Feed by Mira Grant (pen name for Seanan McGuire) is the first book in Newsflesh trilogy, documenting the adventures of bloggers and adoptive siblings Georgia “George” and Shaun Mason.
Set in 2034, twenty years after the zombie apocalypse, the Mason siblings and I.T. tech Georgette “Buffy” Meissonier discover that their blogging team has been selected to cover the campaign trail of the Republican Presidential candidate Peter Ryman. But the campaign trail grows more dangerous by the minute, and the bloggers must figure out what’s behind the attacks before they become zombie Happy Meals.
Now that the zombie apocalypse is overdone, Feed examines the post-post apocalyptic setting and how society restructured itself twenty years after cures for the common cold and for cancer mutated into the Kellis-Amberlee virus and became an epidemic. Everyone is infected, but only when the virus is activated does zombification occur. Feed delves into the properties of the virus in such detail that the Newsflesh series qualifies as a science fiction treatment of zombies; this is certainly the strongest aspect of the book. There are also geographic and social science musings on how the virus spread, and as a decade-long Berkeley-Oakland dweller, I especially appreciated how Berkeley, California—home to the Masons—survived.
Popular culture and social media
Popular culture gets its nods; since George Romero’s movies proved hauntingly accurate in providing instructions on how to deal with zombies, the most popular female names are Georgia, Georgette, and Barbara (the more popular variation of the name “Barbra,” the lead female character in Night of the Living Dead). The character Shaun Mason likely gets his name from the more recent popular zombie movie, Shaun of the Dead.
The news-blogging aspect was very interesting to an off-and-on blogger such as myself, though as soon as Feed was printed the technological aspects would inevitably become outdated, as only the most prescient writer can accurately predict social media advancements. Still, in the age of Twitter, where one could read about the Comic-Con server crash hours before the story hit the newswire, the underlying idea behind Feed remains relevant.
The details and the broad strokes
Though Feed thrives on the details of post-post-apocalyptic living, other aspects of the book are underdeveloped. Sometimes Grant’s voice seems to poke through at strange moments; Georgia Mason states, “We are the Jennifers of our generation,” presumably referring to the fact that Jennifer was the number one name for girls born in the U.S. each year, from 1970 until 1984, and remained popular well into the early 2000s. This is a fact that Grant, born in 1978, is likely aware of from living in the contemporary U.S. But why would Georgia say or know this in 2034, especially when mere sentences later, Georgia proves to be completely oblivious to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show?
Much more egregious than Georgia’s ignorance of Buffy Summers, however, are the lack of brains in Feed. Despite Georgia’s repeated sentiment that Senator Ryman is a great Presidential candidate—which should mean a lot given her somewhat jaded view—we simply don’t see enough of him to draw the same conclusions. What we do learn of him instead indicates that he’s dumb; though, to be fair, all but our protagonist bloggers seem affected by a “dumb” virus—highly suspicious events jog only the suspicions of the protagonists. As young adults are sometimes unbelievably heroic in young adult literature, thus are the bloggers here in this blogger fantasy.
Similarly disappointing here are the politics. While the hatred of the religious right may spark camaraderie in Berkeley, the broad strokes afforded the religious Republicans in Feed feel lazy, especially when presented in stark contrast to the care given to developing the intricacies of the Kellis-Amberlee virus.
Why should you read this book?
Despite my complaints about Feed, it was still a highly enjoyable read with a lot to offer. In addition, the kick-ass action sequences and memorable characters made this a hard book to put down. I’m definitely sticking around for Deadline, the next book in the Newsflesh series.