Categorized | Fiction, Reviews

Feed (Newsflesh, Book 1) Fiction Review

Posted on May 13, 2010 by Eric Pollarine

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    When I was in college there were a few things that I actually studied, apart from where the closest coffee shop was and where I could get a fresh pack of smokes.( authors note: don’t start kiddies, blah, blah, blah) Anyway- I also studied journalism and what, at the time, the institution called “mass communications.” Which is a really pathetic way to say that I studied the news, the media, and how it was all changing, so way, way back in the fall of 98 I was sitting in this really drab room in a really drab building and thought to myself, what am I doing? I missed my original opportunity and I can say that until as of late I have yet to make back up the ground I have lost since. But what I do remember from those years was that Journalism is and should always be the pursuit of one thing and one thing only: The truth. Which brings me to the original point of this review, a bold new horror novel from Orbit Books: Feed by Mira Grant.

    Here we have the ultimate pursuit of truth slipstreamed through both science fiction and horror. Here we have a book that broaches a subject that seems to be more in line with what most critics would call “literary fiction.” But Feed has it in spades, not only is it a book that I believe will be something of a jumping on point for the zombie fiction of the twenty first century, it completely lapses itself back and forth from the pursuit of truth to the pursuit of survival against government conspiracies, to survival against hordes of the undead. I can not tell you dear readers just how much I have enjoyed this book, and at a whopping 590 pages in paperback format which was released by Orbit books, it is a fantastically fast read.

    The central story follows the journalist/blogger sister and brother team of Georgia and Shaun Mason, who through what seems to be a stroke of blind luck find themselves on the campaign trail with Senator Ryman -a man who could be the nation’s last hope for sanity in a world torn apart by the undead, along with fundamentalist religious and political factions. They find more than what they originally expected, and learn that sometimes the truth can set you free, but sometimes the truth can lead you to place that is so dark it might just be too hard to pull yourself back into the light.

    It is a zombie novel wrapped in mystery and entwined in science fiction, set in the not so distant future, where a cure for the common cold and a cure for cancer did just that, but also left us with only one minor set back-when the two meet up in your system, well they combine to form one hell of a viral strain, one which brings you back from the dead and turns you into a mindless shambling, flesh feasting zombie. Let say this upfront so that we can just get it out of the way, I find it hard, and I know some of you will too-but you won’t admit it-to sympathize or identify with female characters, I know it’s a nasty thing to say and probably a career killer, but it has always been a thorn in my side. I also know, before I get too much hate mail that there have been and continue to be fantastic stories authored by Women in the horror genre, or for that matter all of literature as a whole. But I normally find that the over the top redefining of feminism that passes for a strong female character to be a big hindrance to the story. Making it impossible for me to either finish the book or if I do, to care for the central character.

    However, Georgia Mason is possibly one of the strongest female characters I have read in a very long time; she exudes cool calculating intelligence with a flair for over indulgence in the pursuit of the truth, more of a Murrow than a Hunter S. Thompson, though she’s not above going to recently contaminated outbreak sites or political conventions-which one could argue are more similar than one would care to imagine, she is compelling and consistent, her voice both carries  and sets the scenes and action through out the novel. Which is a refreshing break from the -oh my this and that is in trouble, now I have to find them, and take a bunch of stupid risks formula, which tends to drive most survival horror/zombie fiction stories, that aspect of the story is better left to the second half of the duo, her brother Shaun who we see through the eyes of Georgia as being the only person on this earth that she can actually trust. She is a fantastically dynamic and driven character; one who this old chauvinist can appreciate. But the characterizations aren’t the best part of this book, nor are the action scenes or the buildups to suspenseful moments, or the realizations they come to embody.

    No, I would dare say that the main characters are not even really the main focal point(s), no the main focus of this novel, is the truth. Now I am not going to give you my interpretations of the truth and I am surely not going to get into some postmodern ramble about how broad and suspect a subject the truth can be, because this book does it for me, if you want to track me down after you read this and then the novel, well the internet is a funny and wide place, but also a small one-we could have a thousand entries on a forum for just this topic. But with all pandering to you, the beautiful audience, aside I would say that Ms. Grant has found it, she’s found a way to bury her truth, her understanding of the written word, her motives and emotional attachments along with a frighteningly dizzy array of scientific know how into the fabric of a tightly woven piece of work that will, in my opinion, stand as one of the best new books of the genre if not the whole of 2010.

    So if you want a dash of political intrigue, a dose of journalism, zombies, horror, suspense, brilliant writing and a heaping and often steaming pile of truth-then go get yourself a copy of Feed by Mira Grant.

    But don’t become a journalist kids: it’s bad for your health and blah, blah, blah.

    Review by Eric Pollarine

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