as there are elements from several genres: science fiction, mystery, political thriller. It follows the narrator, Georgia (named after George Romero for reasons made clear in the book), in the year 2040, some twenty-odd years after the zombie apocalypse. She's a blogger, of the "newsie" variety, which means that she goes into high-zombie areas, hooked up with cameras in the like, and reports on the news. She and her brother (an "Irwin" who does the same thing but with less of a news focus and more of a "Crike! Ain't this fun?" vibe like the ill-fated Steve Irwin) are selected to follow a presidential candidate as he goes through the Republican primariesZZZzzzzzzzz......

Sorry 'bout that, drifted off.

The book has some good ideas and and is certainly well-written. The reason for the zombie plague is interesting, as well as some of the consequences (no cancer! zombie eyes!), and where sometimes giving a nod to zombie culture can strike me as a little "cute" or "ridiculously annoying", Mira Grant manages to avoid this....barely. She also seems to be straddling the line between a rousing zombie romp and a fairly bland description of the US electoral system....of the future.

Which is really the weakest part of the book. Things come (ahem) alive when the protagonists are interracting with the zombies: the danger feels real, the tension is there, but that tension doesn't follow through when the protagonists are dealing with the other stuff in their lives. I mean, ratings? Polls? Political speeches exactly like every other political speech?

There are a few possible threads right now that I'm hoping will pay off by the end. Right now it appears there are attempts to assassinate a moderate Republican presidential nominee by arranging for zombie outbreaks at his HQ and home ranch, and if the tension can find its sweet spot and this mystery resolve itself in an interesting or unexpected way, then this will be one of the better zombie novels I've read. If not, though, I'll have to say I'll feel disappointed and may not pick up the other books in  the series. I mean, when I'm reading a zombie novel, I shouldn't be feeling bored by US politics, am I right?

The other part is that the characters are maybe too well-versed in their world. They're basically zombie experts, and don't seem to make very many mistakes, which means that they haven't appeared to be in any danger yet. I'm sure a true crisis moment will happen, but I really hope it happens organically...right now, if they make a mistake it might seem out of character, and I won't like that.

So, stay tuned for a final word on this book. Halfway through it's readable and has promise, but I can't endorse it fully...yet.

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