Feed

Grant, M. (2010). Feed. New York: Orbit.

A great premise is let down by poor execution.  Feed is like many other zombie apocalypse books: bleak, slightly hopeful, with a load of social commentary.  The difference here is that the world’s infrastructure didn’t break down, so we still have networks, the Internet, and blogs.  The book follows three young bloggers (Georgia, Shaun, and Buffy) who are following a prospective presidential candidate while avoiding zombies.

Unfortunately, the book is not very well written.  Standouts in the genre like World War Z and The Road use their page counts economically.  Those books populate an entire world and create a detailed picture of existence in under 400 pages.  Feed needs almost 600 pages to introduce us to a handful of characters and 3 locales.  The world in Feed feels empty and disjointed.  Though the author Mira Grant takes pains to describe the virus that has decimated humanity, the world that created this virus remains largely blank.

There are too few characters and only four that the reader cares about at all: Georgia, Shaun, Buffy and Senator Ryman (the presidential prospect).  When deaths occur (with two exceptions), they are largely forgettable and lack no weight.  Furthermore, the villains are weak.  The book places more emphasis on the danger of the virus than zombies, which actually deadens the effect of zombies appearing in the scene.  Zombies are dispatched too easily and are only a threat in 3 scenes in the entire book.  The main villain is drawn too plainly and never given dimension.  He is supposed to be behind some massive conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone involved in the story, but for too long he remains out of the picture.  The threats are too few, at times nonsensical and unthreatening.

The conspiracy is poorly constructed.  There is really only one person in the book that is cast as a possible villain, so when he ends up being the real villain, it feels both lazy and disappointing.  The actions that threaten to derail the presidential election seem so simplistic and inane.  There’s no imagination or subtlety.  Most of all, these villainous actions don’t make any sense in the context of trying to be secretive.

I will credit the author for making a few deaths quite memorable and poignant.  The book spends countless pages describing the tiresome process of testing for the zombie virus.  Everything requires a test: opening doors, entering homes, going up elevators, meeting people.  So when that test finally does come up positive, the effect is both memorable and devastating.  The one towards the end was particularly affecting.

Also, particularly galling to me was that faithful, prayerful people in the book end up all being monsters.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this book.  It exists at an awesome intersection of computers, the Internet, and zombies, but never lives up to its promise.

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