The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we 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.
NOW, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.
A HUGE SPOILER IS ALLUDED TO
I picked this book up because it was nominated for the Hugo awards this year and I decided I should try to be a little bit more of a conscientious speculative fiction reader-person and take an actual look at books that are nominated for awards. Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have read it, because although I’d seen a lot of people talk about it online, I tend to be “meh” when it comes to zombies. Also, I’d already read the first book in the Toby Daye series written by the author’s other alias, Seanan McGuire, and I hadn’t cared for it (which is ironic, since I am more likely to read a book containing fairies than zombies, but whatever). In the end, all I can say is I am so glad I picked this book up because HOLY SHIT is it awesome. I honestly did not know a book with zombies could be as awesome as this, and now I know. Except I will now be comparing every other zombie book out there to Feed and they will, in all probability, not live up to the standard that’s been set.
Normally I am opposed to books that rely on info-dumps to set up the history and world of the story (that was one of the problems I had with Rosemary and Rue, the first book I read by the author). However, for some reason, the info-dumps here rarely bothered me (and there are a lot). That’s most likely because they are chock-full of so much necessary information and intelligently designed schematics for how this world works. The author took the premise of a mutating virus instigating a mass zombie uprising, asked what this meant for the future of the world, and ran with it big-time. No detail is overlooked; any institution, social system, or custom that would have been affected and altered by the threat of zombies is thought of and accounted for. Although some worldviews remained similar (mainly religious fanaticism and U.S. right-wing conservatism), zombies changed how people congregated, how they got their news, whom they could trust, and what was worth surviving and living for. The breadth and depth of this near-future is what made the all the information a pleasure to read rather than a chore, and is also a big reason why I became so invested in the characters and the plot.
Side note – this is something that’s actually not addressed, but the fact that people use tons of bleach and other chemicals to sterilize the virus in outdoor areas means they’re probably fucking up the environment even more than we’re doing so today. Especially if that’s land that could be used to grow food. That will probably become a more pressing problem later on in this world’s future.
Alongside the intricate world-building is the attention to detail paid to the act of collecting, creating, and maintaining the news via blogging. In this world, blogging has become the primary source of credible, trustworthy, up-to-date news, especially since speedy news has become even more important what with there being zombies. This is definitely one of those sci-fi, near-future predictions that will most likely become reality, as more and more people are currently using independent blogs as credible news sources. I wasn’t always able to catch all of the ins and outs of all the tasks George, Shaun, and Buffy did for their jobs, as well as the jargon they used, but overall, it was understandable. Somebody with a longer and better background in blogging and general internet content creation will understand it all better than I did.
George was awesome. She has a bullshit tolerance level of zero and has no problem letting you know that yes, she is smarter than you, and yes, you are being an idiot. The news, reporting the truth, and her brother Shaun are everything to her. And that’s another thing – I fucking loved George and Shaun’s relationship with each other. They have been each other’s lifeline for pretty much their entire lives, what with being raised by parents whose sole goal is to use them to get news ratings. They do their blood tests together, they share rooms, they’re aware of where the other is at all times – their relationship could have been portrayed as unhealthy and limiting, but it’s not at all. It’s simply that this is the person whom they each love. This is the person whom they can trust their safety to without any reservation and the person they want pulling the trigger if the other gets infected. Although it’s never said if either George or Shaun are ace or not (I’m betting George is, but that’s just me), their relationship is a great example of how a relationship that’s not romantic can be the primary, defining relationship in a person’s life.
George’s last blog post. I wanted to cry while reading it.
Things I disliked – I thought the labeling of different types of bloggers – Newsies, Irwins, Fictionals, etc. – was a nice system, but there were times when George was talking about Shaun as an Irwin and made it sound like all Irwins are like that, so the effect was that the members of the different groups were monoliths as opposed to groups consisting of multiple individuals.
And… I can’t really think of anything else. I could say that the use of info-dumps bordered on excessive at times, but overall they added to the story rather than detracted. But really, everything was super well done. I know many people have said this before, but this was a book about people living in a world with zombies, rather than a book about the zombies themselves. As George says at one point, zombies ceased being the story after the year they rose up. Now they’re a part of life, like bad weather.
Simply put, this book worked for me practically 100%. I don’t know if it should have won the Hugo or not (I’m always better at deciding whether a book shouldn’t have won an award) but I definitely understand why it was nominated. I might just have to retry the Toby Daye series again after this. But seriously, if you like zombies, bloggers, thrillers, and/or characters whose relationship and dedication to each other will break your heart – read this book.
Disclosure – library