By Tom Quinn
In 2014, the dead rise from the grave and begin attacking the living. The living, however, are a hardy bunch, and twenty years later society still hasn’t crumbled. Then a trio of bloggers follow a presidential hopeful on the campaign trail, and all hell starts to break loose. Again.
Such is the opening of the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant, a series that grabs you by the jugular and doesn’t let go until it’s done with you. It’s tempting to hold this trio of books (in chronological order: Feed, Deadline, and Blackout) up against other mainstream zombie lit, like World War Z (by Max Brooks), but it wouldn’t be fair to either. In WWZ, the zombies take center stage, and the story revolves around humanity’s struggle with them. But the zombie uprising is in the past in Newsflesh – they are an environmental hazard, but they are not the main focus of the story. That honor is reserved for the conspiracy that only grows deeper and more dangerous as the blogging team digs their noses (and heels) in even further.
The real way this series shines is through its characters. Georgia Mason runs “After the World Times,” a politically-oriented site. Her brother Shaun runs around poking dead things with sticks on camera, and their friend Georgette “Buffy” Meissonier writes stories and poems and is the resident genius tech guru. At first, they’re hard to believe as real people – they feel too much like archetypes, and the first book of the trilogy – Feed – is initially mired down with pop culture references. However, once the story gets going, each character grows a third dimension that morphs and changes over the rest of the series in ways that make you begin to truly worry for their safety.
The cast of characters grows over time, eventually going so far to include full on government agencies. There’s also a sense that since Grant was able to get away with the events and set-up of the first book so effectively, she could throw caution to the wind and really screw the characters up, entangling their lives with each other in ways that anybody – pre or post apocalypse – can identify with. It’s an impressive feat, especially with the ever-present background threat of a zombie attack at any time. Which is to say nothing of the occasional outbreak and actual zombie hordes that appear at many of the most inopportune moments.
Taken as a whole, this trilogy is an excellent adventure and conspiracy story that features copious undead, likeable characters, shifty government agencies, and a zombie bear. If you’re planning on reading at the park, beach, or on a trip, make sure to pick this series up. You won’t be sorry you did.
Tom is a writer, a photographer, and a libertine. He’s currently heading a new story-a-week project that can be found at yearofthewriters.tumblr.com.