At first, Mira Grant’s Feed struck me as an overstuffed novel. It’s a zombie novel, complete with hordes and close shaves and bullets to the brain. It’s also a conspiracy/political thriller involving a presidential election and assassination attempts. It’s also a commentary on the state of media and journalistic ethics. It’s also just over 600 pages long. There’s a lot going on here.
Fortunately, I didn’t have any big plans today.
Grant quickly introduces us to a world that’s had 20 years to acclimate itself to a zombie virus that strikes no matter how a victim dies. In this world, the zombie virus actually infects everyone. It only goes “live” when the victim is bitten or dies. Everyone is just an accident or a spot of bad luck away from an outbreak. Elaborate security measures have developed to keep everyone as safe as they can be under such circumstances. On this front, Grant has a very serviceable zombie novel. There are a number of thrilling close shaves that keep you on your toes as you read.
Our guide to this world is Georgia Mason, a professional blogger along with her brother and friend. Georgia is prickly and cynical. But her dedication to reporting the truth (and her wicked sense of humor) override any dislike you might have had for her. She’s the conscious and the ethical center of her little cadre. Her brother is usually too busy poking zombies with sticks (sometimes literally) and uploading the live feeds to the internet. And the friend is a technical genius, but a flake when it comes to just about everything else.
Shortly after a fairly spectacular opening involving a motorcycle-assisted escape from a small pack of zombies, Georgia gets word that her group is the first group of professional bloggers exclusively selected to follow a presidential campaign. It’s a big coup for them and lets them go independent. But it becomes clear after a couple of deadly coincidences, that something sinister is going on.
At this point, the zombie plot gives way to the thriller plot somewhat. George and her team try to track down whoever seems to be trying to kill or otherwise destroy their candidate. But when it became clear how deep the rabbit hole goes on this particular conspiracy, I didn’t mind so much that the zombie action died down. In fact, it all leads to a rather terrific conclusion.
I can’t give away any more of the plot without revealing a major plot point. But that major point also makes this book worth the price of admission. If you read this book and get to that point–you’ll know the one I mean–you’ll see how Grants novel suddenly evolves from a workmanlike, but original novel, into one that has startling emotional depth and pathos. I was having a blast up to that point, enjoying all the fights and mystery. But that moment tugged at my heart in a way that I was not expecting.
The other thing this book does is serve, as I said, as a commentary on the state of media. Most people I know distrust the traditional media to a greater or a lesser extent. In my role as a librarian, I try to get more people into that questioning group. In the world Grant created here, no one trust the traditional media because they ignored the first outbreaks as hoaxes or nonsense. Only the bloggers told the truth. As things got worst during those initial outbreaks, the surviving public lost all faith the media and started trusting the bloggers. People learned, the hard way, to triangulate their news. They learned to seek out the news from more than one source. Bloggers eventually get licenses to help regulate them, to make sure they’re not following the route followed by their older siblings on TV and in print. So both journalistic ethics and critical reading also get resurrected. (Sorry about the pun.)
When I first started reading Feed, I wasn’t sure if Grant was going to be able to pull it off. Sure it was interesting, but it was an awful lot of plot (not to mention character development) to cram between two covers. I can point to instances where Grant stumbled. But it all comes together. And, as I said, that bitter moment of pathos near the end elevates this book from the category of “Pretty Good Read” to “Really Great Read” for me.