[Book Review] There’s a zombie inside us all, and it wants out

Parasite by Mira Grant

Parasite (Parasitology, #1)

Talk about a perfect Halloween read! I sat down on October 31st to read this, and just blazed through it. Next time I looked up, it was hours later, long after dark, and I had zombies on my brain. Zombies. Zommbbbiiiieeeees!

Enter Sally, a survivor of a horrific crash who wakes up with no memory of her life before the car accident. (YES! Amnesia plots are my favorite.) She’s a miracle survivor, so for the last six years, as she’s slowly re-learned who her family is, who she is, and even how to speak, she’s been a bit of a natural science experiment for the company whose medical breakthrough (a living tapeworm-like implant that fixes your body) made her survival possible.

But the company (and the government for whom her father works) are keeping secrets, and as people start collapsing from a mysterious sleeping sickness – and saying her name! – Sal finds herself caught right in the middle of it.

I’m no zombie fan. Never. But this wasn’t really a zombie story. It was a speculative (medical?) suspense thriller full of corporate machinations, amnesia, and…a side-plot of zombie apocalypse. Mira Grant is a master of suspense, putting me on the edge of my seat in anticipation that just built and built as Sal navigates her life, her turbulent relationship with who people tell her she used to be, and all the medical tests she has to take. The take on zombies is also novel and intriguing. It’s medicine run amok, humans overreaching, the guilty in denial, and a moral question of whether the zombie cure is worse than murder. Continue reading

[Small Chirp] Watch the First Four Minutes of Warm Bodies

Somewhere along the line, I became completely obsessed with zombies. I guess it’s not entirely surprising; the only thing that scares me more than zombies are sharks, and I eagerly anticipate the Discover Channel’s “Shark Week” with rabid fervor. The gateway drug that was Feed has extrapolated into a full-blown addiction.

And that’s why I let out a squeal when I heard that Fandango had a sneak peek at the first four minutes of “Warm Bodies,” the quirky teen romance based on the book by Isaac Marion. I have to say, after the video, I’m even more excited about the film. Continue reading

[Small Chirp] A zombie apocalypse in context

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. Continue reading

[ Book Review ] Lions and Tigers and Zombies, oh my!

Kat’s Review: Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

In Hollowland by Amanda Hocking, hardcore teenager chic Remy travels with a Canadian, a rock-star, and a fashionista teenybopper through a post-apocalyptic, zombie-ravaged landscape on a quest to find the military quarantine holding her brother. Romantic subplots are plentiful, but for a post-apocalyptic tale of horror and adventure, there aren’t enough zombies to fertilize a garden. The true monsters the companions encounter are their fellow man (in the form of polygamous cults, armies of psychopaths, and military law). But while these subplots are tense and suspenseful, it was a downer that the slow-moving zombies never made me fear for the character’s lives or health. In part, this was because they had a lion in their car.

Wait, what? Is that a typo?

Nope. It’s a lion. Lioness, to be precise.

Though Hollowland starts out with a modified T.S. Eliot quote, and the title is a nod to his melancholic poem “The Hollow Men,”  I would have pulled a more tonally appropriate title and quote from Old Possum’s Practical Cats.

Ripley (the aforementioned lion) is a very practical, zombie-eating feline. When Remy (the teenager) takes pity on a chained-up lion, the cat ends joins their party rather than eating it, and then goes on to display a remarkable preference for rotting, undead flesh. The tigers show up later, but they seem to prefer to make friends with evil humans.

This entire Lion-Tiger thing may have caused some fatal suspension of disbelief issues, but that’s a chirp for another day.

Let’s shift back to the reading experience: Continue reading

[ Book Review ] Love, hate and zombies

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. Continue reading

[ Book Review ] A Zombie Walks into a Presidental Election…

Meg’s Review: Feed by Mira Grant

When an author decides to throw literary mechanics out the window, one of two things happen:

1. They sprout wings and carry the narrative over the rainbow-of-awesome-new-literary-skills.

or

2. They go splat.

So there I was, reading Feed, and along came the absolute climaxthat very moment when I should have been gasping/crying.

And I laughed.

Mind, the moment was heart-breaking—it truly was a masterfully-planned twist—but the author made such a bizarre narrative choice that I was utterly thrown. I wasn’t winded by the blast of emotional angst. Instead, I choked on it. Author, what did you just do?

And this still colors my feelings towards the rest of the book.

But let us start at the beginning.

Feed follows adoptive siblings Shaun and Georgia Mason and their friend Buffy as they blog about the campaign trail of presidential hopeful, Senator Peter Ryman with whom they’re traveling. Sounds benign enough until you realize the entire world is now overrun by zombies.

I expected a straight-forward zombie-shooting adventure, but Feed actually leans more towards political thriller with the added complication of the walking-dead running around. And that pleased me greatly: I love me some political thrillers, and there is nothing that scares me more* than zombies. A wicked conspiracy is rumbling just below the surface of the entire narrative, even as the main characters have to survive to untangle it.

The story itself is told 90% through the eyes of Georgia Mason and 10% through the characters’ blogs. The tactic is a clever spin on a first-person narrative, like a modern call-back to the epistle writing that was so popular in the 19th century. Indeed, I suspect I’d have enjoyed the book all the more if Grant had gone the whole way and presented the story entirely in blog form: Georgia Mason narrative voice rubbed me wrong as it meandered between valley-girl-aloofness and downright snarky, righteous bitch. On the other hand, I was quite fond of Rick and Shaun and would have liked to have more of their voices present in the story.

"Every person on the planet is infected."

The blogs also served another purpose—back-story. Georgia’s narrative focuses almost exclusively on her attempts to uncover what was causing the zombie attacks to occur with scary regularity in Ryman’s camp. But the blogs told the story of how the zombies came to be (a nifty bit of science that was just vague enough to work) as well as how the world dealt with the aftermath. I was enthralled with the world Grant created, especially with the mechanics of the zombie infestation; one does not have to be bitten by a zombie in order to become one. Every person on the planet is infected; once you die, you are immediately reborn as a brain-nomming monster. (This has to be an excellent world to be a hitman in, I thought while reading. Every person has to be killed twice, which means double the assassination fees.)

So after all this praise, why the confused canary?

Well, I can’t tell you. It would completely ruin the end of the book. Instead, let me make an analogy:

Just like Feed, I read Twilight at a breakneck pace. I had to know (HAD TO KNOW!) if Bella and Edward ended up together. Immediately after finishing Twilight, I rushed out and bought New Moon—but, actually ended up reading a book in between (the first Dresden Files book, for the curious). And when I went back to read New Moon, I was picking it up when a voice in my head said, “Wait…Twilight wasn’t even a good book. At all.” I dropped the book and never looked back.

And the same thing happened with Feed. I read it in a couple days, quickly bought the sequel, Deadline, and then had a family dinner that effectively derailed my inertia-driven enthusiasm. When I finally did sit down to read, that same voice said, “Are you really going to engage the sequel after the first one did THAT with the narrative?”

"Grant broke a cardinal rule of writing, and I can't decide whether she pulled it off."

I still haven’t decided if the voice in my head is just a book snob who needs to get over herself, or whether she has a point. I mean, Feed is about 800-million times better than Twilight, but I think Grant broke a cardinal rule of writing, and I can’t decide whether she pulled it off. And I’m too flustered with the indecision to commit to Deadline.

That said, I would definitely recommend Feed to anyone who enjoys zombie fiction, political intrigue, or has a less persnickety internal voice than mine. It’s a fast, multi-layered novel that even kept me reading through my zombie nightmares.

* Except sharks, but that’s a phobia to be dealt with in a review of Jaws.