Feed, by Mira Grant

Feed‘s appeal is a dangerous, slow, and creeping infection: you likely won’t recognize that it has its hooks in you until it’s too late, and at that point you’ll be too far gone to care.  In its early stages you’ll pick up the book every so often to read the next chapter, intrigued by the ease with which Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) has created these characters and given you a look at what it might mean to live with a real zombie apocalypse.  The midpoint of the infection is your last chance to cut your losses, as the curtain lifts on the real story of the book and intrigue and conspiracy begin to unfold before you.

There’s an exceedingly brief threshold in which you might be able to put down the book, and then the late-stage symptoms set in.  You will put off other work and be made upset by anything that comes between you and finishing.  Your only goal, at that point, is to make sure that you’re able to follow the rest of the story to its conclusion.  The last hundred pages are a rush, an excellent demonstration of a dramatic climax at its finest, and they’re irresistible.  Almost as soon as I had put down the book, I was already putting the next two on hold at the library.

Heck, I even did something else I haven’t done in ages and started reading the sample opening from the beginning of the next book, where it hid in the after-material.  I strongly suggest that you indulge yourself and give the book a try.  For those of you who want to hear more about the book, read on below…

Feed isn’t a book about zombies.  I mean, it sort of is, but like all of my favorite zombie-media it’s actually a story about the people who have to deal with a drastically altered world.  There’s a remarkable freshness in the fact that people were aware of zombie movies before the zombies arrived.  It’s also the only zombie fiction that I know of which begins to address the insidious nature of the politics of fear.

But before I get to that, because drawing the direct parallels will be a little too spoiler-iffic, let me tell you a bit more about the little details that make Grant’s setting sing.  First of all, there’s the fact that George Romero is an international hero.  It’s really the only appropriate response to having educated the world about how to deal with zombies several decades before they ever appeared.  I also have to mention the immortalization of Steve Irwin as the guiding light of those journalists who go out and poke zombies with a stick.

In fact, I’m quite taken in general by Grant’s conception of blogging as a slowly legitimized form of news reporting.  If anything, I think the portrayal may be a bit conservative; more than enough years have passed in the setting for blogging to have developed more cachet.  But I’m willing to accept it as is, because it holds together extremely well.  It might help that I have a soft spot for the idea of a whole class of people (like our narrator) who want to be like Edward R. Murrow.  As if that’s not good enough, the entire book is liberally studded with segments of writing pulled from the relevant blogs and posts of the characters themselves, inserting an element of the very fiction you’ve been following into the text.  It worked exceptionally well at pulling me further in, and I’m very impressed with how well Grant implemented it.

Ok, I’ve tried talking about other things, but now I really want to mention some…

*SPOILERS*

From my perspective, Feed is very much about society’s response to terrorism.  I’m guessing that this parallel is intentional (based on the way in which Grant calls blatant attention to it), but I read this book as a clear commentary on the risks and sacrifices implicit in a security society.  Zombies, and the complications involved in the way in which zombies are created in Grant’s setting, both accentuate and cover this parallel; Grant’s descriptions of popular fear of public gatherings reminds me of the sort of thinking that I recall from just after the 9/11 attacks, and more recently amongst some people I know just after the more recent Boston marathon bombing.  Feed offers an entire setting constructed to examine people’s response to overwhelming and ever-present fear, and it takes a close look at what people are willing to do to change that and to make use of it.  It’s possible that Grant didn’t care or think about that when she was writing, but it seems unlikely.

I was also shocked by Grant’s willingness to *BIG SPOILER* change narrator.  I had seen it foreshadowed in the excerpt used at the end of one chapter near the end of the book, but I’d thought that it was a bluff.  No, Grant is totally willing to kill her narrator, and she explores the fractured emotional state of the brother who is forced to kill her.  Heavy stuff, and well done.  I’m not sure I have better words for it right now, other than to say that I’m even more impressed by her for having written things this way.

*END OF SPOILERS*

I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book.

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