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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Review: Feed

Feed is the second novel in my current Hugo Nominees reading list. It's a surprising good novel, even though the subject matter was for me a turnoff.

First, it's a Zombie novel. I feel like Zombies have been way over-exposed in the media. Even worse, one of the characters is named Shaun, as in Shaun of the Dead, a movie that didn't do anything whatsoever for me, and felt really silly. Third, the main narrative voice is a dead-panned cynical young journalist stereotype. Veronica Mars did that really well, but Mira Grant didn't do quite so well.

Then there's the world. Grant does a little better than her characters in constructing a post Zombie-apocalypse world. Many things are well thought out, including frequent blood tests, the CDC's improved status in that universe, the need for licensed journalists to carry firearms, and varying degrees of false positives on testing kits. There are several places where it's obvious that Grant, like many science fiction authors, doesn't actually have a good grasp of science, technology, or even marketing, but this is forgivable: it's quite obvious from the start that Grant's writing a throwaway airplane read, not literary fiction.

The plot involves a very close brother-sister pair who blog for a living and get selected to follow along a presidential hopeful in the campaign of 2040. Then there's a zombie outbreak that turns out not to be an accident but an active act of terrorism. The journalists investigate the secret and figure out who the bad guys are. Then they pull a series of bone-headed-stupid moves that ends in tear-jerker scenes that by no rights should have been necessary. But if you read it with your brain turned off it's not such a bad book.

While this novel would make for a great airplane novel, or a gift for your Zombie-obsessed nephew, I don't see it as a serious contender for the Hugo. If the Hugo was nominated by a committee I would say the committee would need its head examined. If SF fans end up voting for this novel and it wins over say, The Hundred Thousand Kingsdoms, then it would be a travesty. At $9.99, there's probably cheaper beach reads for your summer vacation. Nevertheless, it's so far more readable than the other two nominees that I have left to read.

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