“The difference between the truth and a lie is that both of them can hurt, but only one will take the time to heal you afterward.”
Zombies. From about the turn of the century, zombies have been everywhere, in books, television shows, movies, video games. 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, Dead Island, The Walking Dead, Zombieland, World War Z, Resident Evil, Planet Terror, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Left for Dead, The Last of Us, Dead Rising, and Warm Bodies are just some of the recent zombie-based entertainment out there.
Feed by Mira Grant (the pen name that Seanan McGuire uses for her horror novels) features zombies, too. But it takes a fresh approach. Instead of being focused on the initial outbreak of zombie-ism or its immediate aftermath, the story is set about 15 years later. This allows the author to imagine the changes to American society due to the threat of zombies. As demonstrated in her other works (like Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day and Every Heart a Doorway), the author is very good at worldbuilding. Her “post-zombie” America is an interesting environment that was fun to explore for a while.
The book is not, however, an exercise in pure speculative worldbuilding. The plot follows a team of bloggers embedded with a presidential campaign. There’s drama and action. It’s all very tense and emotional, featuring a smart, strong female lead, her more extroverted and action-oriented brother, and a pretty, religious, hippy techie female sidekick. I got some dust in my eyes while I read it. There was some talk that it should have won some major awards the year it came out, and I can kinda see why.
I had a few problems with the book that prevented me from giving it a 5-star review. There’s a mystery in the book that ain’t all that mysterious. An average Scooby-Doo episode is less obvious than this book as to the identity of the Bad Guy. He/She might as well be twirling a mustache. And for a book about following around a presidential candidate, the political analyses, viewpoints, and world building is really simplistic and not realistic. I know it’s weird to critique a book with zombies for a lack of realism, but whatever, the book appears to aim high to have something “meaningful to say about the now.” I think it’s only fair to say that ambition wasn’t quite achieved to its fullest potential. The book is also a little heavy-handed and on-the-nose. It’s not SO much a zombie action/adventure novel as a kind of All the President’s Men that champions the pluck of New Media Blogging as a method of uncovering the conspiracies against Americans. The zombie stuff is pretty much a metaphor for the fears of the people – of disease, of terrorism, of the Other – that have always frightened Americans. It’s a cool idea, but instead of the clean, clever zombie-as-consumer of Romero, it comes off sort of clumsily.
But all of that is criticism from my brain juices. My heart fell hard for the main character and her brother. I liked reading about their adventures. The book made me laugh. It made me sad. It made me think. It made me squirm (so many blood tests!). I don’t know that I’ll continue the series, but I am glad that I visited that world for a little while. If you like zombie stuff, you should consider a visit, too.
My rating: 4 stars.