I’ve been feeling guilty lately over my reading habits. Mainly the habit of never reading anything my brother asks me to read. His taste, however, is sometimes questionable. He’s sent me three copies of Stranger in a Strange Land because he keeps forgetting that he gives it to me. I think I’m the only person in the universe who really doesn’t like that book. He’s also trying to get me to read the Repair Man Jack series, but I just don’t have the time. And the Dark Tower series, which I have no interest in. However, I finally took one of his recommendations and read Feed by Mira Grant.
Grant’s world building in Feed is phenomenal, and because our point of view characters are news bloggers, huge swathes of world information don’t feel like info dumps. Every chapter ends with an informative and opinionated entry from one of characters’ personal blogs, and the info there feels natural. Feed is a zombie book, but the zombies aren’t the real story. In fact, the zombies aren’t really zombies at all – they suffer from the amplified form of the Kellis-Amberlee virus, which Grant explains in fascinating detail in character blog entries. These zombies can bite and infect and they are a danger, but this is a novel about personal interaction and political intrigue, after the zombie apocalypse has come and been mostly contained.
Georgia, Shaun, and Buffy are independent bloggers. In the post Kellis-Amberlee world, network news is no longer trusted. News networks dropped the ball on the zombie uprising and declared it a hoax before everyone involved got eaten. People all over the world learned to survive and fight back from bits of information shared here and there across the Internet, most of it based on Romero films. In fact, George Romero has been elevated to world savior in Feed.
The year is 2040 and Georgia, Shaun, and Buffy have been chosen to follow the political campaign of Senator Peter Ryman as he runs for president. This aspect of Feed is amazing. The politics of living with zombies are entirely fleshed out (no pun intended – or maybe it was). For example, the death penalty is no longer used as punishment except in cases of bioterrorism. Because killing someone would cause the virus to amplify and then that undead criminal would rise and infect the hell out of anyone within range. There’s also a political war being waged over the right to own pets, since any mammal over 40 pounds can succumb to the virus and pass it on to human and animal alike. Wouldn’t that be shit if your beloved golden lab went viral and ate your whole family?
The people of Feed have survived and rebuilt and moved on and life post zombie apocalypse is unique. Feed is not your typical “omg running from zombies!” story. I don’t have enough good things to say about Grant’s world building skill. However, world building alone does not make a great novel.
While Grant’s world building skills are great, her character development is almost nonexistent. Grant substitutes snark for substance. The three main characters, Georgia, Shaun, and Buffy, all speak with the same sarcastic, irreverent voice that never, ever lets up with the cutting witticisms. And after page upon page of them, they stop being witticisms and start being major annoyances. I know that all three characters are supposed to be young and hip, but making them snarky is not the same as giving them personalities.
Georgia and Shawn are especially offensive as they have this weird sibling/significant other relationship (they were both adopted, so no shared blood) that makes them one character in two bodies. Georgia is defined by her love of the truth and co-dependence on Shawn. Shawn is defined by his love of “poking dead things with sticks” (a phrase used in Feed ad-nauseam) and his co-dependence on Georgia. Out of the three main characters, Buffy is the most interesting as she still has a serious grasp on religion in this world of the undead. However, this is only mentioned in passing and then used as a cheap plot device later.
There isn’t a whole lot more that I can say about character without spoiling some major plot points that you really don’t want spoiled. Grant has guts in terms of her characters. She’s not afraid to abuse them. Deadline, the sequel to Feed, deals with the aftermath of some of this abuse. And that’s all I can say.
The bottom line here is that this book was worth reading for the world building, but the annoying character voices almost made me put it down a number of times. I also think the major twist at the end would have been more effective if the novel had been told from Shaun’s POV throughout instead of Georgia’s. But anyway, check this out. If you want a fresh take on the zombie apocalypse and can get past the unrelenting snarky irreverence, you’ll have a great time with Feed.