Sunday, June 03, 2012

Another Sign of the End Times

Mira Grant; Feed (Orbit; 2010; ISBN 978-0316081054; cover artist not indicated)

There's a lot of fascination about zombies over the past several years and the trend has yet (it appears) to peak and recede. Mira Grant (pseudonym for Seanan McGuire) joins the shambling hordes (sorry, it was an obvious line to use) of those exploring the end times and after with the first of a trilogy.

Feed was up for the Hugo last year (I did not vote for it, as I just did not have time to read it) but I heard it reviewed during a number of podcasts that I listen to. The commentary was, to put it mildly, pretty decisive as to where people came down on the book.

I'm coming down somewhere in the middle.

Plot? Oh, right. Zombie uprising. Lots of dead (30%+). Life goes on and we have news gathering, social interaction and a presidential election. A lot of the details are revealed here, I'll leave it to you to click on the link or not.

The story revolves around adopted brother and sister Georgia (George) and Shaun and associate "Buffy" when they are asked to cover the campaign of one of the presidential hopefuls. It is after the "Rising", the outbreak of zombies and while life goes on, it goes on with the constant threat of more zombies coming into being (in one bit that I really liked, Grant sets a body mass limit to the ability to "rise" so that animals over forty pounds can become zombies...imagine a zoo of zombie elephants...).

The plot thickens as a series of events make it clear that this is not just a simple run for the presidency that they are covering. In fact, things get hairy, more than once, and Grant has no trouble dispatching quite a few characters. The story ends, relatively cleanly, it is not clear if the "trilogy" came after or each book was conceived early on (but designed to stand alone).

On the plus side, I enjoyed the role of bloggers (in their various forms) as news gatherers. It was nice to read a zombie novel where people were adapting and even moving forward. But...

I also had problems with the world building. Somehow, after losing 30%+ of the population, living with the virus within everyone (able to break out relatively easily) society builds armored vehicles, armored buildings, extensive weaponry, test equipment, continues to pump oil, etc. This is where my disbelief was having trouble being suspended.

I think that the closer to "now" that you set a genre story (and Feed has elements of both horror and science fiction in it) the more carefully you need to build up your background. When "Doc" Smith is tossing galaxies around, I tend to be more forgiving because everything is fantastic. But the closer to our world that you get, the harder it is to be believable. William Gibson succeeded with each trilogy (getting closer to "now" until he was writing what amounted to, in the first book of the latest trilogy, a historical novel) by keeping the ideas employed relatively few.

Don't get me wrong, there was a lot here that I liked; enough so that despite getting a free copy of the next novel in my Hugo packet for this year, I bought the second book. However, I wish that Grant had done an infodump on how society functions when it comes to factories, mining, etc. (heavens knows there are infodumps aplenty in here, so one more wouldn't have really hurt!).

Addendum: In thinking about it last night, the second major reason that the book "irked" me came to light. The villains. Without ("Spoilers, Sweetie!") ruining it all, could we not have picked a less typical bunch of Hollywood-style evildoers? Well, it didn't appear that the military was involved (yet, maybe that'll be in the sequel), but come of the unholy trio really had no reason to be involved, given how much money they were making due to the world situation.

And I read the "alternate ending" (follow the Wikipedia link if you'd like to as well). I'm glad she did not use that one, I probably would have tossed the book across the room as a result!


Paul Weimer said...

Thanks, Fred. I've been pondering reading it so I can read Deadline (up for a Hugo this year, mind)

Fred Kiesche said...

You might be able to get away with the Wiki summary in tackling the second book. And, hey, look! There's a related short work as well!

Paul Weimer said...

Oh, and I don't have a link handy, but did you see the "alternate ending" story to FEED?

Fred Kiesche said...

You can get there via the Wikipedia entry, so, yes.