Meg’s Review: Deadline by Mira Grant
(Newsflesh Series, Book 2)
Reader Advisory: This review will contain major spoilers for Feed.
I’m beginning to think that the Newsflesh series was put on this Earth to push my buttons. If you recall, the first book had me so flustered that I couldn’t even give it a proper rating. The same almost happened with its sequel, Deadline. I hate the protagonists; I hate the pseudoscience that’s passed off as the real deal; and dearlordalmighty, I hate the constant idolizing and pedestalizing of journalism and its maligned search for the capital-t Truth.
And yet, I am absolutely engrossed by the story. Mira Grant has a knack of drawing out the reveal of pivotal information to almost intolerable limits. There were points when I was mentally screaming at the audiobook of Deadline to just get on with the story, to tell me what was really going on in this whacko conspiracy/zombie thriller. But it was a good sort of yelling, the kind that is both eager and afraid to discover the next level of hell the overarching plot is about to deliever. I could not stop listening to the audiobook (read wonderfully Nell Geislinger and Chris Patton) and was more than a little frustrated with its cliffhanger ending.
And yet (again), when I talk about the book to people, I always start with the negatives. I can’t get away from them. A positively wonderful story is there, but it’s so bogged down by narrative slop that it is, at times, difficult to get at.
Deadline begins nearly one year after the conclusion of Feed. Georgia Mason is long dead–at least in the real world. But in the mind of our new first-person narrator Shaun Mason–her adoptive brother, her maybe lover, and the one who killed her right before she went full-blown zombie–she is alive and well. Having the dead character fully interactive in Shaun’s mind is a great idea; we still have Georgia’s astute observations to go along with Shaun’s glib ones, and Shaun came off as so batshit crazy for constantly talking to the dead sister that lives in his head that it adds in a nice dose of levity to the dark proceedings of the book.
The novel follows the same format as the first–a political thriller moving under the guise of a zombie apocalypse. This time, Shaun and his team of bloggers (the real journalists in this zombie-infested world) are hard at work trying to uncover the global conspiracy that led to Georgia’s death. And to say that searching for those answers puts them in danger is just about the understatement of the century.
I was excited about the swtich to Shaun as the narrator as I’d never really cared for Georgia, who spent at least 75%** of her time talking about how journalists like her were tasked with finding and reporting the Truth, even if it meant they had to sacrifice their lives to do so. Professionally, I am a journalist. And most of the investigative journalists I run with spend no time proselytizing on how the truth is their one-and-only calling in life. It just is. In fact, they tend to find it annoying when upstart journalists enter with such a holier-than-thou attitude. And if my journalists were to meet these Newsflesh journalists from Mira Grant’s world in a bar, violence would likely ensue.
So I thought that focus would change with Shaun at the helm. He is, after all, an Irwin–a particular type of blogger that is all about going out into the field and poking zombies with sticks to see what happens.
Unfortunately, Georgia’s death had left him in charge of their news site and, apparently, also in charge of her news-is-the-only-Truth attitude. Add to the the pile that he is suffering extreme PSTD after killing his sister/maybelover and that she is living inside his head and, well, he isn’t exactly the barrel of fun I’d been hoping for. The issues with Georgia are understandable. He ended her life–there should be mental and personality repercussions. But I couldn’t buy into the way he takes up the mantle of Super Journalist. I actually found myself wishing Georgia back just so that I could have the funny, irreverent Shaun returned as well.
The same thing that happened at the end of Feed happened in Deadline. What should have been a jaw-dropped twist had me laughing instead. The nonsensical narrative choice comes from so far from in the left field that it is just silly.
But in that laughter, I did find that I was thouroughly enjoying myself. The conspiracy theory is so wonderfully crafted and come at from such a sideways angle that it’s positively engaging. Just when I think I’ve reached the bottom of the lies and twists, Grant throws in another just for good measure, deepening my genuine curiosity for just where all this is leading to.
The final book, Blackout, comes out in June. And I will be first in line to find out how the story ends. This is such an odd little series that lands somewhere between brilliant and pretentious, and I hate that I simply cannot get enough of it.
**This may be a slight (read: huge) exaggeration brought on by personal bias.