Thursday, 2 September 2010

"Feed" by Mira Grant

I started read "Feed" by Mira Grant at the start of August, having bought it on Amazon as soon as I heard of it. This book travelled with me to Blackpool, numerous times to my field and finally to Featherstone Castle. It took me a long time to finish it, compared to the 5 or so days that it took me to read the mammoth "Under the Dome" by Stephen King. However, this isn't entirely a bad thing. Part of me was enjoying the book so much, I did want to make it last longer but I also didn't feel completely engaged with the book, which made it easier to put down and not pick back up immediately.

The book is set around 30 years in the future, after a zombie apocalypse. This is quite a unique stance from this genre of fiction since most zombie books deal with the immediate aftermath and sudden changes to society that occur with an outbreak, this book deals with a world not unlike the one we live in now, existing side by side with zombies. As a lover of this genre, and apocalypse stories in general, I really enjoyed this slant on it. Summed up best in the cover writing on the paperback edition - "The Good News: We Survived, The Bad News: So Did They". 

The story is written in the first person, following Georgia Mason, her brother Shaun and a girl called Buffy. They are bloggers, the news providers of the future - and the book starts just before they land the big job of following the presidential candidate through the American election campaign. The book is slow to start in many ways - it moves forward with the story, but there's little to grip the reader. Sure, it's interesting and well written, but it's not until about a quarter of the way in (around page 146) that the book becomes interesting and has a real solid hook to draw the reader in. This sets up the main storyline, and while it slows in some places, the pace is mostly retained. 

One of my bugbears of this novel was the pop-culture name checks. While the name checks are explained, I felt they were a bit forced and the novel could have stood alone without them. It seemed almost like trying too hard to be cool and at the same time, serves to date a novel. Part of what makes a novel last the test of time is being relevant to future generations, this novel could be relevant (in a pulp fiction way) - but some of the things/people used extensively in the book will have no meaning to future generations, who may wonder what was so important about them that the author chose to use them in her novel. The fact that the novel is 30 years in the future also bothers me with the name checking as I don't think in 30 years the people mentioned will be talked about, or remembered by most. 

So it doesn't seem like I'm just banging on about this, I'll talk about the main name checks that bothered me. The first was the naming of reckless journalists, those in it for doing silly things purely for ratings (think Jackass, but with zombies) - they are called "Irwins", as in Steve Irwin. And I can appreciate the naming but in 30 years is he likely to be remembered - even if the world did have a zombie apocalypse? Probably not, I'd have expected a made-up hero for the book, based on someone who did the same thing but with zombies. The next name check is the reasoning behind the names of 'Georgia' and 'Georgette' - based on the fact that George Romero's movies became survival guides, which I found a bit hard to believe. I've seen his movies, fun, yes, but I didn't find them a good guide on human behaviour, but for this novel the suspension of belief is that George Romero was a modern day saint almost, producing a series of movies that would define the human survival of the future. The final name check is that of 'Buffy', this is the chosen name of a character whose real name is 'Georgette'. Out of all the name checks, I found this the one hardest to like. Buffy was a franchise of the 90s, in 2010 - the kids of today don't know it that well. The readers of tomorrow will be lucky to know it all. Plus, she fought VAMPIRES and this is a zombie book. 

But apart from these niggles, this is a reasonably solid novel. Get past the slow start, skim read the sometimes overly long technical descriptions and American election descriptions (I'm from Scotland, so don't really know the process or have much interest in it) - and you'll have a nice and unique zombie novel, steeped in high tech gadgets and enough twists (as the book gathers steam) to keep you reading. 

This book is book 1 in a series called "Newsflesh" and I think the second book should prove to faster off the mark and more action-filled. I will definitely be picking it up when it's released. ~ Kitty

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