Book Review: Deadline (The Newsflesh Trilogy #2), Mira Grant (2011)

February 3rd, 2014 11:37 am by Kelly Garbato

Doesn’t quite live up to its potential…

four out of five stars

(Caution: minor spoilers ahead!)

Since the death of his adopted sister Georgia a year earlier, Shaun Mason has been adrift. Forced to assume control of “After the End Times,” the blog they started together, Shaun promptly retires as head Irwin and mostly neglects his management duties. Poking things with sticks just isn’t very much fun anymore. For him, there’s only one truth worth pursuing: who was ultimately responsible for George’s murder?

While Shaun killed Vice Presidential candidate (and would-be assassin of President Peter Ryman) David Tate by Feed‘s outset, Tate was clearly financed by a network of wealthier and more powerful conspirators – some of them possibly operating from inside the CDC itself. Along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the Centers for Disease Control is an organization rendered practically omnipotent in this post-apocalyptic world – making the implications of their involvement that much more chilling.

Shaun’s hunt has all but stalled out – that is, until an old acquaintance from the CDC shows up at the After the End Times offices. Dr. Kelly Connolly – granddaughter of the famed Dr. William Matras, a whistle-blower at the CDC who, in 2014, risked his career and freedom to warn the public that the dead had begun rising – is on the run. She and her team at the CDC had been researching some statistical anomalies when they starting dropping dead, one by one. Apparently someone is killing those with Kellis-Amberlee reservoir conditions – people like the late Georgia Mason – and now, those scientists looking into the staggering death rates as well.

The last woman standing, Dr. Connolly faked her own death so that she could alert Shaun to the biggest story of his career – bigger even than the attempts on Ryman’s life. And the significance of reservoir conditions to possibly finding a cure for Kellis-Amberlee might just be the key to unlocking the conspiracy that cost Georgia her life – and Shaun, the only person he ever truly loved.

While Deadline 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 the plot of Feed more than I’d like. While some degree of rehashing in a series is to be expected – after all, the readers can’t be expected to remember every little detail – this continues even in the final chapters of the book. (According to my notes, as late as page 538 – with just 43 pages left in the story.) To be fair, most of this takes place in the first 50 pages, but even this seems excessive. I think we can assume that everyone reading Deadline has already tackled Feed, no?

The conspiracy is also painfully slow to unfold, as characters take chapters to reach conclusions that are obvious to the audience in mere pages. The high death rate of those who suffer from reservoir conditions, for example, is a potentially intriguing plot twist that’s made slightly less compelling by the many redundant conversations we’re privy to. There’s just too much talking and not enough action. I think a 50-page purge could benefit Deadline immensely.

Perhaps most troubling is our protagonist, Shaun Mason, who’s transformed from a likable (if goofy) guy to someone who’s almost impossible to root for. I’m not talking about Shaun’s mental illness (he experiences frequent auditory and occasional visual hallucinations of his dead sister; Georgia haunts him, providing the occasional intellectual insight and kick in the ass), which is actually one of the more charming and engaging elements of the story; nor am I put off by his bewilderment when it comes to members of the opposite sex. Rather, Deadline Shaun is an abusive asshole. He literally beats on members of his own news team. Repeatedly. Apparently his behavior is so egregious that some of the Newsies are scared of him (e.g., Alaric can be seen flinching away from Shaun while he’s having one of his temper tantrums). And this violence is largely unprovoked: any mention of his sister, even those meant to comfort or reassure, are met with threats of violence. He’s not a likable guy.

Grant also veers dangerously close to Dexter territory when, in the post-coital embrace of a lover, Shaun calls her by his sister’s name. (Note: her name sounds nothing like George.) In an instant, Grant takes what is a refreshing model of a loving, healthy sibling relationship and turns it into something icky. Please let’s not go there, okay?

Despite its flaws, Deadline is still a fast-paced and engaging read; I polished it off in just a few sittings, and never found my attention wandering. The colorful and imaginative world-building that we saw in Feed continues here (e.g., post-Rising, everyone boards their flights armed to the teeth; CDC employees are literally “company property,” since the lab assumes ownership of their scientists’ bodies should they die and reanimate), resulting in a near-future that’s as vivid as it is believable.

The story picks up considerably in the final few chapters, when the dead begin to rise en masse – again. Hot on the trail of Tropical Storm Fiona, the Gulf Coast is undergoing a mass amplification event the likes of which humanity hasn’t seen since the first Rising. For those who found Feed and Deadline lacking in zombies, this plot development promises to deliver.

But wait! That’s not all! Deadline ends with one more plot twist, one that’s downright soap opera-esque in its melodrama. I have my theories as to how Grant will explain this one; I guess I’ll have to tune into Blackout to see whether I’m right (or epically wrong).

I also loved the new characters introduced in this installation; Becks, Maggie, and Mahir get more face time, and we also meet the elusive Dave and newbie Alaric. Maggie will always be near and dear to my heart, with her pack of two dozen (give or take) rescued epileptic teacup bulldogs. (Though I wish she’d also spare a thought for the chickens and fishes on her plate; they value their lives too, you know!) I hope the security ninjas are keeping you fed, dear friends.

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 on Amazon. Deadline might not be the sequel Feed deserves, but it’s a solid zombie story nonetheless.

(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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