Book Review: Feed (The Newsflesh Trilogy #1), Mira Grant (2010)

January 15th, 2014 10:40 am by Kelly Garbato

BRILLIANT!

five out of five stars

“The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we had created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.”

Two-thirds of the news team which will eventually come to be known as “After the End Times,” adopted siblings Georgia and Shaun Mason are used to chasing danger. (Although, as an Irwin, Shaun is much more accustomed to poking dangerous things with sticks than his Newsie sister.) Together with Fictional-slash-tech whiz Georgette “Buffy” Meissonier, as well as a supporting cast of countless beta bloggers, the After the End Times crew is devoted to pursuing the truth at any and all costs. When their team is selected out of hundreds (thousands?) of other bloggers to accompany moderate Republican Senator Peter Ryman as he embarks on his presidential campaign, some of them will be asked to pay the ultimate price, as the friends are unwittingly thrust into a shadowy conspiracy to steal the presidency, terrorize the populace, and engender fear to facilitate the hijacking of the Constitution.

Feed is unlike many zombie stories I’ve read of late – most notably because the zombie menace seemingly takes a backseat to political intrigue, assassination attempts, and other human-created threats. And yet I don’t quite agree with other reviewers who claim that this isn’t a zombie story.

Kellis-Amberlee – so named for Dr. Alexander Kellis, the scientist whose cure for the common cold was prematurely unleashed on the world by well-meaning “ecoterrorists,” and Amanda Amberlee, the first child to see her cancer cured via infection with the Marburg EX19 virus (when combined, the viruses unexpectedly caused the dead to rise) – colors every aspect of this world. While the survivors are mostly able to insulate themselves from the zombie threat, it comes at a great price: large public gatherings are a thing of the past; dating mostly happens online (and it’s a wonder that reproduction happens at all); privacy is sacrificed for safety at almost every turn; and people no longer have the ability to move about freely. Huge swaths of the United State are restricted, open only to those with a certain level of safety training. Kellis-Amberlee primarily causes conversion in the dead – but everyone is infected with varying levels of the virus, and spontaneous reamplification among the living and otherwise healthy is rare, but possible. The virus has effectively isolated humanity from itself. Everyone is suspect; no one can be trusted.

Likewise, the KA virus infects mammals of all species, and it can make zombies out of anyone forty pounds or larger. As a result, animal agriculture is dangerous and has mostly been abandoned. (As soon as you slaughter a cow, for example, she reanimates into a 1200 pound zombie!) While this might seem like a victory for the vegans in the house, don’t pop the Barnivore-approved champagne quite yet: while de facto vegetarianism is the norm, especially brave souls can dine on smaller animals like fishes and chickens if they so desire. Pet ownership, even of cats and smaller dogs, is restricted. Mason’s Law – introduced by Georgia and Shaun’s adoptive parents in honor of their deceased biological son, Philip – seeks to eradicate the recreational ownership of all nonhumans over 40 pounds altogether, while some especially radical fringe elements would wipe out all large mammals if given the opportunity, in what amounts to intentional mass extinction.

The concept of “animal rights” is discussed on multiple occasions, though it (like many other things) gets twisted in this post-apocalyptic world. Here, it is animal rights advocates who side with horse breeder Emily Ryman in her right to buy, sell, show, and otherwise exploit hoses – living, breathing, sentient creatures – over those who would rather they join the ranks of dodo birds and thylacines. In reality, the animal rights position would oppose the mass slaughter of these animals – as well Ryman’s “right” to create more of them.

I appreciate Grant’s exploration of animals ethics; more often than not, animals are almost completely ignored in zombie tales, except inasmuch as how their presence (i.e., as a food source) affects humans.

It seems as though there are few aspects of this scary new world that Grant hasn’t imagined in excruciating detail. Take, for example, the difficulties posed by zombies in crime scene investigation: a rather obvious problem, once you think about it – but then, so few people have thought about it! (At least, I know I didn’t. Cue that aha! moment.) Reanimation can obscure murders, as damage inflicted pre- and postmortem can be impossible to parse out – especially when the primary goal is a quick and complete sterilization of the scene. Bodies and other evidence are routinely torched. Further, even the suspicion that someone might be infected is grounds enough to gun them down in cold blood, no questions asked. A call to the CDC to report a suspicious individual is a frighteningly easy way to intimidate an enemy, or even phone in their death sentence. Shoot first, ask question later. Freedom at gunpoint.

Feed also functions as a searing indictment of the mainstream media (which, in a completely believable lapse, fails to sound the zombie alarm soon enough) and provides an interesting look at how blogging might change the landscape of news media. The book’s title references not just the zombie credo, but that of the blogging world as well: keep the feed alive.

Grant has built a world that’s as rich and detailed as it is unsettling. While zombie attacks happen only rarely in Feed, they’ve transformed the landscape in countless ways. This new America is both recognizable – and vastly different. If the dead were to rise in 2014, this could very well be what the world looks like twenty-six years down the road.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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One Response to “Book Review: Feed (The Newsflesh Trilogy #1), Mira Grant (2010)”

  1. Book Review: Deadline (The Newsflesh Trilogy #2), Mira Grant (2011) » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] has the potential to be an even more suspenseful and epic dystopian thriller than its predecessor Feed, I came away a bit disappointed. The sum feels less than its parts. For starters, Grant revisits […]

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