Book Review: Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep #1) by Mira Grant (2017)

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

No one does mermaids like Mira Grant.

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley.)

Did you really think we were the apex predators of the world?

“You still chasing mermaids, Vic?” he asked.
“I’ve never been chasing mermaids,” she said. “I’ve only ever been chasing Anne.”

I’m a huge Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire fan, and her mermaid stories are among my favorites. (Zombies are grrrrrrate, but no one does mermaids quite like Mira Grant.) When I saw the prequel to Into the Drowning Deep, a novella called Rolling in the Deep, I snatched it up…but, being a mere 123 pages long, it just left me wanting more: more science (fiction), more killer mermaids, more heart-stopping suspense, more blood and gore and viscera. Somewhere in between a short story and a full-length book, it lacked the crisp concision of the former and the delicious, drawn out horror of the latter.

Enter: Into the Drowning Deep, which is exactly what I was craving. Pro tip: read Rolling in the Deep as if it was a prologue to Into the Drowning Deep. It’ll feel so much more satisfying that way.

In 2015, the Atargatis set off on a scientific expedition to the Mariana Trench. Ostensibly, their mission was to find evidence of mermaids. Really, though, they were there to film a mockumentary on behalf of their employer, an entertainment network called Imagine (think: SyFy). The hoax quickly turned into a bloodbath when they discovered what they were/weren’t looking for.

The Atargatis was found six weeks later, floating several hundred miles off course, completely devoid of human occupants. The only clue as to what became of her two hundred crew and passengers was a smashed up control room and shaky film footage showing what looked like – but couldn’t possibly be – a mermaid attack.

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Book Review: Final Girls by Mira Grant (2017)

Monday, May 1st, 2017

“THE WOOD is dark and the wood is deep…”

four out of five stars

“…and the trees claw at the sky with branches like bones, ripping holes in the canopy of clouds, revealing glimpses of a distant, rotting moon the color of dead flesh.”

Esther Hoffman is a popular science writer who’s spent most of her career debunking pseudoscience. After all, she owes it to her dad, a widower who was falsely accused of kidnapping and child abuse when she was just fifteen. Benjamin was eventually exonerated, but not before he was murdered in prison.

Esther’s latest target is Dr. Jennifer Webb, founder of the Webb Virtual Therapy Institute and all-around mad scientist. Her proprietary technology – which includes virtual reality pods, a potent cocktail of mind-altering drugs, and computer simulations pulled straight from the brain of Stephen King – is being marketed as a new and radical form of therapy. Siblings who don’t very much care for each other can run through Webb’s B-movie gauntlet and emerge on the other side closer than ever, with a bond newly forged on the conquered remains of slashers or zombies or witches – take your pick!

Esther sees this as nothing more than a high tech version of regression therapy – the source of those so-called “repressed memories” that destroyed her father – but Dr. Webb disagrees. And what better way to legitimize her work than by winning over her harshest critic?

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Book Review: Blackout (The Newsflesh Trilogy #3), Mira Grant (2012)

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Zombie Bears, Human Clones, State-Sponsored Bioterrorism — and Twincest?

four out of five stars

(Caution: spoilers ahead!)

Halfway through Deadline, when reluctant hero Shaun addressed his lover by his dead sister’s name (post-coitus!), I groaned. Audibly. Please dear zombie Jesus, I thought, don’t go all Dexter on me now. That would just be stupid. Well, prepare to get stupid.

The final book in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, Blackout picks up shortly after the events of Deadline: with Shaun and the remaining members of the After the End Times team camping out at mad scientist Dr. Shannon Abbey’s illicit lab in Shady Cove, Oregon (population: the walking dead), while sister Georgia inexplicably awakes from death inside a CDC lab in nearby Seattle. Also known as “Subject 139b,” Shaun’s just discovered that he’s immune to the Kellis-Amberlee virus, quite possibly from nearly two and a half decades of constant exposure to the virus via Georgia’s retinal KA reservoir condition. The newest subject of Dr. Abbey’s scientific curiosity (read: poking and prodding), the invasions visited upon Shaun are nothing compared to the atrocities the CDC has inflicted upon his sister. Or, perhaps more accurately, George’s genetic line.

One of many Georgia Mason clones (some of them failed and destroyed, with the few successes waiting in the wings like so many benched players), this Georgia Mason – Subject 7c – is a 97% cognitive match to the original Georgia. She’s the “showroom model”: a pony to parade in front of the investors who financed her resurrection. “Street model” Georgia 8b is just 44% authentic. Unlike the “real” Georgia Mason, she’s pliable, obedient, and easy to control; she’s the Georgia the CDC means to deliver to Shaun. Only not if 7C – and her allies within the Epidemic Intelligence Service – can help it.

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

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

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.

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

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

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.

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