The zombie uprising began in 2014, due to a combination of two viruses meant to eliminate the common cold and cure cancer. Everyone is infected: when you die, the virus reanimates you as a zombie. But if you’re bitten/infected by a zombie, that also triggers the transformation, and you’re a walking corpse within minutes.
The book is set twenty-five years after the uprising, and society has adapted (somewhat) to the presence of zombies. Certain territories are more hazardous, and declared off-limits. Blood tests are everywhere. And a trio of bloggers has just been selected to follow and report on presidential candidate Peter Ryman.
One of the key lines for me came early in the book, when Georgia Mason (our protagonist) remarks that the zombies aren’t the story. I can’t remember the exact wording, but that line captures why the book works for me. We’ve all seen story after story about zombie uprisings; Feed is the story of what comes next.
I can see why this book has broken out the way it has. You’ve got classic SF extrapolation of future trends, like Grant’s presentation of the blogging world. You’ve got zombies that make sense (at least moreso than 98% of the zombie stories out there). You’ve got plenty of zombie-fighting action, political intrigue, and nonstop tension. You’ve got relevance in the strong parallel between fear of zombies and our present-day attitudes toward terrorism. And Georgia and her brother Shaun make a great pair of characters, complementing one another beautifully.
I’m about to get into major spoiler territory, so if you haven’t read it, look away now. (To anyone reading on an RSS feed, I’m sorry – I’m not aware of any way to put a cut tag into the feed.)
I love that Grant kills off her first-person protagonist and makes it work. I admit I didn’t see that coming. I got a bit choked up, but it was a great death scene. Georgia’s final blog post, where you can see her mentally succumbing to the virus… whoa.
And that nicely set up our ending, with Shaun going to confront Tate. That scene wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped, but after Georgia’s death, I don’t know that anything could have been cathartic enough. Which I’m guessing is kind of the point, helping the reader empathize with Shaun’s shock and loss.
You know I can’t let any book go without some criticism. In this case, the zombies/terrorism parallels felt a little heavy-handed on occasion. I was also a bit disappointed by our villain Tate. He was flat-out nasty/evil from page one, without much apparent depth. And I was disappointed that both Tate and Buffy claimed to be doing it for God. Both characters are hard-core Christians, so naturally they’re the bad guys. It touches on an attitude I see in our genre from time to time, one that bugs me.
Overall though, it’s an impressive book, and it doesn’t surprise me to see it on the Hugo ballot. From the smaller details like Georgia’s retinal KA to the interspersed blog posts from various characters to the emotional power of the story … Grant did good.
I know a lot of my blog readers have read this book, and I’m eager to hear what you thought!