wouldn’t you read a newspaper called "after the end times"?

so i’m going to sit here and partially ignore/partially watch jaws — one of the perfect summer-time movies — and tell you about feed which is neither a movie nor particularly related to summer-time but which is pretty damn awesome.

so, feed is the first novel — i think; her bio page at miragrant.com was a little sketchy on this — by mira grant, the first in the (now inevitable) trilogy. on the one hand, i’m quite pleased about this because there are characters i really liked who i now get to look forward to seeing again. on the other hand — god, another trilogy? really? another one? and it would have been a good, solid, scary stand-alone. *sigh* oh, well. no-one asked me, i suppose.

anyway, short spoiler-free plot summary: the zombie rising takes place in 2014 (start your countdown now, i guess) due to the interaction in the real world of two lab experiment viruses that weren’t ever really meant to interact. they do; bad shit happens; suddenly great-aunt jane is chewing on your ankle. the risen are highly infectious through bodily fluid; new zombies are even charming enough to seek simply to infect rather than to eat which is just so thoughtful and considerate of them. but feed takes place some decades after the rising, focussing on a team of young bloggers, georgia, shaun, and buffy, who are chosen to cover the presidential campaign of senator peter ryman.

daily — or even hourly — blood tests are the new norm; your car will test you before you can get in; your house will test you before you can get in; you get the idea. and blogging has become the new form of news in the post-rising world because in 2014, the regular news outlets pretty much just sat back and had kittens rather than doing anything useful. the bloggers, on the other hand, passed on rumor, fact, video, audio, anything that would help anyone survive — and, given the nature of the blogging community, a lot of them were genre geeks. george romero, by the way, is now an international hero. our narrator, georgia, is named after him; the most popular names for female children born in her year were all female derivatives of george and barbara. πŸ™‚ just how awesome is that?

the fun tweak here is that everyone is infected. due to the spread of one of the two viruses (virii?), everyone has a dose of zombification just waiting to become activated. a bad day at the office? your dose of virus might flip on and really kill your boss. our narrator, georgia, for example, has an inert form of the virus affecting her eyes: she can’t go out into what we would consider normal light without heavy-duty sunglasses. her pupils are permanently dilated.

so, yeah, there are some nifty new twists on the basic “er-argh” plot here. grant plays with them well: there are consequences beyond the daily need to deal with possible incursions by the living dead. the virus doesn’t just affect humans, for example; any animal over 40 pounds can potentially be a carrier or “amplify” into undead form just as a human can. there are, then, legislative efforts to ban large animals from being kept in urban or near-urban areas; extremists want to kill all large land mammals; other extremists want everyone to go back to living on their own (heavily armed) family farms. grant has thought out her world really well; it works; it’s believable. there are people whe have flipped out and live like survivalists — even if they live in a city; they’ll shoot if you simply get too close. there are other people who refuse to acknowledge danger; they tend to have a short life expectancy.

georgia and her brother, shaun, and their tech-geek teammate, buffy, are chosen to follow the campaign of senator ryman as he runs for president. as you can probably imagine, this involves ever increasing amounts of unpleasant matter hitting spinning blades.

and i won’t spoiler any of the really good bits for you but suffice it to say that there are at least two character deaths that hit like a gut punch. grant has written characters you care about; they aren’t just ciphers moving through a horrific world for your amusement (and isn’t that a weird sentence to write?). instead, they’re believable people; betrayal hurts because, hey, that was a cool person and how could they do that? the second and last major character death is a killer. i knew it was going to happen — really, it was inevitable from about 3/4 of the way into the book — but ouch.

i have to say, i was a little disappointed in the actual end. there’s a switch in narrative voice which — well, i don’t really like it when anyone does that. kage baker — whom i otherwise adore — does it in garden of iden and it’s truly annoying. in this case, it’s less annoying but — it’s sad and wrong for a whole variety of reasons to say nothing of the fact that the new voice who finishes out the book isn’t as accomplished or as observant as georgia.

despite that, this is fun, clever, well-put-together stuff. good times all around.