When I read the first chapter of Mira Grant’s Feed, I thought I had wandered into a YA novel. I asked my daughter (age 22), who had recommended it, if that’s what it was. She said no, just wait. Not that there’s anything wrong with a YA; I was only asking.
Feed‘s protagonists are brother and sister team of Shaun and Georgia Mason who, in chapter one, are chasing after zombies. We learn that they are online journalists, bloggers. Although they are in their twenties, they still live at home with their parents, who treat them very much like children.
Now, I’ve been mostly unimpressed with zombie novels in the past. Too many mad car chases, exploding heads, and flying viscera; not enough character development, zombie raison d’être, or depth. My daughter promised me this one would be different, and she was right.
Shortly into the novel, our protagonists are picked to join the presidential campaign of Republican Senator Peter Ryman, who is pitted against Republican Governor Tate for the nomination. At this point, the novel takes a huge u-turn, and we are not in young adult territory any longer. Also, by this time, we are given to understand the zombies, the rising of the dead, are not the result of supernatural forces, but the viral disease Kellis-Amberlee, inadvertently created by good-faith and successful efforts to cure both cancer and the common cold. Governor Tate believes the answer to the zombie problem is for America to get back to fundamental morality, kind of a get-tough-on-the-undead approach.
A couple years ago, I might have looked upon Tate as something of a cardboard villain. Alas, Tate would fit in quite comfortably with several of our current presidential candidates. Perhaps that’s because they seem like cardboard villains, too, although with the unfortunate added quality of being horribly real.
In this story, the monsters are not the zombies. The zombies are victims. The monsters are the humans. And this is the first zombie novel I have read in which the reader is acutely aware of the zombies as former human beings, family, friends, and loved ones, as the walking dead. That awareness is one of two elements that elevates this story from the run-of-the-mill zombie tale.
The other element is in the plot itself, and I’ll say nothing of the details so as not to spoil it. I’ll say only that it is quite well-plotted, and that it is gutsily plotted, in that Grant is willing to take her story to a place most authors won’t.
I have a few quibbles. One is that the decade of the 2030’s, as depicted here, doesn’t seem quite futuristic enough. My daughter and I disagree on this point. She feels the zombie uprising perhaps retarded technological and societal development. Maybe so. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but cringe when one candidate spoke disparagingly about the poor Thursday evening television lineup. I can’t see people talking about nightly TV that way in twenty years…we barely talk that way about it now. But these are quibbles, not real problems.
It is all satisfying enough for me to move on to Deadline, the next book in the series, which my daughter tells me is even better.
*****TIME LAPSE WARNING*****
Since writing the above, I and my daughter have attended Renovation, and several panels/events there featuring Seanan McGuire (aka Mira Grant). She is funny, smart, and seems very unconceited. She can sing, too; she and her band did a mini-concert there. In the Lou Grant I-hate-spunk vein, I wish I could say I really hate people who are multi-talented and not even conceited about it, but alas, I can only admire and look forward to reading Deadline.