You know what the single most insidious feature of Amazon.com is? It’s not 1-click ordering, or their immense selection, or their discounts… it’s that Super Saver Shipping deal. You buy $25 or more of qualifying items, and they ship to you for free.
Admittedly books have gotten expensive these days along with most everything else (I can now look back and recall, in quavering old man tones, the 1990s where gas was down to 99 cents a gallon), but it’s still rare to find one that by itself is over $25, at least on Amazon. Maybe the hardcovers, but I usually prefer my print reading in a more portable format. So you start out buying a $10 book, but really, the shipping’s gonna kick it up a few more dollars, and by that point, why not just find a couple more books so you can hit that magic number? Oh, and Amazon makes it easy by recommending books with similar genres and subjects to the one you’re already browsing.
Anyhow, I went in to buy one zombie novel and ended up with three. Two of them were part of the same series and I’ll get to them another day. The original selection was chosen based on a recommendation from one of our readers: Feed, by Mira Grant.
I took the plunge on this book mainly because it was another zombie setting that, like Zombie Ranch, is a vision of a couple decades down the road from the apocalypse, where humans and the undead have settled into an uneasy equilibrium. Well, the undead don’t really care about the balance of power, but for the humans things have definitely progressed to the point of “We survived. Now what?”
The cover of Feed is a bloody RSS logo, which is highly appropriate considering the story is told from the point of view of a professional news blogger and her cohorts. In this world, online news has become perhaps the main way people get information, and part of this shift is because the mainstream news did such a poor job when the zombie crisis first occurred. Although Grant never makes a direct reference to it, her descriptions of people using social networking and blogs to provide alerts and assistance to others struggling to survive reminded me of the recent riots in Iran where Twitter became one of the only sources of info. Basically, the heavy implication is that services like Twitter allowed humanity to survive, and so the blogosphere, while still struggling somewhat against the prejudice of traditional media, has much more clout and legitimacy than before. In this case, for the first time ever, the main character’s blogsite group is invited to be part of a presidential campaign’s press corps.
What? Oh yes, in Feed there’s still enough of a U.S. for politics as usual, and this is despite Grant choosing her zombie delivery device to be one of the nastiest possible, the kind that not only can get you through a scratch or bite from the infected, but will raise up anyone who dies for any other reason. Not just humans, but any mammal weighing at least 40 pounds (and those animals can infect people in turn). The thought behind how the disease works, and how the populace has learned to deal with these realities, is very thorough and one of the best parts of the book to me. Which, hey, that’s mainly why I picked up the novel in the first place, to see someone else’s thoughts on a post-zom world. I’m not enough of a scientist to tell you if it’s all as kosher as it seems to a layman, but she certainly had a shopping list of experts she consulted, and it has an internal logic to it that works for me.
But though worldbuilding is all well and good, what’s the story like? Well, I admit, I’m a sucker for the fantastic environment Grant has created, but I did feel at times like the narrative didn’t quite measure up to that same standard. It could be because the story is told from the point of view of a “just-the-facts” style person and there are so many elements of realistic detail that there are times where I felt the dialogue was a little too cinematic. Witty one-liners being tossed back and forth when zombies are groping for your flesh have their place, but it seemed out of place in a piece whose tone was otherwise so serious. Also, the very ending confrontation resorts to a cliche that again, seemed more appropriate to a Schwarzenegger movie as well as being one of the few instances where, looking back on it, what happens really makes no sense.
I can’t really delve into why it doesn’t without spoilers, though, and I won’t spoil it because I honestly still believe this book was entirely worth the purchase. I’m quibbling with my criticisms on the writing, in part because I really can’t say I’m doing any better. It’s also part 1 of a series, so I’ll be interested to see if the narrative portion smooths out more for part 2 and beyond… again, Feed represents a really well thought out take on Life-After-Undeath, and does so in a world that didn’t completely fall apart when the dead rose. The CDC is still around, for instance… so take that, Walking Dead series!
Also, there’s a very entertaining website.
Feed is $9.99 on Amazon currently, so all you gotta do is find $15.01 more of purchases and you get your super saver freak on! I’ll actually spoil a bit of surprise here and say the other two books I bought are from the “Day to Day Armageddon” series by J.L. Bourne. I’ll review them another time, but short version? They’re great. Pick ‘em up.