"All books are either dreams or swords,/You can cut, or you can drug, with words." - Amy Lowell, 'Sword Blades and Poppy Seed'

Monday, September 3, 2012


Grant, Mira. Feed. New York: Orbit, 2010. 608 pages
(I read it as an e-book)

Set about 26 years after the Rising, the book takes place in a world where zombies are certainly still dangerous, but they are also a fact of life.  Bloggers, such as Georgia and Shaun Mason, are serious journalists, and journalism requires weapons testing and licensing.  It's a recognizable yet irretrievably different world.  Blood test are as common as washing your hands, and Alaska has been lost to the undead. The entire world population is infected with Kellis-Amberlee, the unintentional hybrid of the cure for cancer and the cure for the common cold that raises the dead.  While covering presidential candidate Peter Ryman, Georgia, Shaun and their blogging team discover a political conspiracy involving people who are not afraid to use Kellis-Amberlee as a weapon.

Overall Rating: **** (out of five)

  • Rich Woldbuilding.  The world of the U.S. in 2040 is not only a believable projection of what our world would be like if we combined modern technology and society with a world where zombies are the norm, but it is described with a richness that makes it real.  Comments from the characters about life "pre-Rising" helps the reader understand just how drastically the zombies have changed many aspects of life that we would take for granted.
  • Plot.  In exploring a world that has reached a sense of equilibrium with zombies, rather than one suddenly hit by a zombie apocalypse, Grant has the freedom to write a book where zombies are integral to the plot without actually being the plot. For anyone who likes meaty political conspiracy thrillers, this is definitely a book for you.
  • Scientific Grounding.  Kellis-Amberlee, the hybrid virus that causes zombies, is extremely well created.  The basis of this book in virology, how viruses behave and spread, and how society might deal with worldwide epidemic, are excellently portrayed.
  • Characterizations.  At points during the book, some of the characters are just a bit flat and static.  This is not frequent, and is usually compensated for by the quality of the plot and the other characters.  This is mostly related to Senator Ryman, as he frankly seems too good to be true at times.  As this is a fact recognized by the other characters as well, it is clearly an intentional choice, and is easy enough to overlook.
Warnings: Extreme violence and profanity, both of which are understandable when confronting zombies, but an FYI that there's a lot of both.

I haven't read much in the way of zombie fiction, but after reading this book, I would say that it should not be pigeonholed as zombie fiction.  Unlike zombie movies such as Night of the Living Dead or 28 Days Later that look at a small group of survivors coping with the onset of a zombie apocalypse, Feed is set in a world many years after the Rising, where the main characters don't remember a life where large gatherings weren't dangerous, where people enjoyed the outdoors, where people could have large pets, or enter their houses without taking blood tests.  This worldview that is jaded to the presence of zombies helps to fully immerse the reader in Grant's future.

The book is also a political thriller, and an excellent one at that.  You have journalists covering a political campaign discovering that a series of attacks on their candidate, some of which are acts of germ warfare, are linked and point to a conspiracy surrounding the election.  It's a wonderful exploration of the future of blogging as serious journalism, of journalistic and political integrity, of the lengths people will go to in trying to promote their beliefs.  That it happens to also involve zombies simply adds to the drama and raises the stakes of the danger involved.

Feed is one of the best recent books I've read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys dramatic thrillers, presidential elections, and snarky dialogue.  Even if you don't think you like zombies.

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