Imagine hivemind zombies that hunt like wolves. Imagine a world where blogs are the main source of information, as people huddle in their homes, afraid of going outside. Welcome to the world of Feed. It's perfect summer apocalypse reading.
Though Seanan McGuire has already written a number of books, Feed is her first novel under the pen name Mira Grant. This fast-paced undead thriller will be great for people who enjoy their zombie slaughtering with a hearty slice of social commentary.
Here's the book jacket setup:
It is 2034, twenty years after the Rise. Bioengineering has finally found cures to the common cold and cancer, in the form of tweaked viruses. Unfortunately, mixing the two cures led to an unexpected side effect: reanimation of the dead.
In a slight twist on the usual zombie trope, everyone is already infected with a dormant form of the Kellis-Amberlee zombification virus, due to a pre-Rise world-wide aerosolization effort. "Amplification" occurs either when someone dies the first time, or is bitten by any mammal over forty pounds possessing the activated virus, which means zombie raccoons are out there. And giraffes. Oh gods the giraffes.
The story begins with our heroes, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason, suffering a zombie attack in Santa Cruz. Here's where we learn that these zombies aren't just stupid shambling husks of rotting flesh. Individually they indeed are your typical undead walker, but their hunting instincts grow exponentially with each zombie nearby. There's a kind of collective zombie consciousness that's forming.
Feed is packed with incredible worldbuilding. You can tell much research was put into making the Kellis-Amberlee virus feel very real, which is great from a science dork standpoint, but Grant also fleshes out the extreme changes in society that occurred post-Rise.
Animal legislation, inspired by Georgia and Shaun's adoptive parents, plays a vital role in the story. Hazard zones (Level 1 through 10!) and blood tests are a way of life. Social gatherings practically don't exist, as any large gathering of humans is a tempting target for roving packs of the dead. Political rallies are conducted almost exclusively via television and live webcasts. Journalism has completely changed: Faith in traditional media outlets almost completely died when CNN and the like dismissed the zombie uprising as "pranks and teenagers in bad makeup", bloggers were the only ones people could count on to provide live on-scene coverage by those risking their lives to make sure the truth was delivered. Blogging is an almost legitimate form of journalism in Feed.
You might notice that I have been talking about the background of the story a lot more than the story itself. I'm estimating that about 60% of the book is pure background, with 20% dialogue and 20% actual plot. The real meat of the plot starts when the bloggers are invited to go on the campaign trail with presidential candidate Senator Ryman. There's a conspiracy plot that reveals itself slowly over next 600 pages as they cover Senator Ryman's campaign, but honestly, it wasn't all that surprising. The action scenes (crossbows!) and setting were what kept me going all the way to its very emotional end, which I think is a testament to how well-written the characters and setting are.
The first in the proposed Newsflesh trilogy, Feed is a thought-provoking and entertaining read that makes me eager to see what Grant will serve in her next novel, Blackout. Supposedly, it will feature epileptic teacup bulldogs. Can't wait.