Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Feed Feed
by Mira Grant

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Chris Kerr
Tosca Waerea

Twenty years after the zombie uprising, most people get their news from feed sites on the internet. Successful reporting teams tend to be made up of Newsies (who write factual reports), Irwins (who poke dead things with sticks and dictate travelogue-style accounts if they survive) and Fictionals (who provide the serialised fiction, poetry and other entertainments). The book follows a team of three young bloggers who are breaking into the big time when they, out of all the blogging teams who bid for the role, are selected to follow a presidential candidate as he campaigns his way across a country barricaded against the constant threat of zombie outbreak.

There’s an inventive and interesting story in this book, but unfortunately, you have to wade through a solid hundred pages of exposition before it starts. The exposition continues throughout the rest of the book, and the tone is immersion-breakingly uneven. It’s not uncommon for a breathless paragraph about lurching zombies to be followed by three more dry ones going into an unnecessary level of detail about anti-infection precautions in the world following the Rising.

Grant has clearly thought her background out in depth, and makes the mistake of thinking readers are going to have the same level of interest in, for example, the contrasting reliability factors between different brands and models of blood testing equipment. This is all information the CHARACTERS need to obsess over, and I’d expect that to be reflected in the story, but those characters have a habit of reciting dry facts directly to the reader while waiting for that same equipment to tell them if they’ve been exposed to the zombie virus and are about to mindlessly attack their friends, or if they’re safe.

Characterisation is also a little weak outside of the few who are constantly in the spotlight. Most of the secondaries are one-note personalities. They tend to reveal their nature when they’re introduced in the text, and stay true to it until the end.

In spite of these things, this is an imaginative and well-paced story if you’re prepared to sift it from the exposition. America after the Rising is a country utterly transformed (but also eerily familiar) after two decades of paranoid vigilance to keep the infection from spreading, and the reader gets a ground-level tour of it. Feed presents a believable scenario where ordinary people carry on with their lives while the constant threat of death or infection hangs over them. Grant has a powerful imagination and I enjoyed her take on the living dead as a tool of political terror.

Feed isn’t a book for everyone, zombie fan or not, and I can only honestly recommend it to people with the patience to filter the story from the padding. If you’re one of those people and you read for clever ideas in fiction, then it might be worth looking at.

-- Chris Kerr

In the not-too-distant future man has cured cancer and the common cold. Unfortunately, in his quest to do so, he also created a genetically engineered virus that caused the dead to come to life again with the need to feed. Some twenty years after the Rising, Georgia, Shaun (brother and sister) and Buffy are bloggers. Not blogging like we have today, though, because traditional news does not exist. In a time when people are too scared to be outside, afraid to be around each other for fear of spreading the virus, blogging is how they receive their news, and the more prestige you have as a blogger, the better the content you can post. When they're invited to join Senator Ryman on his presidential campaign trail it seems like they've finally made it. Instead, what they find is that maybe the true monsters are humans and not zombies, after all. But is the truth worth your life...?

You could be forgiven for thinking Grant's book is just another zombie novel in a long line of zombie novels but you'd be doing it a major disservice. It's a scientific thriller because, let's face it, Feed *is* more science fiction than horror. But it also does this very clever thing where it manages to tie in politics and a person's basic right to information – who decides what we have access to and how - and the freedom of speech. This definitely isn't a short read and, at times, can seem a little heavy in politics but it is well worth it. I haven't ever read a zombie-political thriller ever, and certainly not one that is an edge-of-your-seat read.

-- Tosca Waerea

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