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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Feed (ARC) by Mira Grant

Title: Feed, Newsflesh Trilogy Book One
Author: Mira Grant
Reviewed Format: ARC
Release Date: May 1, 2010
Pages: 608

The year is 2039 and bloggers have taken over the world. Twenty five years ago the Kellis-Amberlee virus went live.  Infected humans and animals began reanimating after death--some underwent spontaneous change--to become walking feeding machines.  With an appetite for the truth as insatiable as a zombie’s diet, Georgia--George--Mason and her brother, Shaun, have climbed the ranks of news bloggers around the world.  Their ratings have everything to gain from their recent invitation to join a senator’s political campaign.  Now they’re on the road providing coverage of what’s promising to be the campaign trail for the next President of the United States of America.  There’s only one problem: wherever they go, KA begins breaking out, putting the team at risk.  Will they survive to see their candidate win the Republican ticket?

Feed is Seanan McGuire’s third published book, but first under the pen name Mira Grant.  Fans of her October Daye books will recognize some similarities between the two series. Mainly, these are minor--writers will invariably develop quirks that nuance their writing.  Georgia is an independent, no-nonsense workaholic with a license that requires her to carry a gun and a disease that makes it impossible for her to cry.  Clearly Grant likes writing strong female protagonists.  They lean toward the flinty end of the spectrum and stop just short of growling when not amused.

It might appear at first that the inability to cry is going a bit overboard.  It isn’t necessary to literally remove a reaction stereotypically associated with the female gender to show how tough she is, but Georgia makes it clear how frustrating Retinal KA really is.  She wants access to that human reaction and is frequently reminded of the deprivation, however much reliant she is on it when the situation requires stoicism.  Here is a character fighting against two polarities.  Her tears were stolen and without the necessary moisture, she can’t even “tear up” about it.  Add to this being adopted by parents making the gesture for the ratings and Georgia’s developed into a very sympathetic character.  She’s had a difficult life--who wouldn’t, growing up in a world where fear of contagion has kept people indoors and glued to their computer screens?  What makes her--and her fellow bloggers, Shaun and Buffy--different is knowing when to put fear and terror aside to keep living.

How they earn that living is very interesting.  When established media proved untrustworthy reporting the first outbreak, the world turned to bloggers.  Bloggers spoke for the common good--as much to inform themselves as the frightened public.  They helped make sense of the unexplained chaos breaking out across the nation.  Enter Shaun and Georgia, sponsors willing to fund their efforts, and After the End Times was born.  Grant manages to build a convincing news body which isn’t too far from the truth.  Some people already rely enormously on the internet and trust amateur bloggers for any number of needs.  Grant’s astute observations integrate this relationship with her own universe to mesh into the working framework of her narrative.

Grant’s characters are solid; her universe well-established.  It’s so established that readers may become as exasperated over the meticulous mention of blood testing kits and procedure as the characters were to get tested.  Grant has thought of everything--not just the small details to consider when and how an outbreak could occur.  Feed is politics-heavy, not just because George and Shaun are on the campaign trail.  Kellis-Amberlee is cause to reconsider things like the death penalty (why kill someone when a dormant virus goes live at death, thus endangering the public at large), gun control laws, pet ownership, and public gatherings.  Playing in the backyard now depends on the danger level your neighborhood has been zoned for.  Presidential candidates are made or broken on a campaign trail riddled with archaic practices now seen as brave instead of expected.

I do have one, and only one, thing to nitpick about.  George’s relationship with her brother Shaun was a bit too unrealistic for me. I say this only because I have a brother and we’re pretty inseparable, but would never share the same bed with each other, let alone the same room.  I suppose it’s a bit immature of me, but I couldn’t relate to certain aspects of their relationship and so didn’t appreciate how close they were as much as I could have.  Other readers (who have siblings) may feel otherwise--I can only hope they do.  After all, this is a fault of my own.  About as close to understanding as I came was realizing they also had a working relationship that functioned best under those circumstances.  And in the end, they were a strong pair.  I can’t complain too much.

With Feed, Mira Grant proves she’s an author to be reckoned with.  The book may be lengthy (almost 600 pages), but we have to remember it’s the first in a self-contained trilogy.  There’s such a large and complex story to tell--a lesser book would not be this involved.  If readers haven’t already started paying attention to Seanan McGuire because of her October Daye books, Feed will do the trick.  There may be similarities between it and her other books--mysterious murders, resilient and accident-prone female protagonist with ready access to pain medication and a constant need for good night’s rest, deranged bad guy, suspect good guys--but you also can’t let yourself miss a book where one of the main characters runs around in a chain-mail shirt for fun, can you?  And, there’s a kitty.  You can’t beat kitties.

How many Jawas recommend this book?

Thank you to Orbit Books for my review copy!

Feed will be available for purchase either April 27th (the most likely candidate--it being a Tuesday), or May 1st, the official Orbit release date.  I suggest you pre-order it now. It will be well worth the price.  I do not know when its sequel, Deadline, will be out, but I'm looking forward to it.  I hear it has epileptic teacup bulldogs.


Anonymous said...

I'm skipping the review until I manage to get a copy for myself! Very excited about this one. :)

Anonymous said...

The sequel is actually Deadline; the names were reversed fairly late in the cycle, to avoid confusion with the Connie Willis book that just came out.

Erika said...

@TJ: You will love this one!

@seanan-mcguire: Thank you for pointing that out to me! The ARC was printed with the earlier title. I will fix that right away. :)

Lily Child said...

Great review! I definitely need to read the October Daye books! Those should give me a good feel if I can read this one. I just don't know if I'll be able to keep up with everything...sounds a bit complicated for someone like me.

Erika said...

@Lily Child: I'd recommend her October Daye books first. Mostly, I think you'll like those better, but she gets more intense and technical (politics, science) in Feed. She does explain things in terms that are easy to understand, but it does get complex. Mostly that involves understanding how the KA virus works, etc... I'm still a little confused actually. ;) But the book is really worth reading!

Ryorin said...

Wow. I had never heard of this book before and now it looks really interesting. Great review (I did a double take at the first sentence :) It really looks like something I'll want to check out.

I have to ask: what kind of tone does the book have? Judging from your review, it looks like it's got both dark and light elements. Is that right? I just like to know a little bit of what to expect in that area.

Erika said...

@Ryorin: It does have both, but it's mostly a darker read.

Anonymous said...

I liked the retinal KA thing! Even the not-crying bit. Though I think you're a bit right about the "flinty" protagonists. I like 'em, but not all bad ass women eschew all their "feminine" traits.

Also it's vastly amusing that we both "nitpicked" the Shaun-Georgia thing! But I agree, I don't know ANYONE who likes their sibling that well...

Here's a question: do you think that the next book will continue with Shaun? The ending of Feed left the group at an incredibly awkward point.

Erika said...

@TJ: I did really like the Retinal-KA aspect. I think as an excuse for her not being able to cry--from that angle--I was kind of iffy. If that's even what it was. That's how I took it, though. It felt a little too much flintiness for my tastes.

You know, I did wonder who's going to be the protagonist for Deadline. I think it'll be Shaun, especially since we get a little more of his POV at the end, but you never know... Grant could surprise everyone and choose the non predictable choice. :) Although, if it's Shaun, I'm not sure how that would turn out. He's definitely got a different voice, I think, when compared to George... I didn't warm to the scenes from his perspective so that might be difficult for me at least.

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