One aspect of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series I particularly enjoy is how the reader is simply plopped down in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse and then left to fend for himself. The narrative only drops little tidbits of back-story when the plot requires further explanation of the zombie issue and how the zombies came about. This tactic is the exact opposite of what critics lovingly call an ‘info dump,’ and the text in both books in the series is all the more engaging because of this deft narrative choice.
But for all my appreciation of author Mira Grant’s decision to limit background information, I was left a little wanting. After all, a true zombie-phobe like myself needs to know the precise details of any hypothetical apocalypse in order to properly prepare for the coming doom of humanity. So imagine my delight when Grant produced a filler story between Deadline and the soon-to-be-released Blackout. Countdown is a tight novella (the audio was only about two and a quarter hours) chronicles the days just prior to and through the worst of the first Rising–Grant’s term for the zombie apocalypse that takes place in very-near 2014.
By far, this was my favorite installment of the Newsflesh world. The irritations of the others stories–primarily the insanely snarky, self-righteous tone of the narrators–are done away with in favor of a more straightforward narrative that has only one purpose: set-up. Countdown has no overarching conspiracy, no edge-of-the-seat wondering what will happen next. Anyone who has read the first two books of the series knows what will happen. There’s no real surprise.
Which actually makes the story sound utterly boring, but for a fan of the series it’s positively immersive. The blow-by-blow account of how the Marberg-Amberlee and Kellis vaccines merged into the zombie-causing Kellis-Amberlee is exactly what I had been craving to know for the past two books, and the payoff is delightful. It puts faces to those influential characters that had been tangentially mentioned by Shaun and Georgia Mason in the first two books. And, most importantly, we finally discover the reason why, in the Newsflesh world, blogging is the go-to source for ‘real’ news–but I’m not giving that away. You’ll have to read Countdown to find out precisely how that occurred.
All in all, the post-apocalypse world Grant has built is one of my favorites. There’s no anarchy running rampant; in fact, everything is sort of the same with the added irritation of blood tests every fifteen minutes. Governments still function, teenagers are still emo, and amateur investigative reporters still have an almighty God complex. And in Countdown, we’re given more of the same. How that world reacts to the sudden appearance of the dead up and walking is so eerily perfect, so easy to imagine. It’s enough to get even the the least conspricacy-theory prone person cause to pause. That realism is what makes Countdown work as a simple standalone. It’s the perfect piece of set-up.
I wouldn’t recommend this as a gateway story into the world. You’ve got to earn it.
Read Feed and Deadline first. Then find out the truth.
Read more about zombies and apocalypses…
- Book Review: Feed by Mira Grant
- Book Review: Deadline by Mira Grant
- Book Review: Hollowland by Amanda Hocking
- Book Review: The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu
- Editorial: The Elements of Horror
- Editorial: The Importance of a Socio-Economically Viable Premise in Dystopian World-Building
- Guest Editorial: So What’s Your Apocalypse?